If you want people in your community to develop strong relationships with one another and your brand, you need to ensure you have a foundation of trust and honesty. Without these attributes, your community will struggle to succeed.
People not technology
Remember, when you build an online community you are (or at least, should be) involved primarily with people – not technology. Just because the community environment is online it doesn’t change the fact that you are bringing people together. People build relationships with other people – not technology. They need to see and trust the human element of your community. Don’t hide this, and make sure you are always honest.
Friendships and relationships
Think of the relationships you have in your life. Your best friends are the people you can trust. There is no reason why this cannot be replicated online. It’s a major accomplishment when people come to see members of your online community as friends. People stay with their friends – they want to be with them, and they want to continue getting to know them by sharing stories, ideas and opinions.
Unless your community is primarily linking existing friends (think Facebook, MySpace), every new member is a stranger. You need to turn these strangers into friends. One of the primary responsibilites of a community manager is to act as a matchmaker. To do this, you need to be trusted and respected. You’ll achieve this by being honest.
Lead with honesty
You can’t introduce members or encourage discussion if your members don’t trust you. Indeed, if they don’t trust you they probably won’t stick around. What’s more, if your members don’t trust you they may stop trusting the brand your community represents (if applicable).
The more your members talk, the more they are taking a risk – especially if they are new. You need to get them out of their shells – you want them to introduce themselves and to get to know existing members. You need your older members to welcome the new addition to the community and make them feel welcome. You need your members to share information about themselves.
Lead by example. Ensure you are trusted by:
- Sharing information about yourself
- Sticking to your promises
- Enforcing your community guidelines professionally and impartially
Your members are unlikely to remember every time you stick to your promises or prove you can be trusted. However, they will remember the one time you let them down. All it takes is one error on your part, and your community could end up irreparably damaged.
If you make a mistake – admit to it, and say sorry. Don’t attempt any cover ups – you’ll just be making things worse.
Communities are built on human relationships. Relationships based on lies, suspicion and deception are not healthy. You want to ensure your community is associated with trust and honesty if you want it to succeed. Give your members confidence that they can share information about themselves without being mocked or belittled. The more personal the information your members share, the more they are demonstrating their trust in your community’s members (and by association, you). It’s absolutely critical you don’t let them down.