When i think about the online communities that I participate in, outside of work, there is one glaring reason why I’m there…I share an interest in common with the other community members. Whether a love of sewing, knitting, crafting or more serious connections of illness or care-giving, my participation in communities is directly tied to my affiliation with the other members, an affiliation based on a particular interest or circumstance.
Each type of affiliation – interest or circumstance in my case – is time bound. My hobbies and interests change, and sometimes medical or caregiving conditions conclude and my affiliation is ‘lost.’
Managing a technical community, the common affiliation is – as you would expect – one based on technology. It can also be drilled down to an affiliation based on a particular product or service, particularly if experiencing an issue.
- affiliation is interest or circumstance bound
- affiliation is generally timebound
Leaving the question of how to build affiliation that goes beyond these timebound ‘needs’ and expand users participation into building collaborative relationships with each other that are NOT dependent on their primary need (ie. technical assistance). Bringing ‘em back, you might say, even if there is no pressing problem that must be resolved within minutes.
I don’t propose to have the answers, but I can say that affiliation:
- Brings people back to a community when needed, and also during those wide spans of time when help is not needed but rather can be offered to others
- Demands that our communities offer more than slick navigation, easy to find information and answers. It demands an environment that’s visibly ‘buzzing’ with conversation – even if off topic
- Harnesses the power of the individual, and the collective, to share, connect, offer feedback, and dare I say it – even play a bit.
How do you drive affiliation in your communities?