Community Assemble is a bi-weekly newsletter about creating and growing communities that add value to both customers and brands the right way. We feature tweets, quotes, blogs, and ideas from our experts and various community leaders across the globe.
I’m a community manager, so that might be one reason why I keep having conversations about engagement and understanding member behaviour trying to be a cool shrink, but I don’t think that’s the only reason! The community space has realized that behaviour change and engagement are directly tied up to the success of a community.
Ok before we get carried away with psychology, Let’s understand the real concept better! Is it just me or is every community head speaking about user behaviour in a community? Such an intriguing subject Psychology is!
I mean who wouldn’t want to become a community therapist? I might have just created a new job profile in the community space! ;)
When we speak about a community we all know that it is not just a group of people who gather together. A community requires a deeper connection – A psychological bond that helps us create a sense of shared purpose within members and a sense of belonging towards the community.
In simpler terms, Understanding this psychological connection and how we can apply this socio-psychological science to problem-solving is what we refer to as community
“Community psychology is concerned with the community as the unit of study. This contrasts with most psychology which focuses on the individual. Community psychology also studies the community as a context for the individuals within it, and the relationships of the individual to communities”
This means understanding the community, as well as the members within the community, are both equally important. One thing that comes to my mind when I think of understanding community psychology is how do we apply this science to increase productivity for an online community?
What this really means is yes community psychology helps us understand our members and environment better but it all boils down to how well you can make use of this psychology to not just understand but change the behaviour of members to achieve the objectives and goals of your online community.
For instance, the concept of the social exchange theory (SET) framed by American sociologist George Homans says that people make decisions by consciously or unconsciously measuring the costs and rewards of a relationship or action, ultimately seeking to maximize their reward and reduce the cost.
Applying this theory through the Gamification feature in online communities is actually an amazing way to get new members to join your community through extrinsic motivation. Adding rewards and badges for their participation will always help members feel they are getting a lot more in return for minimal efforts, making them want to belong to the community. One great example of this is the DUOLINGO community that has made learning fun even for the laziest folks! ;)
Like the SET, we have numerous theories that play a vital role in understanding and creating an environment that modifies the behaviour of users in a good way to increase engagement and create a sense of belonging in an online community.
Now in order to apply this science to members, we need certain influence areas in a community that members usually observe and learn from.
What are the major influencers for members of an online community?
A shout out to Richard Millington for his insights on influencers and behaviour in online communities, you inspire us to explore the impossible!
In any online community, it’s normal that people usually do not like being instructed. They like to believe that they can take decisions for themselves, especially in a customer community. But what’s interesting is that people take action based on what are other people do. In fact, the biggest influence on members is their fellow members!
For every member as such, there are influence areas in every community, through which they express themselves and indirectly influence others in the process.
There are typically 4 influence areas/ motivators that every member usually observes and learns from, we call it the MERC-4 SERIES!
Events and Activities.
Relationships within the community.
1. Invest time in building relationships with your super-users, these key users will be the ones who take up the desired action required from the community. Once this core group of users start taking action, others will soon follow.
2. Flexible moderation controls that do not micro-manage communities are great motivators to allow members to freely express themselves. Encourage more positive contributions and avoid undesired actions made by members. This will positively (without demotivating users) steer them towards the goals you want to achieve.
3. Events and activities motivate members to enhance and increase their participation leading to more proactiveness. Challenging your members through activities will be a great way of steering participation as well.
4. Content is the biggest influence area among all 4. You can use content to provide focus on the actions you wish to take. Though indirect it is the best way to achieve your community goals. You can give more voice and rewards to members who are leaning towards the agenda thus encouraging more members to make positive contributions and causing a ripple effect to achieve the goals of the community.
Snippets of the week:
Communities are stronger when they oscillate at the same emotional frequency. They're stronger when members see others reacting in the same way as they are.
- Richard Millington
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
– Scott Cook
Psychological cheat codes for community managers!
The following hacks can be used for your community efforts with very little effort!
1. Apply the rule of social exchange.
If you want a member in the community or even your entire community to do something for you, then try doing something for them first. Each person wants to give something in return for the interaction or insight that they receive. This rule always has profound results!
2. Make a pledge/ Ask for commitment.
Every time new members join, invite them to a discussion and ask them to take a pledge. This is a persuasion tactic in which members who agree to make a commitment to the community, usually end up being proactive to keep up their word to keep up their promise, thus, resulting in an increase in member participation and an attachment that is usually far stronger comparatively.
3. Highlight posts that favour the community.
Members who are usually hesitant or confused will look for what others are doing and soon follow. Pinning posts that are community-driven, publicizing positive examples, and mentioning members who favour the community will always set the right example for other members in the community.
4. Provide power and recognition to groups.
Providing attention to groups within the community is super important to boost engagement. One way to empower groups is to create group heads for each group and further ask these leaders to motivate the individuals within the group. Groups play a key role in onboarding new members as it promotes personal interaction, making new members feel comfortable around the community. Giving group recommendations based on the new member’s personal interests will always create a powerful impact and let members know that their interests and needs are taken care of. Making content around group topics and mentioning the group names in the posts will encourage further participation.
5. Develop leaders within your community
Use your most loyal members, we call them the “heroes” of the community. Make them the authority figures. People tend to comply with authority. So, when you need to send a message to the community, you can use these leaders to subtly do the job without forcing the agenda or hurting the feelings of any member of the community.
6. Respond positively to early contributions.
It is a normal tendency for any online community to lose a lot of newcomers right after they have made their first contributions to the community. This usually happens due to a late response system that deflates their enthusiasm and makes them feel unwelcomed. So, it is super important that at the early stage, you respond quickly and positively (Be at par with their enthusiasm) to their first contribution. Have a thread of discussion that involves other member participation as well, this makes their first post feel worthwhile and inspire them to make more contributions.
Sumimasen – “It will never end”)
A psychological persuasion method for members of online communities
It is a developed system of creating indebtedness in users, by catering to the needs of the users, thus creating the urge of repaying back to the community that has provided to them.
This term that Glynk has coined comes from the fascinating “The rule of reciprocation” obtained from the book “INFLUENCE” written by Robert Cialdini. This method is one of the best ways to pursue a member into repaying to the community thus increasing member participation, creating a sense of belonging and contributing to the community.
TOP 5 ARTICLES we found super interesting about community psychology:
1. https://www.feverbee.com/compliance/ written by Richard Millington speaks about how to influence members subtly and indirectly without forcing an agenda.
2. This insightful article was written by Yolanda Suarez-Balcazar; Vincent T. Francisco; and Leonard A. Jason, who speaks about understanding how behavioural approaches have been used in Community Psychology.
3. This article written by Sean Young speaks about how you can leverage the power of online communities to modify the behaviour of humans
4. https://tinyletter.com/tnilson/letters/a-view-from-the-clocktower-33-tactics-to-grow-community-interactions written by Todd Nilson is an insightful article that speaks about the simple tricks that can be used to increase community interactions.
5. https://www.feverbee.com/increasingparticipation/ written by Richard Millington speaks about some great methods that can be used to increase member participation in an online community.
Reference book: INFLUENCE by Robert Cialdini is hands down one of the best books you can read to understand online community psychology
Do you have any tips/ suggestions about online community psychology hacks that you’d want me to add here? You can reach out to me via mail or LinkedIn and Twitter, or shoot a question in the comments below.
Join us for the first webinar of 2022 as we discuss the “Rise of the Career Path” in the community space with Jenny Weigle who is a great community consultant, chief community officer and amazing Community Strategy Speaker.
We will speak about how the community career opportunities have changed since the pandemic, the amazing job roles that the online community space is open to and the results of these opportunities in creating a better community.
Have a suggestion for a piece of content we should include next week?
Email us and let us know!
A lot more in store at The community makers club! Let’s hang out and discuss more!