My first time attending the Online Communities Meetup organised by Laura Willoughby and, while I’m a bit of a newbie to using social media for anything other than mild narcism, the night was both eye opening and self affirming – I’m not totally at a lose end! I think we also made some kind of meetup record too – with 2/3rds of the people who clicked attending actually showing up!
So, it’s with a packed out room that Helena, the Happiness Officer at the digital medicine company Big Health (creators of Sleepio), shared her learnings about motivations of community members and how to foster them, backed by research and experience. For almost 3 years now, she has been co-managing and managing the Sleepio website Community – an anonymous online space where people going through the Sleepio program can connect with each other or seek advice from Sleepio experts.
Since the release of their iPhone app, Helena has learnt some tough lessons about community engagement – specifically about how intrinsic motivation works to keep people engaged in online communities and what you shouldn’t do if you want to keep it intact for the long term. During Helena’s talk she introduced me to Amy Jo Kim (is it a social media faux pas that I had no idea who she was?) and it’s actually changed my life as a Community Manager. Helena spoke about membership life cycles, and catering for each of these users at different stages as well as understanding who they are. What are the motives behind user participation in social communities? Understanding why users participate can lead us to understand further how to engage users and increase their participation in online communities. Before anything, we must first learn a bit more about our users.
Membership life cycle for online communities
On the Sleepio platform, Helena broke down these phases into three parts: First time user, lurker, engaged member. Amy Jo Kim suggests 5 phases of a user’s lifecycle within a community:
- Peripheral (i.e. Lurker) – An outsider, not participating but we know they are listening to conversations
- Inbound (i.e. Novice) – New user, beginning to invest in the community, on his way to full participation
- Insider (i.e. Regular) – Committed participator, member of the community
- Boundary (i.e. Leader) – A member greeting newcomers, creating interactions and content, as well as encouraging/sustaining participation
- Outbound (i.e. Elder) – About to leave the community.
We spoke a lot about ‘Super Users’ and how they fit into the lifecycles as engaging new or lurker users, and nurturing those relationships, a role which then plays into the longevity and the passing on of community ethos. For example, inviting people to be greeters by offering them memberships in return.
Main Take Aways:
- Speak to your users regularly.Online, offline, smoke signals…. Be human.
- Figure out the intrinsic motivation of users. Importantly, do not ask them what they want, but what they need as this will generate completely different responses. Many online platforms generate add on based on what users need which then just sit there idle as they weren’t actually needed.
- Do your user research. Why do members stay engaged within the online community? What is their intrinsic motivation? Understanding users intrinsic motivation through self actualisation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as well as the importance of the dual relationship between helping ourselves and helping others.
- Once you’ve figured out the need. Ask – “how can the community address that need”?
- Keep it Simple. Participating in the community should be simple for the user. The simpler it is, the higher the participation rate will be.
- Stay watchful. Do not break the feedback loop.
- Triggers Use as many triggers as possible to nurture through intrinsic invitation.
- Create Reactive Content.
Claire Tunnacliffe – Community Manager – Club Soda