I worry we’ve gone too far towards trying to build a sense of community instead of satisfying the practical need.
This was a big point from The Indispensable Community. A lot of organizations are trying to build a strong sense of community when they shouldn’t be.
Fostering a strong sense of community works when the topic is a strong part of your members’ identity.
You probably don’t feel a strong sense of community with people who use the same knife sharpener, paracetamol, or brand of notepad as you do.
But you might feel a sense of community with people who share the same occupations, circumstances or have the same passions.
If you’re struggling to get people to open up, share what they’re up to in their lives, and participate in off-topic discussions, it’s not because your tactics are wrong, it’s more likely the topic isn’t a major part of someone’s identity.
You can either refine the topic to ensure it personifies your target audience’s identity or, better, focus on a more personal (and more practical) need.
That is usually information (typically getting answers to questions), but it can also mean getting benefits from answering questions (feeling a sense of influence and access) or building a reputation that leads to other work opportunities.
If your sense of community tactics aren’t working, focus on more immediate, practical, benefits.