The Hidden Costs Of Pursuing High Engagement

I recently joined a new Facebook group.

The next day, I was welcomed with an @mention alongside 50+ other people. Every reply generated a notification which led to further replies. So far, I’ve received over 100+ notifications. It’s irritating, irrelevant to my problems, and exhausting.

From an engagement perspective, this is a big success. The stats are rocketing up. People are introducing themselves to the group. But, as with all efforts which chase engagement, the costs outweigh the benefits.

The immediate quantity of activity has driven me (and likely many others) from the very group I found interesting in the first place. I’ve already blocked the group from further notifications. From now on, if I want to know what’s happening, I’ll need to remember to visit the group. That’s not likely.

Since the hidden costs (the people who have been driven away by an extreme level of activity) never show up on stats it’s easy to assume it doesn’t exist. It’s a hidden problem.

A big myth of community development is members want to be in super-active hubs of activity. But anyone who has opened an inbox to 150+ emails, seen 300+ notifications in a WhatsApp group, or tried to follow any active Facebook group knows that’s not true.

I recently asked our FeverBee community what they would like to see going forward. The common thread was they didn’t want the site to be more active. They liked they could follow discussions, catch up on contributions, and participate. I doubt they’re alone.

Communities which chase the most activity typically become places filled with the people who have the most free time, the most passion or are most eager to build their reputations. These aren’t usually the best people. It looks good on the all the stats…except the stats which matter.

Members want to be able to follow and easily find the discussion that matters to them. They want the community to be relevant to them. Asking every member to introduce themselves can work when you’re small, but we already know @mention lists can do more harm than good.

A better approach would get them excited about the community. Highlight key members they might want to follow, share the best expertise ever created in the community, and make sure they know the community is a place they go to resolve an immediate problem they have or opportunity they need to pursue.

When you associate your community with quality you get more quality, if you associate it with quantity, you get more quantity. The future lies in the former, not the latter.

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