Involve your members in decision making

by Martin Reed on 1 August 2007 in Articles

An online community is a living, breathing entity. It is made up of human members who each have their own opinions and tastes. If you make the decision to change something about your community that your members do not like, it could spell disaster.

There is a way of preventing this – ensure you involve your members when it comes to decision making.

Single-mindedness can ruin a community

Involve all community membersAs I have said before, you do not run your online community – your members do. If they are not happy, they will leave. It is your job to keep your members happy and keep them involved and engaged within your community.

Forgetting that your members are the life-blood of your community can spell disaster. You should never make large-scale changes to the look or behaviour of your website without involving your members in your decision making.

What may seem to be advantageous to you, may not be to the majority of your members. What may be a beautiful design to you, may not be to the majority of your members. Everything you do and every decision you make, needs to be geared towards satisfying them – not yourself.

If you develop a community solely to your own tastes, you will alienate your members. If they do not feel valued, they will go elsewhere.

How to involve your members in decision making

It is so easy to involve your members in decision making, I am amazed not to see it happening more frequently. If you want to know how your members will react to something, ASK THEM!

All too often it seems that community developers feel they have to ‘second guess’ their members and predict their tastes and needs. Why use guesswork when all you have to do is ask?

Asking your members what they want is not a sign of weakness or a lack of ability on your part – it is a sign of strength that you are willing to listen to and understand your members. It also makes your members feel more valued and involved in the community.

Before any redesign you should publish drafts and invite comments. Before you change any of the software within your site you should set up a test area and invite comments. Before you change any rules or conditions you should notify your members and invite their comments.

You will never get everyone to agree on your plans or proposals but by inviting feedback and involving your members in your decision making you will be ensuring that you cater to the majority. If you keep the majority of your members happy, you are on the path to success.

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{ 8 comments }

Jay August 2, 2007 at 3:03 am

Members will definitely respect you more when they are included in the decisions. It can be humbling to stop and invite feedback, but I think you are right.

Smiley August 2, 2007 at 3:52 am

I agree 120%

I involve my members hugely. If you have a spare 30 seconds or so, read my post here:
http://www.friendly-boards.co.uk/boards/viewtopic.php?t=650

I made this post the other day concerning members I’ve given certain control over the boards.

Try attempt to build very strong ties & bonds between myself & members, I’ve put a team between to be representatives of the majority of users to me, just like I have official representatives/staff for the site to new users.

It’s quite an original system set up by me which is experimental right now, but I find it works. The members all trust me and have a strong loyalty, and they truly feel like they are the most important thing to the community.

In the future once the site grows, if there is anything regular users are unhappy about, but for whatever reason do not feel comfortable coming to me about it or e-mailing in as their username.. they can simply contact one of their representatives, who will have no problem telling me the problems.. keeping the user anonymous.

I think it will help strengthen ties between myself & the community. That’s the plan, anyway. I’m only officially 2 months old in 4 days. So, it’ll take a year or two yet to tell whether it’s successful or not :)

prepaid tarif August 2, 2007 at 11:18 pm

I used to run a forum and I involved my members in every major decision making.. The members were very loyal and seemed to identify themselves with the forum, which resultet from that involvement at least partially..
So this is definitely a very important factor

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 3, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Jay – Being humble is a definite requirement for anyone wanting to be successful at community building! I am glad you recognise the importance of involving your members in decision making.

Smiley – I took a read of your post, and liked it a lot. Telling your members just how important you consider them to be is always recommended, as is making yourself approachable.

prepaid tarif – It’s good to hear that you noticed your community become stronger because you involved your members in your decision making.

What was your forum about? Oh, and what is your name?!?

anon January 7, 2008 at 3:39 pm

What if you try to ask your members and no one responds?

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 10, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Anon – If nobody responds, there is little you can do. However, by asking you have shown that you value the opinions of your members and have made the effort to get them involved in decision making.

Simjo May 15, 2008 at 8:14 pm

This is very interesting and true. The more social a community is, the better. This will make people come back and keep visiting your site.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 25, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Simjo – An unsocial community isn’t a community! Members need to be involved and engaged if you want to develop a successful online community.

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