These days there’s a ton of buzz about the power of online communities. They offer a virtual outlet for us to connect, interact, learn, and grow.
Yet, we’ve all been a part of a slack community or Facebook group that slowly died.
Even if they start out with tons of excitement, eventually, communication can wane, posts slow down, and engagement drops to zero. But why exactly does this happen? And what can online community builders do to stop it?
Many of today’s thriving online communities are based around providing information for professional development, careers, or products. That said, members are joining communities with a specific goal in mind - whether to land that new job or promotion, or get a question answered about a specific product.
While members may be extremely active right when they join, once their immediate needs are fulfilled, they tend to taper off. While this is a normal lifecycle in the community world, it makes maintaining engagement a really challenging task for community managers since there’s no real compelling reason for members to stay involved.
Members often join online communities with personal goals in mind which can lead to disengagement and drop-off as mentioned above. Meanwhile, community audiences that have a common mission offer more incentive to stay involved and active.
To maintain engagement, communities need to offer some sort of opportunity to work together towards a shared goal - whether via projects, activism, etc. Sadly, most online communities these days simply don’t offer these kinds of opportunities.
Another reason members often join communities is to connect with like minded individuals and grow their networks. Yet, it can take a lot of guts to take that first step on your own and start reaching out to others.
Most people need a nudge to get out of their comfort zones; dedicated support, spaces and opportunities to interact where they know everyone’s in the same boat. When communities don’t facilitate these kinds of spaces and interactions, lots of members simply don’t connect on their own, leading to disengagement and drop off.
Learn how to foster genuine relationships amongst your community members here.
Even in communities where members are joining to fulfill personal goals, events held on video conferencing platforms offer an opportunity to interact in real time and feel that they’re not alone.
Take communities for job hunters, for example. While they might feel compelled to drop off once they’ve found a great new gig, live events offer them the opportunity to both be supported during their search and to give back to others once they’ve landed that new role.
Live events provide community members with opportunities to collaborate. Whether it’s working together to answer a prompt, develop content, or come up with a solution for a proposed problem, live events create space for collaboration even in communities without a clear shared mission.
Since live online collaboration typically works best in smaller groups, it’s key to leverage breakout rooms or tools like Gatheround or Rume that facilitate connections in sub-groups of various sizes.
It can be scary and logistically taxing to take the first step to reach out to community members and coordinate times to connect.
However, communities that host live events - and specifically networking events - help members overcome these large barriers. First, the logistics are all ironed out - times, links, matching etc. And second, you know that everyone that’s in attendance is there because they want to connect, which makes starting those conversations a breeze.
Want to hold more events for your online community? Virtually can help.
Virtually lets you automate the hairy logistics of hosting events on Zoom. We take care of scheduling, sending reminders, and tracking attendance so you can focus on delivering an exceptional member experience (while also playing well with your chosen community platform).
Laura Marks is Head of Community at Virtually