How to Nurture a Welcoming Online Community - dummies

How to Nurture a Welcoming Online Community

By Deborah Ng

A positive online community experience leads to more positive actions. For example, members who are having a good time invite others to join the party. Satisfied members also share your content whether it’s a blog post, a fun comment on your Facebook page, or a promotion or sales opportunity. Happy campers provide the best word-of-mouth promotion.

Keep the online community positive from day 1

One online writing community allows members to explore and discuss all writing genres and careers. If newbies ask the wrong questions, however, they’re not led to a FAQ page or helpful thread by a moderator.

Instead, all the community members pile up and make the newbie feel small and unwelcome. They dissect each of the newbie’s posts and point out misspellings or grammar missteps. The community moderator even joins in on the pile-on.

The members of the community may think they’re setting a newbie “straight,” but to lurkers and other newbies, this treatment is akin to bullying. The community moderator is setting the wrong tone for this community by allowing it.

In many online communities, a popular line of thinking is that if other community members don’t like negativity or swearing or daily rants, they should find another discussion thread or, better yet, find another community.

If the community manager allows this line of thinking, his community is now an elitist clique that isn’t welcoming to people who don’t appreciate strong language or negativity.

Plenty of people of feel that they have carte blanche to talk down to others because they’re being “brutally honest.” They use “honesty” as an excuse to insult and belittle.

Good community managers know honesty is never an excuse for rudeness. If they allow rudeness to happen, they’ll have a community of honest bullies and not much else.

Use positive words when moderating your online community

Setting the right tone for your community means choosing the right words and not leaving any room for misinterpretation. You want to choose topics and a tone that isn’t offensive and that folks aren’t going to take the wrong way.

Here are a few tips:

  • Watch your “you” language. How does this sound?: “You need to . . . you have to . . . you didn’t. . . .” Many times, using the word you sounds like you’re pointing a finger or accusing someone of something.

  • Give directions, not orders. When you’re teaching or sharing information, the last thing you want to do is lecture or give orders. When you make requests, always remember manners. Saying “Please” and “Thank you” goes a long way toward setting the right tone.

  • Cool down before you post. The biggest social-networking mistake is posting a comment in anger. Though a message can be deleted, you may not get to it before other people see it. Moreover, some people like to save screen shots and send them to your team or throw in your face later. Sending out an angry post can cost you your community . . . and your job.

  • Be sincere. Just as you don’t want to be too negative, you don’t want to be so positive that you seem fake. Being sincere is more important than being chipper.

  • Accentuate the positive. Try using positive words in negative discussions. Instead of saying “Don’t post your links in the forum,” say “Hey, I really like your blog. Thanks for your links. Moving forward, please use the promotion folder to share links.” Now your comment doesn’t seem like such a smackdown.

You don’t have to be Polly Perky all the time because that gets old with the community as well. Just think about way you say things and how your words will impact your community.