5 ways you can make your online group buzz with activity
Running an active online group isn’t easy. The natural tendency for online groups is to start strong when everyone is new and excited, but they can dwindle over time as members and facilitators lose interest, if they do not have a strong purpose or an action plan to work on.
This is something that we term the trough of sorrow. But more on that another day.
We have learned a lot since we started supporting online groups in 2006, and here are some of our top tips to make your group buzz and stay active.
1. Create an onboarding process for your group.
If you want people to participate in your group, you have to ‘hand-hold’ them to show them why it’s so important, how they can get involved and what they will get out of it.
The best way to do this is with an onboarding process for new members. Your goal is to create a welcoming environment in your group.
You can have a range of touchpoints from personal check in’s via private chat, walkthroughs, welcome/getting started messages, introduction questions in the forum etc.
The idea is to make them feel welcomed and comfortable, help find out a bit more about what they are looking for and what they can help with and connect them to other members of the group.
2. Spend time in the group yourself.
This is something that we come across a lot, but you might be surprised how many people who set up an online group expect the group to become a hive of activity as soon as it has been set up and members have been invited to join, without any additional work.
At the start, it’s especially important that the group is looked after and members feel like it’s worth their time to participate in the group.
When someone posts in the forums and doesn’t receive a reply, they are unlikely to post again or return to the group. Other members will see questions with no answers, and if this continues, they will stop visiting the group.
Before you get to the point where you have top contributors in your group, it’s your job as a group facilitator to be there to answer every post that goes unanswered or help find someone who can.
As you identify your key members you will need to nurture your relationship with them and show how appreciative you are for their participation, before you can ask them to take responsibility in answering some questions and leading on new content or activities.
3. Communicate “what’s new in the group” messages and give shoutouts to people doing great stuff.
Sending weekly, bi-monthly or monthly summaries of the best discussions, questions that need answering, upcoming events, latest materials, reminders of things that members may have missed and not forgetting accomplishments from your group or group members, is a great way to keep members coming back and engaging with the group.
They don’t have to be too complex, you can create a simple list of the content and do shoutouts to those who are taking part and share it with the group as a way of giving them kudos.
The more kudos you can provide to the members, the more likely they will be to continue their participation and for others to be more willing to participate, as they will start to see the positive feedback connection between success and participating in the group.
4. Help members with their email notifications.
When members join your group they will automatically have a weekly notification set. This will show a summary of all the activity that week, and arrive in your members’ inboxes on a Monday morning.
Do you really want to wait a week before someone could answer a question or download something from the library that could really help them?
And as a member, you will probably think I will come back to that discussion and you may forget to.
Show your members how they can adjust their email notifications from daily to weekly.
Encourage your key members to subscribe to immediate alerts across the group or show them how they can subscribe to individual features in your group (for example, the library or a library folder).
Email is still king and the more times the members receive them in a way that suits them, it will make a big difference to their engagement with the group.
5. Bring your group together outside of the online group.
Building those relationships is key to success in any group. The use of webinars, virtual events, video calls and online meetings can really help those relationships as there is something special about being able to talk to people in-person over a video call that adds an extra dimension to the group and helps people put a real face to those conversations and profiles that are sharing and asking questions.
There are lots of options of the types of sessions you can run, but something simple and informal as a regular “coffee catch up” usually starting with questions such as “What are you up to right now?” Or “Do you need any help with anything?” can make such a difference.
Are you running your own online group? What else have you done or seen to make your group more active?