At first glance having strong community leaders might seem like a good way to get people to participate. However, T Zhou finds* that far stronger determinates are when an individual feels they belong to a group and that it shares their values.
For community managers:
- Heighten the sense of belonging to a group, perhaps with events or other shared activities.
- Be sure what the group is all about, its values, is well known.
- Less effort can be directed at getting people to participate via leaders.
The paper uses social theory to help frame an understanding and create several hypothesis it then checks. T Zhaou helps break down what can make someone feel part of a group, or their social identity. This gives some specific areas a CM may delve into to help get more participation.
Cognitive social identity is members understanding how they are similar to insiders and different from outsiders. [CM’s could heighten the requirements for membership, support particular topics/discussion, and use jargon.]
Affective social identity deals with the emotions one feels when belonging to a community. [CM’s could highlight members feelings about the group, or tap into topics that have more of an emotional component.]
Evaluative social identity concerns the value, usefulness, members thinks they derive from the community. [CM’s should be sure their members are getting value. That may take someone simply asking the members what they want.]
Nice to see that within the paper the author includes recommendations for community managers.
* “Understanding online community user participation: a social influence perspective” T Zhaou Internet Research 2011