An online community is a web-space where like-minded individuals can interact, connect, collaborate or simply share content. Ever popular in the social good sector, online communities have proven effective in providing members a touch point where they can work together towards a common goal.
And while online gatherings can be sufficient in furthering your group’s goals, it can be greatly beneficial to take your online community offline in order to strengthen your relationships with members and in turn, the positive impact your community can have as a whole.
To delve deeper into this topic, I connected with online community manager aficionado Jane Stevens, who manages the growing online community, ACEs Connection—designed to connect people committed to using and spreading trauma-informed practices to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Here at Prichard, we greatly admire Jane’s work, especially me, as the manager of Mac’s List—an online community that connects jobseekers with employers offering rewarding work. I recently reached out to Jane to discuss why it’s important to take our communities offline—and how to do it effectively!
Most online community members greatly appreciate the opportunity to interact in-person, out in the real world! Be present offline by attending or hosting events, trainings or community meetups—whichever is most appropriate to your organization.
At ACES Connection, community managers organize informative presentations to bring members together and educate groups nationwide. At Mac’s List, we host networking events to get jobseekers and employers in the same room with each other and with us.
These in-person gatherings build trust with your members and strengthen the community as a whole, as connections can quickly become more personal and authentic even after one face-to-face conversation.
Be responsive and sincere when communicating with your members to establish more meaningful connections—make sure to respond within a day to emails, and put time and thought into every response. Before you hit send, ask yourself “Am I providing value to this member in my response?” If not, re-evaluate.
This is a way to grow credibility with your members that gives the relationship a more genuine, “offline” feel. Setting up automatic responses or sending an impersonal mass email can give off the wrong message—that you don’t care enough to put in the time to cater to each members’ individual needs.
After speaking with Jane, it occurred to me that the underlying theme in our discussion was that if you never take your online community offline, you are missing a great opportunity to make it into something more—something that can do amazing things and make changes to the world outside of the web.
How do you take your online community offline?