Communities are like campfires -- ignore them and the fire will die out. Add a spark and a few logs every now and then, a bonfire will build!
Getting people in your community to interact comes naturally when the group meets in person. But even if the group meets once a week, then you are only connected for 1-2 hours out of 168 each week. That’s 1% of the time. What do you do with the remaining 99%?
When not meeting in person, messaging enables everyone in the group to communicate with one another. But just because everyone can communicate does not mean that they will. The vast majority of groups need someone to kick off the group conversation to make the space feel welcoming, comfortable and ultimately like a community.
Community builders can lead digital conversationstions too. Just like in-person meetings, a thoughtful first communication will trigger a series of discussions. Group conversations can lead to more dialogue with members contributing new information and ideas. The longer the time between each in-person meeting, the more important it is to maintain frequent digital communication.
When sparking the conversation, try to put yourself in the shoes of your other members. What would you want to hear about, or how would you want to feel? Share something thoughtful but don’t put too much pressure on your initial message, and don’t expect a response.
Like all community building, consistency is critical. There will be lulls, but the community builder can easily keep the conversation flowing between in person events.
Use these ideas to spark the conversation in less than 60 seconds.
Continue the conversation
Did you hear or participate in a great group discussion at your last event? Keep the conversation going digitally by sharing relevant pictures and links. Digital sharing also has the benefit of extending the conversation to the whole community -- you may be surprised by who else is interested!
“Great conversation about nutrition last night with @Steph. See the article that I mentioned below, and I’d be curious to hear how others are handling nutrition on race day?”
Recognize outstanding member achievements! Whether it’s setting personal records for performance, or achievements in other aspects of life too, being recognized feels good and helps other members understand what will be rewarded by the group.
“Shoutout to @Cassandra for her recent job promotion! Drinks on her?? LOL!”
Share photos from your events
Get a group shot from your last event and share it with your community. Members often download these images and post it to their own social media feed. If you went to the event, it’s great to get a picture of you in it. And if you didn’t, then you wish you were there! Members who didn’t participate will be more likely to come to the next one.
“Fun seeing everyone at the holiday party last night! Feel free to share this picture to your social media and tag us!”
Event coming up? Show some excitement!
Engage those attending your next event by sending a message in advance. It can be simple, and those attending get a nice reminder that there is something to look forward to.
“Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow! Can’t wait to get everyone together again.”
Traveling can lead to sharing
It’s inspiring to see group members continue to pursue their activity even when on the road. Whether it’s travel for work or pleasure, the new background scenery provides a great opportunity to share your activity in a different context and demonstrate your commitment. Complementing the message with an image helps too.
“The hotel gym at the Marriott Santa Barbara is heating up this morning!”
Remember, don’t put too much pressure on your initial message and don’t expect a response. At the end of the day, share consistently, try to be thoughtful, and reduce your expectations. Over time, the community will build upon itself and the burden to share consistently will diminish.