Joining a community dedicated to quitting smoking will make you slightly more likely to quit smoking than not.
But connecting with a small group of peers within that community will make you much more likely to quit smoking.
This shows up in many studies. People who join the community are already more likely to join the behavior.
The real power of an online community is to help members establish a peer group who they want to impress and emulate.
Most online communities are meant to change some sort of behavior, but few are properly designed to do it. A dozen or more sub-groups and buddy lists don’t cut it. You need to design the social structure, supported by technology, to make that happen.
When people join, they need to be guided into a small, close, group of peers (not have 30 possible groups they could join).
They need to have a private place (on your community or off it) to engage with their peers, share advice and have a mentor who can support them.
They need to make real, strong, relationships by being encouraged to speak openly about their thoughts and feelings.
They need to have a high level of optimism driven by the group leader.
Whether you’re managing a community for personal or professional goals, if you want members to make a major change in behavior you need to help them build small groups of peers.