With 10% of adults and 30% of those under 30 using social networks to discuss politics in the last US presidential election (1), it shouldn’t be any wonder that these topics may appear in an online community this year. Should a Community Manager worried? Outright disagreements may be somewhat mitigated by people tending to choose like minded groups to associate with. (2) Further, some groups have a higher tolerance for tough minded discussions. (3)
However, where groups have an otherwise heterogeneous membership, or are focused on social support and are not given to conflict,some political discourse may be off putting to members. (3) More energetic arguments and attacks will end up being controlled by the “belligerent” while the “polite and respectful become discouraged from participation”.(3) No matter the community, the CM should have techniques to help address the situation as needed.
Personal messages, offers to table the discussion until later, appeals to the facts, and banning are some of the ways to help address the issue, but there are a few more to consider-
In a 2011 study* it was found few patients end up participating in organized support groups. ~10% go to face-to-face groups and 4% go online.
However, more than 50% of patients do contact a peer they know. They have a slightly positive attitude toward being in a support group, with the advantage being “sharing experiences” and “finding recognition.”
How might one increase participation, in particular with online support? The study discusses some possibilities.
Being able to classify your members into different types is a handy way to make sure each is getting what they need. It may also help one see what sort of mix is best for their community. (Note: Most taxonomies are fraught with complexities, so YMMV)
D Ganley, et al (*) puts forth the following kinds of members: Utility Posters, Team Players, Low Profiles, Story Tellers, and Ghosts.
Who are these people? What might a community consist of, and how could we cater to these different types of members? D Ganley, et al go into more details-
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.