Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Place for Everyone!

New areas for individual expression equal new opportunities for users to relate to each other. As your company grows both locally and globally, different forms of interaction need to be provided for your population. Raucous discussion boards may intimidate a shy member or exclusive member chats between a group of established regulars may deter a newcomer's participation. We found that people want to share their knowledge and expertise in a myriad of ways. Some seek admiration for their skills while others simply want to discuss best practices, still others thrive on the exchange of ideas and problem solving. New members in the community may find the general dynamics found on most forums overwhelming. Questions that go unanswered or derisive answers foster feelings of inadequacy. Rather than risk rejection, inexperienced people may choose to simply read the content and never expose themselves to the uncertainty of full participation.

Identifying and providing opportunities for multiform interaction is a strategic long term goal. The organic need of groups to expand into new spaces encourages development of platforms that allow for user initiated expansion. Members expect the choices that come with a diversified platform along with some of the bells and whistles that allow them to customize their space. They also make it clear that they want to engage in controversial or extensive topics on the discussion boards, create exclusive spaces within user groups, socialize with others in the chats, blog about their experiences and assist others in the answer center. Providing safe areas where people can get their feet wet with friendly responsive members builds community by attracting new members while providing opportunities for volunteers.

It is a good idea for each community to have a welcome wagon type of board where new members are directed and participation is easy. The rules for this board should be basic and experienced members who want to help should be provided with guidance on what to do if there are problems. If the long term members have sufficient experience they will be able to mentor the newbies. Many long term friendships are developed with the mentor student relationship.

No comments: