Get to know and understand your members

by Martin Reed on 20 July 2007 in Snippets

You put all the hard work in to developing your community; you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s your own. It isn’t though – your community belongs to its members. They are the people you need to keep happy. They are the lifeblood of your community.

Always keep your members happy

Keep your community happyKeeping your members happy is of paramount importance. If the people who make up your community aren’t happy, they will leave and you will have no community at all.

At times, your members may suggest new features or rules that you don’t entirely agree with. It is important that you always welcome feedback from your members and make any changes that are demanded particularly strongly.

As I mentioned in my article entitled ‘When members request new forum categories‘, you can always introduce new features on a trial basis and see how they work out. Even if they don’t, your members will at least see that you are listening to their opinions and valuing their participation.

Take the time to get to know your members

For your community to be successful, you need to ensure you take the time to get to know your members. This involves engaging and interacting with them and generally getting involved in discussions.

Don’t feel awkward about getting involved in light-hearted or passionate conversations – your members will be happy to see you getting involved. Indeed, many thread starters will often feel flattered if they see the developer of the site getting involved in a conversation they started.

By getting to know those that make up your community, you will be in a better position to understand their personalities, wants and needs.

The importance of understanding your members

By understanding your members’ wants and needs, you are able to cater to them to ensure they become long term community members.

You can only direct the future direction of your online community if you understand your members. If you decide to introduce new rules or guidelines without understanding your community for example, you may face a backlash.

It is only by fully understanding your community members that you can think like them. When you think like them, you have a huge advantage over your competitors who all too often will make decisions based on their own opinions rather than those of their members.

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{ 6 comments }

Smiley July 20, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Interesting article. I’ve always had in mind that I need to learn to be more open to members and make them feel valued.

Never thought of it how you put it, though. Something for me to think about.

It seems as you develop a community, you also develop your own personality and learn new people skills (which I heavily lacked in the past).

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 20, 2007 at 8:30 pm

Smiley – Developing a community certainly teaches you people skills! It also teaches you how important it is to learn from your mistakes, and how important it is to value every single member.

Russ July 23, 2007 at 5:32 am

One of the main reasons that I join other forums is because of the friendly environment that they offer, and that is what I try to provide in my own communities. It is much easier said than done though, and requires a lot of effort and dedication.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 23, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Russ – I think it is important to consider what factors encourage you to join a forum yourself, and then try to emulate those in your own community.

I couldn’t agree more that a large supply of effort and dedication is required!

Chris Guthrie July 26, 2007 at 8:03 pm

I definetely agree with you here. I’ve been running forums for over two years and one of the best things you can do to keep your forum active is to give your members what they want. I’m always posting in our ‘members only’ area on every forum I run asking for ways to improve the community for all and often times I get great ideas I wouldn’t have had I not asked.

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 26, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Chris – Thanks for your comment. Making your members feel valued and involving them in the future direction of your community really strengthens the bond between your members and your site. What’s more, as you have found, members can often offer fresh ideas and innovative suggestions that you may never have considered otherwise.

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