People come to a community for a specific thing that they want, which is usually information. They might need help troubleshooting a product, they might be asking for help or looking for customer support. Maybe they are looking for new ideas and want to be inspired. But fundamentally, they all want information.
That seems simple enough. But the reality is that information is readily available today and so competition is steep. If people can easily find the same information elsewhere, why would they take the time and energy to join your group?
Therefore, you need to persuade people that your community is the single best place to get the kind of information that they need. You need to convince them that your community provides indispensable value that they can’t find anywhere else. And you need to compete with giants like search engines and social media platforms.
Also, the information you’re providing has to come from somewhere! That means that you also need to motivate some of those members to provide the information to others. Not only do members need to provide the information, but they have to provide it in a way that other members will actually read it and integrate it as a part of their flow.
Many people focus on the goal of increasing overall community engagement. The ultimate goal is to have enormous engagement numbers. However, that is simply not realistic and is not the most productive approach. The reality is that all of your customers are not going to be participating in your community — even if it is a micro-community.
Studies show that only a fraction of brand audiences participate in their brand communities, and even fewer audience members stick around for the long-term. Only a small number of those members make the majority of the contributions to the group.
You’ll often find that you don’t have a homogenous mix of users sharing their brand love equally with each other. Instead, you have a small number of people who share a lot of great responses with the group regularly, and you have a large number of people who ask one or two questions and that’s all they need to get out of the group.
To understand why such a small percentage of people participate in groups, it is important to think about the psychology of groups.
Ask yourself, why do people participate? People usually participate for emotional or social reasons. Maybe they want to impress people, or they want to maintain a certain level of status. Maybe they want to feel like they are helping people or making a useful contribution.
If everyone was participating at the same level, then it would be impossible for anyone to feel unique and achieve those feelings of status or accomplishment.
So, the reason we find these group dynamics in any kind of community where just the top 1% participate at high levels is that, in any group, only a few members can shine or be the top members.
If everyone participated equally, then no one would feel like they are rising about the average or obtaining any sort of prestige. If no one feels like they are accomplishing anything satisfactory, then they are likely going to stop participating altogether.
So, in the end, having a lot of users is often not the key to building a successful online community. The key is to have the right set of users. It is possible to create a lot of value for your brand with fewer community members and lower engagement levels than you might think.
To be successful, you don’t need a lot of people sharing a lot of information all at once. This can lead to information overload and overwhelm users. It can make it more difficult for people to find the information that they’re looking for and drive them away.
Instead of focusing on collecting a huge number of ideas or thousands of customer reviews — or whatever your goals are — just focus instead on collecting great ideas or high-quality testimonials.