We’re a pretty fun group here at YourMembership.com and we enjoy our time with each other at work and afterwards but we’re all very different. What unites us is our belief in the membership management software we create and service and our desire to continually improve our efforts. Your online community may be the same way. As team members we vary in age, background, family commitments, favorite sports teams, love of dogs or cats….you get the picture. But fostering better communication among team members is essential to company growth just as conversation and connections are key to the success of your online community.
Recently, we came up with a way to inspire more conversation. We hung a whiteboard in our newly-constructed employee cafe. On it we write the question of the day. Some topics are informational — favorite local restaurant; some are nostalgic — favorite childhood cartoon; but all foster communication, strengthen connections and help us to better get to know one another. Not only has the board become a popular meeting spot in the morning but it fosters communication away form the cafe. Now I hear conversations in the halls about board topics and answers. It’s provided our team with easy intros to one another too. “I saw what you wrote yesterday. I totally agree.” Plus it gets bonus points for cultivating creative thinking.
The same can be applied to your online community. Not every question asked on your forum has to be directly about your organization or its goals. Some can just be fun “get-to-know-you” topics. Look beyond the frivolity of asking about a favorite travel destination and think of what it could mean for your organization — a new convention location, a new event theme, a topic of conversation the next time you see that member, a spin-off into a blog post about arm-chair travellers, a connection you could introduce that member to….so many possibilities.
You can take these forum answers and give teasers through other forms of social media. For instance, on your Facebook page you could post “See what our members dreamt about last night.” Tantalizing questions on your public social pages can be a great source of traffic for your private community. This type of interaction takes only seconds a day for you to think of a topic and post it. Compared to the amount of time your members will talk about it, that’s a great return on (time) investment!
What creative ways have you tried to foster discussion in your community?