What Drives Deep Engagement in Communities?

by Jim Berkowitz on March 22, 2007

Here’s an interesting post from Sivaraman Swaminathan’s Customer World weblog, What Drives Deep Engagement in Communities?:

People Engage More With Small, Branded, Well-Lit Communities!

According to Communispace, in this new era of “conversational marketing”, the measure for engagement in a community isn’t the number of people logging on. Rather, it’s how actively people participate in the community.

New Communispace research, which analyzed participation behavior among 26,539 members of 66 private online communities, provides an initial look at member participation in communities.

The study evaluated communities along three participation metrics:

  • Frequency – how often members contribute
  • Volume – the number of contributions made by each member
  • Bystander or “lurker” rate – what percentage of members are simply observing versus actively participating.

Key findings of the research are:

The more intimate the community, the more people participate –

  • 86 percent of the people who log on to private, facilitated communities (average community size: 300-500 people) made contributions.
  • Only 14 percent merely logged in and observed, or “lurked.”
  • In contrast, on public social networking websites, blogs, and message boards, this ratio is typically reversed, i.e., the vast majority of site visitors do not contribute. In fact, in a typical online forum (e.g., wiki, community, message board or blog), one percent of site visitors contribute and the other 99 percent lurk.

People get more involved when they know whom they are talking to and why –

  • Branded sites showed a higher volume of participation.
  • When potential members were considering whether to participate in a community, they were 30 percent more likely to log on when the welcome notice disclosed the company sponsoring the community. Branded sites had an initial log in rate of 71 percent, compared with 55 percent for unbranded sites. This suggests that transparency – being upfront about who’s behind the community – is a key factor for companies that want to engage with customers in a community.

Why people participate: social glue, shared passion, having a voice –

  • Communities of parents get the highest involvementDifferences between how men and women participate: based on analysis of single-sex communities, the research found that although members of women’s communities participated more frequently than men, men seemed to have more to say when they did participate: 4.8 weekly contributions for men compared to 4.1 for the women.
  • Homogeneity triggers participation
  • Education and household income were not related to community member participation
  • Having a voice, productive leisure: One of the implications from the research is that people may get more involved in private, intimate communities because they feel like they can have a say.Another implication is that people may view the time spent as “productive leisure.”  They see participating as an interesting or fun outlet for communicating with other people who love what they love.

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