There are seven key elements I believe must be considered when building an online community and I’m exploring each of them in a series of posts designed to help you build the best community possible.
So, you’ve invested in a platform, and have undertaken a recruitment campaign inviting people to join your online community …now what? Aside from having a space for people to discuss what matters to them, it means you’re in a position to start testing concepts and collecting feedback from members – which leads nicely into this week’s topic: feedback.
There are a number of feedback models available for consideration; the version I think works best for communities has three steps:
Collection of feedback – in an online community, this can be obtained from various research tools, for example: quick polls, surveys, and discussion threads.
Interpretation of feedback – looking at the data and comments contributed by members of a community, and making sense of the results typically through reading, reviewing and reasoning.
Reaction to feedback – that is, doing something with the feedback collected and interpreted. Irrespective of whether it’s from a perspective of an online community manager or a member, I believe that this is the most important, yet often missed, step in the feedback cycle. Therefore, the rest of this post will focus on this last step, often referred to as ‘closing the loop’.
From a community manager’s perspective, the reaction to the feedback is first typically around the distribution of the findings to others, in the form of a one-page summary or a more detailed report. It’s then up to the person who commissioned the research to take action based on the findings, and inform the community manager about what will be – or has been – done with the research findings.
From community members’ perspective, it’s about acknowledgement by a community manager, so that members feel appreciated and will therefore be more likely to continue providing feedback in future surveys and other activities. Here are three ways I believe acknowledgement can be made:
Timeliness and Thank you: As with the saying, ‘It’s the little things that make a big difference’, reacting to community members’ feedback needn’t involve a grand response. Often, the timeliness of letting members know that you are listening to what they have to say, and thanking them for their opinions, is all it takes to keep members happy.
Instantaneous and Inclusiveness: Other times, it might be beneficial to include members in the reporting process itself, and this is where I’ve found that by displaying results to quick polls (one question surveys) as soon as an answer is given, provides members with a continued reason to participate. After all, who doesn’t want to know they are part of the majority or minority when it comes to eating scones – is it cream then jam (otherwise known as the Devonshire way) or is it jam then cream (the Cornish way)?
Detailed and Delayed: This approach to acknowledging feedback requires a bit more time to implement than the other two suggestions, but when done well, can be the very reason community members stick around – and stay longer. It involves incorporating a summary of results, as well as sharing details around what will be – or has been – done, based on community research findings. When members receive regular updates on where their feedback goes, it provides evidence that their feedback does not just go into a black hole. In turn, it means that members are more likely to feel valued – even if it is slightly delayed given the time needed to collate the information.
People participate in an online community because they want to be heard; showing that their input is making an impact, goes a long away to ensuring that members are happy, and more importantly, continue to be an active contributor of a community. To read more about member engagement, click here.
Part 4 – Recruitment Part 6 – Empathy
Next week’s post is about empathy – and why it is critical your moderator possesses this quality.