Jumping Into a New Community
Do you remember jumping rope on the playground, watching the rope go up and down, slapping the pavement? You had to wait until just the right moment to step in and start jumping with perfect timing.
It could be disastrous if you jumped in (or out) at the wrong time, wrecking the rhythm of the ropes, or even worse, falling flat on your face.
It took a certain amount of confidence to step in.
Making your first post in a online community is very similar.
It can take a new member a while to feel comfortable enough to post a new topic, and once they do, what happens next can determine whether they stick around and become active, or run off to play kickball instead.
The Real Secret to Welcoming a New Member
Recent research has shown that "visitors are more likely to post actively if they receive a larger volume of responses from their peers in their first conversation."*
This new research focused on altruistic communities, specifically for health support, but it builds upon prior research that had already demonstrated the same effect in commercial-based communities.
Notably, the number of peers who replied to the new member's first post wasn't the most important factor, it was the quantity of actual response, meaning more sentences and messages, rather than a greater number of members contributing to the topic.
Further, another indicator of future activity is the amount of self-disclosure in the first post and in peer response to the first post. We've written previously about how to encourage self-disclosure in an online community.
Action Steps for That First Post
- Set up an Automation Rule so that you can get notified when a member makes their first post.
- Consider setting up a "first post committee" that goes beyond the simple "introduce yourself" topic. If you add the committee members to a custom Role in Crowdstack, you can also send the first post alert to all of them.
- Let the "first post committee" know that deeper, more thoughtful responses will have a greater impact in bringing the new member on board as an active peer. Those who respond in the first post should also ask follow-on questions that make it clear they understand and relate to the new member's challenges.
- Establish an atmosphere where helpfulness is recognized and valued. The research also showed that "new visitors who join to help and provide support to others are more likely to remain active in the forum, particularly if they are inclined to provide emotional support in the form of encouragement or esteem support."
Comment below if you have any creative ideas for turning timid new members into active engagers.
Research Citation: Attraction, selection, and attrition in online health communities: Initial conversations and their association with subsequent activity levels. International Journal of Medical Informatics - Babak Abedina, b,, David Milneb , Eila Erfani
Title image: tylerj_davis, CC license