When I first started working with online communities I used to agonise over what I was going to talk to my members about to keep them engaged and interested. Trying to keep abreast of current events, latching on to anything interesting that might have happened out in the ‘big wide world’ to chat about.
But what I soon discovered (quite quickly, thankfully!) was that it was the more everyday musings and mundane snippets of my life that elicited the most response. The more I was just ‘me’ and shared my (sometimes very random) streams of consciousness the more community members responded. Blogs about peanut butter toast, accidentally coming to work with a stain on my shirt, feeling overwhelmed by laundry and the like had members laughing, commiserating and sharing similar stories both with me and each other. It’s the little things we all have in common that connect us more than we realise.
Not only has this made my job far easier, but highlights one of the main motivations for members participating in communities. And why we call them communities in the first place. We are social creatures, naturally interested in other people’s lives. Being a real person made me as much a member of the community as the ‘respondents’ I was ‘moderating’.
I let them into my life and get to see into their lives in return.
This is one of the key strengths of online communities in research. Members get comfortable, get real, and reveal truths about themselves. A genuine bond and sense of belonging develops. Something that I have never achieved in years of moderating focus groups.
As we are seeking to reveal deep consumer insights, that has to be a good thing!