How to build an engaged online community

Online communities have been long been one of the most popular places to spend time on the web. Providing an opportunity to be social with people across the world, many people love nothing more than taking to their favorite forum or message board to discuss their interests with like-minded individuals. But what exactly does it take to build an engaged online community for yourself?

Offer content they want

Content will always be the first tool on your mind as you go through this. By providing content that people want, you will draw more to your site, boosting your community with more members and making it easier to get people to join. Simply identify their problem or problems and create content aligned to solving this problem.

Create challenges for the group

Online challenges have proven to be an excellent way to generate interest in businesses, and this sort of method can be applied to your community. Providing these people with challenges that they can solve together will give people a chance to bond like no other. Large-scale online puzzles have had thousands of people working together in the past, and this would be a great way to launch a popular community.

Provide a good platform

People don’t like using websites that are designed poorly or don’t work. This means that you will need to take extra care while building your community to make sure that people won’t be put off by the way that it looks and feels. Old-school forums are losing popularity, though message boards are moving in the opposite direction, and this should give you a good idea of what to aim for as you go through this process yourself.

A broad niche

While broad niche may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, it makes sense when you dive into it a little. You need to find a topic or field that has enough people to create community, while also being something that few other people have created communities for in the past. There are a lot of great communities that are already well-established online, and trying to compete with them will be a challenge.

Deal with spam & negativity

While it may be a little bit funny, having trolls and other disruptive people within your community will draw a lot of people away from it. This makes it crucial that you deal with spam and negativity as swiftly as you can on your platform. There are loads of modern AI-based tools that can help you with this element of your community building.

In Summary

Creating an online community that will engage users can be a challenge. There are a lot of tools that can help you with this, though, and it shouldn’t take long for you to start gaining users. You will have to work hard along the way, but it will all be worth it.




Best of the Blogs – Social Learning

The following is the second of my monthly “Best of the Blogs”. Here I will curate content from a range of posts, blogs, research articles and other sources. With Christmas and New Year celebrations in December, a very social time, I felt that this month’s pick should be on Social Learning.

Understanding Social Learning

Social Learning has become a bit of a L&D buzzword in recent times, but it is not a new concept. Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory which was written nearly 40 years ago, describes how “behaviour is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning”. Based on this theory, social learning can be described as the process of learning with and from others. This can be through the observation of behaviours but also learning cognitively through discussions and solving of problems. It can happen online (through social media and collaborative learning tools) or offline (in the workplace, at networking meetups or group activities).

Jane Hart also provides a further definition and introduces the term “Social Collaboration” to describe the social learning from working together to achieve business objectives. To understand social learning you should also consider some of the myths around it, which Helen Blunden dispels in her article “4 Myths of Social Learning“. In his article “Socially Acceptable” Clark Quinn clarifies what social learning is not, and what good social learning is.

Implementing Social Learning in the Workplace

Implementing social learning in the workplace will be an important aspect of professional learning and growth (for individuals, teams and organisations). As Harold Jarche explains in his article “new ideas will have to come from our professional networks in order to keep pace with innovation and change in our fields”. Asha Pandey’s article discusses how adopting social learning makes sense and how it will foster collaborative learning. Julian Stodd’s blog describes a way to implement social learning, through the use of a scaffolded social learning journey. This allows for a structured learning journey with conditions where social learning can thrive.

Making it a success

Social learning it is not simply about adding in some social media and other tools and hope people become social. This blog “Integrating Social Learning in the Workplace” discusses how one of the greatest challenges of social learning is not implementing it, but getting it integrated into the culture. Ben Betts discusses how the secret to making social learning a success is in the marketing. Helen Blunden also provides some details on 20 mistakes learning teams make about social learning.

Building a community

One aspect of social learning, is the development of communities to allow for the knowledge sharing to occur. Tanmay Vora provides some great advice on how to feed a community, including this great sketch note. Encourage people to Work Out Loud, which John Stepper talks about in this video. However, there are challenges and obstacles which are described in the article “Six Obstacles To Building Communities In Organisations

My final thoughts

Social learning is an essential element in the design of a learning journey. Consider how you can build it into any courses you are designing. When moving to more social learning, especially in the workplace where culture change is required, start small and move from there. Also consider what’s the future of social learning and how you can take advantage of it..


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