Look out for these signs, because they mean you're doing something right as a community manager!
So you’ve established a sizeable online community, with a solid number of members and a community manager who posts and updates content regularly. But how do you know if you’ve fostered a strong sense of community? How can you tell if your members feel good about the association, that they feel a real connection with their fellow members? How can you learn if what you’re doing is valuable to them? Here are six indicators that you are on the right track in crafting a thriving online community that feels like “home” to your users:
1. Members show support for each other
When members are actively engaged in your community, it shows. Posts don’t just sit there with no responses or likes, for the most part – another member usually weighs in with their opinion or likes the post. Sometimes, they build on the original post, getting a real conversation going that can involve several users. One example of an organization with a thriving online community is TripAdvisor. This travel website was an early adopter of user-generated content. TripAdvisor’s members, with their consistent and authentic posts, really resonate with travelers searching for information.
2. They actively come up with community-building ideas
Once your members are engaged and visiting your association’s online community on a regular, maybe even daily, basis, you’ll notice that they start to contribute more to the conversation. Increasingly, organizations are engaging their communities to crowdsource ideas that can help both the members and the association. Once you’ve included your members in the discussion and are enabling them to be collaborative with the organization, you should see an increase in interest and growing relationships among the members themselves.
3. Members begin to use the word “we”
As a community manager or association administrator, you’ll get a warm and fuzzy feeling the first few times you see members refer to the great online community as “we.” That’s the initial signal that you’re making an impact and that your hard work in building and nurturing the online community is paying off.
4. Users help out when needed
Everyone likes the feeling of being needed, of being a contributor and helping others. When you see your members actively responding to your questions and joining committees to plan community events and seminars, you’ll know that you’ve created a worthy arena for them that is mutually beneficial for both the association and the members.
5. They like and retweet your posts on social media
Even in your own personal social media, it’s a warm and wonderful feeling when someone likes your post or, even better, retweets it. At the community level, it’s just as gratifying. And when members do like and retweet the association’s posts, it’s the most effective way possible to extend your reach. Nothing you pay for has more value than someone “sharing” your post; their sharing has an authenticity you can’t buy. There’s no better exposure for your community and your brand.
6. They invite others to join the community
Finally, one of the strongest indicators that your community is flourishing and vital is when your members invite others to join the community. That means your users find worth in their membership and want to share the experience with their friends and colleagues; that means they’re proud of their affiliation with you.
And the best way to see these six signs from your users? Like a garden, an online community will be healthiest when you faithfully steward it. That means consistently curating your content, continually cultivating your relationships with members, as well as encouraging and positively reinforcing their relationships with each other.