The importance of being personal

by Martin Reed on 14 May 2007 in Snippets

Have you noticed that when you call up your bank, they address you by your name?

Have you noticed that when you phone for an insurance quote, the operator will often address you by your name?

The reason they do this is because it adds a personal touch and makes you feel more valued.

The same applies with online communities – addressing people by their name or username adds a far more personal touch, which will make your members feel more valued.

Keep the community feeling alive

As I wrote in a previous article, it is all too easy for your community to lose its community feeling if it grows without your continued involvement and attention. By addressing people by their name, you are helping to keep the community feeling alive.

Has someone left a comment on your blog? Respond to their comment by using their name – your response is then far more personal and will leave a lasting impression on that visitor.

If you are replying to a forum post, again address the user by their name or forum name. Not only does your member then know you are addressing them, it makes them feel valued on a more personal level.

Decide just how personal you should be

Being personal with your users is about engaging with your members. You should bear in mind though, that not all of your users will want to be addressed by their real names (if you happen to know them).

Learn about your community – if members seem to address each other using real names as opposed to user names, then feel free to follow suit. Bear in mind though that this can be confusing to new members or visitors as you will be referring to people using names other than their displayed user name.

Your members are real people

It can be all too easy to forget that behind those user names and forum posts lie real human beings! Acknowledging your members will strengthen your community. Addressing them by their names or chosen user name will make them feel more valued as a member of your community, and leave a lasting impression.

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Chicago 2016 May 14, 2007 at 10:25 pm

As always, you offer wonderful advice. It’s a shame that most media properties still aren’t more personalized.

Martin Reed May 15, 2007 at 10:39 am

Thanks for your comment Daniel. Yes, I agree – it often seems that as an online business or community becomes larger, it often loses that personal touch but this is exactly the time when it is essential they maintain the personal approach to build and maintain relationships.

Smiley May 17, 2007 at 6:37 pm

We’re a very tiny community. Only one of our rooms is used regularly, and it’s quite tight-knit and personal.

I want to keep it that way. I think you’ve done a great job keeping a sense of community at JC, though, despite how big it’s become and how much it’s grown – atleast in the rooms, and on the boards.

I can imagine how hard it is keeping the balance at times.

Martin Reed May 17, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Smiley – It sure can be a challenge to try to keep the community feeling as a site grows.

Just don’t let success get to your head; if you continue to invest in your site and its members (in terms of time, attention and care), there is nothing to stop your site being able to grow and keep its sense of community well into the future.

Justin May 20, 2007 at 9:57 am

Great blog! I’ve read almost all these articles and am reading them again!

You’ve just made a lifetime reader. Keep up the great articles!

Martin Reed May 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

Hi Justin! Thanks for your comment, I am really happy that this blog is useful to you and look forward to reading more of your comments in the future.

Bryan Zmijewski May 21, 2007 at 3:01 am

Martin, I couldn’t agree more.

The challenge for any site is to maintain a personal feel- this is very hard to do as you scale a website. As a site increases in size, it’s important to make sure people supporting the site understand the core values…this takes time. You can’t just hire people- they need to be part of the community and want to shape the vision.

Personal names are a great starting point.

Martin Reed May 21, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Hi Bryan – thanks for your comment. I am glad you see the benefits of maintaining a personal relationship with your community. You are right to say that moderators must understand and support the core values of the site.

Keeping the personal touch as a site grows is a real challenge; but if successful your community will flourish and become stronger.

Alberghi October 19, 2007 at 10:15 pm

To keep alive, you need to add interesting posts, which is very important thing.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 23, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Alberghi – Being personal and letting this shine through in your posts is really important if you want to retain members.

best hair products February 9, 2008 at 10:58 am

Being personal in great. But still there should be something else in your community – the common idea, the thing that makes people interested…Sometimes it’s difficult to find that.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Best – Thanks for your comment. Every community needs to have something that makes it different. I have written a number of articles about differentiation and would recommend you take a look around the archives.

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