Why do people participate online? How can a community definition inform our behaviour as community managers? Community is a mis-used term, but understanding what a community truly is can help our every day actions as community managers.
Whether engaging young or old, the first rule of community management is understanding why people engage online at all.
Communities are made up of a “specific group of people who form relationships over time around a strong common interest”. They participate online for several reasons including reputation, efficacy, altruism, anticipated reciprocity, a sense of belonging, and emotional connections.
Of those participating in online communities, a vast number are young people and with over 45% of Facebook’s population aged between 13 and 24, engaging with this demographic is more important than ever.
Here are 8 tips on engaging young people online:
1. Look beyond the short-term to long-term engagement
Just as with display advertising, you may only have a few seconds of someone’s attention. That said, you don’t want to exploit that opportunity for short-term likes or engagement. Building connections and loyalty via social media is a long-term process, so use that time to start slowly building a relationship with your audience.
You can start doing this by thinking about ways to better involve your members. Is there a project you can involve your members in? Is there a change they have wanted that you can give them? Is there something you can give them that makes them feel more strongly connected to your community? Things that genuinely build loyalty in members lead to more long-term involvement.
Give members the opportunity to share their thoughts, ask you questions and interrogate your policies. Encourage them to talk to you – you’ll gain valuable insights into what they want from you, as well as how they want to communicate with you. Always be careful about asking for feedback you can’t act on though!
3. Use their native language
Talk in a language that your followers can understand. Industry jargon, abbreviations and buzzwords mean nothing to them, and will most often turn them off. Saying that, it doesn’t mean you have to end every status update with “LOL ”. Young people expect businesses online to maintain a certain level of professionalism and respect. So, be friendly, courteous and interested in what they have to say, and just remember that it’s important to balance being personable with being too casual.
4. Be relevant
Whatever you’re talking about, try to frame it to match particular self-interests of young people. It’s important to frame things within the context of what a young adult might ask themselves when they see your content: “How will this benefit me right now?” Post content that’s relevant to them right now, that interests them right now, and that’s worthwhile spending their time with right now.
5. Show humour
It can be tough to make a dry topic interesting. Don’t be afraid of using humour – when appropriate. Humour is a great tool for Community Managers. The Australian Bureau of Statistics did a fantastic job with their 2011 twitter account, and received international attention for this joke.
6. Be relatable – have a face!
Although you’re expected to behave like a business, it can be difficult to relate to a business. Put a human face to your communication and ensure that face is someone who is helpful, understanding, and is relatable to your audience.
Do things that will take your membership on a ride with you. Don’t be afraid to rebel against the status quo to stand out from the crowd — young people are often doing this themselves among their own peer groups.
Ask them to share their own experiences as they relate to your topic or industry. Whenever you can, respect their position in the argument (even if you disagree), empathise with them, and work with them to bring about the change they want to see. A business can’t be a friend but it can still act like one.
7. Show respect
Always maintain a healthy respect for your members, not just while you’re building your community but also once it’s built. You don’t own them, they don’t owe you anything and, given a good enough reason, they can turn against you. At the same time, those who feel like they “own” your business — who have shared their thoughts with you and have seen you, and in turn themselves, benefit from their contributions — won’t need a reason to defend you.
8. Allow pseudonymity
If you’re engaging with your members outside of Facebook, consider allowing users to choose their usernames, and not have to use their real names. Pseudonymity can help provide a safer, private space where people feel more comfortable discussing certain topics and sharing information and advice. If you have effective community management you can avoid bad behaviour by enforcing the rules.