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Has your Online Community got a cold?

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

6/365Everyone seems to be going down with a cold at the moment where I work. 

But what happens when your community gets a cold?  What are the symptoms and what are the remedies?

Symptom – No participation or activity e.g. No new documents, links, discussion threads, announcements or news posted

Remedy – Post new content, requesting feedback and comments to elicit new conversation.  Remind people to set alerts for the site. Talk to members to find out what people are working on and ask people what they would like to see on it.

Symptom – Activity by only a few people

Remedy – Call or email members who haven’t participated for a while; find out why they haven’t been participating. Use those conversations to elicit new content and encourage contribution. Also be sure that the people who are not contributing understand how to use the tools. Never assume that tools are “intuitive” to everyone, or that everyone understands how to use them.

Symptom – People use email instead of posting questions and discussions on the CoP

Remedy The email habit is a hard one to break. If the goal of the community is to capture all the relevant discussions for future use, then the community facilitator needs to take a strong stand with members.

One way to do this is to make a public statement that no questions sent by individual email will be answered, but that questions posted to the community will always be answered in set time. Another approach is to respond to all email questions by asking the requestor to post the question in the forum.

Symptom – Sudden drop in discussions where there was previous activity.

Remedy – If there was a lot of active discussion and then it quickly dies out. Review the postings for potential “flaming”.  Edit the discussion threads to remove inappropriate comments (and state that you have done so). Speak with the people who have posted and clarify the norms for participation of the community.

Symptom – Another community is focused on the same topic

Remedy – If the members of the other community are current or previous members of your community, talk to them about why the community isn’t meeting their needs. If they do want to take a specific focus, then be sure that you have set up cross-linkages to the other community sites, and are referring people back and forth as needed.  Or even look to merge with the other community or communities.

Based on the work of Patti Anklam http://www.pattianklam.com

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