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A Primer In Understanding Community Member Psychology

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Next week we’re launching both our Strategic Community Management and Psychology of Community courses (you can sign up for either or both).

In this post, I want to share a basic primer in member psychology and how it affects your day to day work.

The very essence of our work is understanding what really motivates members.

There are things members say they want such as:

  • Answers to questions.
  • Ability to quickly find information.
  • Connect with others in a similar position
  • etc..

We can call these things the ‘surface’ needs.

They’re the things that pop up in member interviews, surveys etc…

Then there are the things members are really motivated by:

  • Feeling confident to solve a problem by themselves.
  • Reducing the fear that something might go wrong.
  • Being part of a special group/not being left out.
  • Having a unique impact/not being ignored.
  • Being respected and appreciated
  • etc…

Let’s call these our deeper desires. They’re based on the emotions we feel.

If you want to boost engagement, improve member satisfaction, increase loyalty, or achieve almost any of your goals you usually need to satisfy these deeper desires – not just their surface needs.

A community which delivers the maximum value to members is one which makes members feel better about themselves (which, unsurprisingly, becomes a place where members want to spend more time).

If you (or your team) blitzed through 30 responses to open questions today, you’re probably only providing customer support. A community manager would see this as 30 missed opportunities to satisfy these deeper desires.

But we need a useful framework to do this.


A Simple Member Motivation Framework

We’ve tried many frameworks over the past decade (Maslow, habit theory, etc..) and only found one consistently useful (and predictive of success) across all communities.

You can see this below:

[click for full image]

We explain this at a deeper level during the course, however, the key takeaway here is you can align every possible touchpoint your members have to make them feel more competent, more autonomous, and better connected to one another.

Go through your last five responses in the community, did you provide an answer or did you make members feel better about themselves?

Were you providing customer support or were you satisfying the deeper desires members have?

Yahoo was well known for doing this terribly:

Not only is the answer unhelpful, but it also makes the member feel dumber. Do you think anyone who gets a response wants to participate in the community again? Use more Yahoo products? Or do anything to support the company?

Most of the people we might consider natural community have trained themselves to excel in a few very basic things. This might include acknowledging the frustration, personalizing their responses, giving members a sense of control in how they want the problem solved etc…

Once you know what the deeper desires are, you can design a system and set of standards which permeate through every response, every hiring decision, every item of content you create, how you design the technology etc…


Creating A More Valuable Community

And it’s here that you can build a community which delivers so much more than just answers to questions.

Getting answers is good, but it’s just a tiny slither of the value your members can and should get from your community.

Next week we’re launching our Psychology of Community course to help you identify the deeper desires of your members and infuse this throughout your entire community experience.

I hope to see you there.

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