Creating Thriving Online Communities
Yesterday Suzanne posted “How to reach critical mass?” in EduBloggerWorld forum. She said “Every new education community I have joined has been slow to get off the ground, and eventually, I will stop coming and checking, as there is nothing new to read or respond to”.
Having been involved with several online communities, I can totally understand Suzanne’s frustrations, and have often felt like giving up with some, many a time. But don’t, because when the “gems” come, they are good!
Creating thriving online communities takes effort! First you have to remember with online communities user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:
- 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
- 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
- 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs
If you want your community to thrive you need to:
- Make the site delicious (i.e. incredibly inviting). So people want to stay and join!
- Create a community that encourages strong sense of belonging! People will participate if it gives them a strong sense of community; if they feel a sense of obligation to participate!
- Make it very simple, and obvious how to participate. Don’t assume people will just realise! Check out how Michelle Martin has set up Betterblog.ning.com. I have to say Michelle is absolutely brilliant, and knows the principles of making an online community thrive.
- Find ways to encourage the 1 % that love participating. These are the people who will drive your community. Listen to Sean O’Driscol’s (Manager of Microsoft online communities) share his knowledge on creating thriving online communities and check out Sean’s blog!
- Structure or theme helps because it provides a sense of purpose! For example, new theme each month such as Beginners Tips, Cool Tools, Audio and video in elearning. Alternatively, Michelle is creating weekly challenges for the Betterblog.ning.com.
What are your thoughts? What has worked for you with online communities? What has failed?
11 thoughts on “Creating Thriving Online Communities”
Themes are good, but they take time and make it almost like writing well planned articles.
Making it easy to join in is the big key.
Going back to your point about the lurkers vs. those who contribute a lot, I think that in the 31 Day challenge, we basically pulled out the 1% who were comfortable contributing and who wanted to contribute and then we’re building a community with them at the core. So we’re starting right away with a core group of people who already like to participate. I definitely think that helps.
I also think that having a challenge that we wanted to work on together was important. I don’t think it’s enough to have shared interests–I think that people like to CREATE things together and the challenge gave all of us something that had personal application, but that was also being shared by a bunch of other people going through the same painful process. I don’t think we can underestimate the power of the “boot camp” mentality! 🙂
Hello Sue – I am commenting, and you know why! 😉
One of the other factors in creating a thriving online community – including, say, a blogging community – is to value the champions who never, never, never give up, and who are often the people who bring new and innovative ideas to fuel the imaginations of all those they encounter in that community.
Never, never, never give up Sue. 🙂
This is something I’ve struggled with in terms of creating and participating in online communities. When it is not engaging, people just stop being a citizen of the community.
Michelle has a lot of exciting and renewing activities in the Ning group, that really seems to make the difference for me.
To what extent, though, do the citizens of the online community have the responsibility to take over and keep things going?
I agree making them easy to join is important. Michelle has done an excellent job explaining how to participate and get involved in simple terms.
We have definitely pulled together a group of top performing 1% which will aid the community.
I think the ideas of the challenges are a good idea but we will need to play a balancing act because so of the members, who are not as overachieving as us, could easily become overwhelmed if we are not careful.
Thanks for encouraging me never to give up. Parts of this week have been frustrating and I have felt like giving up. Also good to see you back blogging 🙂
“To what extent, though, do the citizens of the online community have the responsibility to take over and keep things going?” Not sure, I definitely believe that there needs to be one or more strong leaders that keep the community on task and inspire people to want to engage within the community.
Michelle is doing a fantastic job and I am learning so much by how she manages setting up and engaging the community.
Thank you for the tips and links, I am trying to build a community and it is not easy!