While Zapnito is not a community platform per se, we often look to the world of online community management for advice and inspiration on how to engage and manage your knowledge network.
He confirms what we feel here at Zapnito that the number of members in your network should not be the most important KPI. (We’d argue that having the ‘right’ people actively engaged in your network is far more important.)
He talks about how communities don’t necessarily need to grow organically, and that the existence of similar sites is not necessarily a barrier to entry for your network, illustrating the importance of marketing to make sure its YOUR network that attracts attention.
He stresses that community owners don’t necessarily know what is best for the community and says you need to develop your site in response to how your members are acting within it. To go against the “collective voice” can kill your community.
And he also says that when deciding which – if any – new features your site needs, you must carefully consider the value a new feature adds to participants. New features don’t necessarily increase engagement. That’s certainly the approach we take when developing new features for Zapnito.
But it’s his final point that most resonated with me. Silverman says it’s a myth that “you must impose strict guidelines for interaction”.
“It’s important to create guidelines for interaction. But once you’ve fostered an active community, you don’t need to spend time policing it; your members will do that for you.”
There are many benefits to not being too restrictive on how members contribute to your networks, including (but not limited to):
- It saves time poring over every single piece of content to check whether you are 100% happy with what it covers and how it is written
- It gives your network a more authentic ‘voice’ as members express themselves as they wish, not as you would like them to
- It’s a more pleasurable experience for members to be able to speak (fairly) freely than to be edited
- For publisher-run networks, it means your customers are exposed to ideas, opinions and people that may you may not have published. This gives them potentially valuable new content, and may even point you in the direction of new products and contributors
- And, as Silverman says, in time the community will self-moderate, and when members “unite against a negative contributor”, it’s a bonding experience than increases network engagement
It’s vital to have clear a clear network policy and guidelines, of course, but make them clear and then step back…