In the Witch Doctors of Social post, we talked about optimal distinctiveness theory.
Members try to simultaneously mirror the actions of prototypical members to be accepted and impress other members to be afforded higher status.
To accompany this, we need to understand self-determination theory. It’s a cornerstone of community activity.
Self-Determination Theory: 3 Specific Needs
Self-determination theory claims we achieve peak motivation when 3 specific needs are met.
These are the need for competence, autonomy, and social relatedness.
Most communities are quick-hit communities. Members participate to get an ego boost.
In psychological communities (or ‘imagined’ communities), members feel a deep sense of connection with one another and the brand because they reach their peak motivation.
We’ve adapted the below from Niemic, Soenens, and Vansteenkiste’s (2014) table
Competence refers to our need to control our environments, experience mastery of our field, and tackle optimally-difficult challenges.
Members need to become better, smarter, and tackle bigger challenges via your community.
You can satisfy your member’s need for competence by the following:
- Segment members by level (newcomers/veterans etc..) and setting optimal challenges for their skill level.
- Recruit members responsible for introducing new knowledge from relevant sources to increase the skill level/knowledge of all members.
- Allow members to host their own training webinars/history lessons on the topic. Create a culture of teaching.
- Adopt individual member challenges as a challenge for the group to solve.
- Give unexpected feedback on good contributions from members.
- Initiate individual discussions with members to identify their barriers to success.
- Provide immediate feedback on their actions and impact of their actions.
- Create a clear structure of how far the community can go (with boundaries).
Autonomy is our need to freely choose behaviour in line with our beliefs, values, and emotional states.
We want to choose our actions in line with our internal beliefs and goals. When we give recognition and rewards for actions, we reduce the sense of autonomy members feel. This works at both a group and individual level. To enhance the sense of autonomy, you can:
- Allow members to put themselves forward to run/create their own areas of the community.
- Call for suggestions/ideas and help members make them a reality.
- Create a profile field for members to highlight their own goals and introduce them to members who can help them.
- Elicit and acknowledge a member’s thoughts and feelings in your private interactions (and encourage volunteers to do the same with members).
- Ask members about their values and beliefs, highlight how they relate to the community’s.
- Provide a clear reason when boundaries are established.
- Don’t use controlling language (“should”, “must”, “ought”, and “have to”)
Social relatedness is our need to be accepted, to care for, and be cared for by others.
If this need isn’t met, our participation is typically driven by an unhealthy need to gain acceptance. This manifests itself in various ways (e.g. over-participation).
- Use volunteers to create an environment of supportive response to every contribution.
- Be genuinely interested in members (remember or write down previous interactions with members).
- Set stern rules about attacking newcomers asking entry-level questions.
- Assume a warm, empathetic, non-judgement stance in every interaction with members.
- Highlight something specific a member did and it’s positive impact upon the community.
- Provide opportunities for members to help one another (or create a place where members can highlight the help they need).
If you satisfy these three needs of members in any social group, you will get members participating for healthy, intrinsic, reasons and rationalising themselves that they believe in the community. This leads to higher unity with your organisation, yourself, and one another.
It’s work worth doing.