“Is anyone there?” Is your online community a ghost town?
“Well it’s discouraging to find that after three months and 126 views of my post, not a single person made the effort to write a single supportive word.” ~ from a member of an online cancer community
What a heart-wrenching post to see on an online patient forum! Nothing spells the demise of a community more clearly than unanswered posts and lack of activity. If you want to build a thriving community, focus on the people, help them connect and get them talking. To be successful, a community needs activity.
Forget about producing content.
Instead, foster connections between members and stimulate conversations.
People seek community online to connect with other people. They want to learn from other people like them, put the information into context of the experience, share what they know and have discovered, ask questions, find support, collaborate and problem-solve.
Information seekers scour the web. Lurkers read community posts. But when someone actually posts to an online community, then they want to talk. They want to connect and interact. So the community manager’s job, especially in the inception and establishment phases of the community life cycle , is to
- Make sure posts get a response
- Introduce people, especially first-time posters, to other members
- Direct people to relevant activity and topics they are interested in
Community managers do a lot of this work behind the scenes. We build relationships with core members, who help respond to new members, generate conversations and model community etiquette and behavior. For patient and caregiver communities, this means making a safe space that welcomes open and frank discussions.
At the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Member Meeting on May 18, Cynthia Elliott and I will showcase Mayo Clinic Connect and how strategic community management practices helped this online patient community go from being a ghost town to a bustling community.
Help shape our presentation and ask your online community questions here. What challenges have you had creating activity in your online community?
Editor's Note: Learn more about how you can attend this case study at the #MCSMN Member Meeting!
- Millington R. Information Needs and Why Content-Driven Community Strategies Are Flawed. Feverbee. Oct 2011
- Iriberri A, Leroy G. A life-cycle perspective on online community success. ACM Comput. Surv 2009 Feb 2009;41(2):1-29.
- Young C. Community management that works: how to build and sustain a thriving online health community. J Med Internet Res 2013;15(6):e119