Online communities have different trust requirements compared with your local community.
These can be defined as cognitive and affective trust.
Cognitive trust is the belief that other members are reliable, dependable, and skillful (or competent) at what they do. This specifically means:
- Confidence in the skills of other members with relevance to the topic.
- Confidence in the knowledge of other members about the subject.
- Believing other members have specialised capabilities to add to the conversation
- Believing other participants are well qualified on topics being discussed.
- Other members are capable of performing tasks in regard to the topic
- Other members seem successful in activities they undertake.
If you want to help members feel better connected, you need to help create the belief that members are informed, smart, and eager to improve themselves. This means creating opportunities for members to shine (questions, challenges, and special projects) while reporting on the success of those whom do.
This is also why it’s easier to feel closely connected with members at your level than people beneath it.
Affective trust is caring and being concerned for the wellbeing of other members. This means:
- Members are very concerned about the ability of the group to get along.
- Members would not knowingly disrupt the conversation.
- Members are concerned about what is important to others.
- Members will do everything within their capacity to help each other.
- Members try hard to be fair in dealing with one another.
- Members behave in a consistent manner.
You achieve this via your moderation approach. If you and your team respond with high empathy standards, refuse to tolerate snarky and ungrateful members, and build a culture of mutual support, everyone in the community wins. But this comes at the cost of moderation (both resources and removing a lot of members who aren’t a good fit for this kind of community you’re trying to create).
It’s not easy to build a public community which attracts smart members who are eager to get along. However, if you’re selective about who you recruit, create opportunities for members to shine and reward those whom do, you can retain smart people. If you can sustain high moderation standards, you can have them get along too.