Running a "healthy" group is somewhat intangible, but people can feel when an environment is healthy for them. Community leaders manage the space and set the tone.
Welcome people. Appreciate people for their presence and contributions.
Get to know people. Try to understand the goals of each person in the group.
Help people get to know each other, find friends, and get into good conversations.
Genuinely care about how people are doing, and seek to help them.
Have a genuine interest, enthusiasm, and curiosity. Sit in the space of possibility.
Share and do things that interest you. Enable and encourage others to do the same.
Enforce clear community ground rules and agreements.
Make sure people are always learning (including you).
Seek to solve actual, real-world, and specific problems with/ through your group.
Conversations allow you to explore and learn together
Conversations can happen at events, on online discussion tools, or via e-mail.
Amplify good ideas and good stories
Call out specific people to enroll them into the beginnings of a new conversation.
"Play Tag" - post a tip and tag someone else within a user group to get them to post something
If you see members enforcing and reinforcing group norms, thank them individually. Give them more power and privilege if you can.
Getting users to engage deeply online is tougher than in person, since they have so many other things vying for their attention at the same time.
Create space for people to work through real problems they're having on projects, at work.
Keep momentum between meetings
Social media platforms to engage users with content or discussions
Plan your meetings as far ahead as possible, to avoid lulls
Reach out to members if they miss a meeting they said they’d be at
Builds a stronger relationship
More likely to return next time
What is useful? What will people learn from?
Good content can be very important for driving engagement, especially since there's already SO MUCH content out there.
Take the time to really clearly and efficiently answer important questions.
Try to vary the target experience level
Try not to repeat content too often
Source content from all your members. Give people the stage.
Invite content and presentations from other groups (including Autodesk University presentations!)
All of the work that went into preparing those materials can be re-used!
Be careful about too much marketing content. It can be toxic.
Job postings can be an important and valuable type of content & conversation within your group.
Encourage people to post jobs, and encourage members to let the group know when they're looking for work.
Consider networking events or topics specifically related to career development.
Are users getting a continued benefit from participation?
If not, they'll stop putting in the time
They need to feel the value of the time spent
Adjust strategies or goals based on member input on what they want
Surveys are a great tactic
Use surveys if the group has been stagnant for a while and you'd like to infuse some energy
Make sure you take action based on surveys, and close the loop with the group
Give members encouragement and support in making their ideas real.
This may lead to sub-groups and projects.
Sometimes informal chats can lead to exciting new directions and ideas.
Seek new members and new ideas
Make sure people who join are a "fit"
Fit with the mission
De-clutter by removing people who are not fitting with community norms/ culture
Share/Delegate some leadership responsibility
Too much on one person will cause burnout
Having 'junior leaders' helps develop ownership, and in turn increases involvement
To enroll a new leader, start by giving them something small to help with
Make it fun and rewarding to be a group leader.
Make time to connect as leaders with “leadership/ board meetings,” perhaps quarterly.
These might even be informal dinners where you all just talk about what’s on your mind.
Consider a special leadership retreat where you can have fun, brainstorm new ideas, & set group direction
Groups that don't groom new leaders are more fragile (see Ending or Evolving Groups)
Consider establishing regularly scheduled outgoing communication from the group/ group leaders...
If your group has a listserv or other peer-to-peer communication tool, group news & conversation might just come through that channel
If the group is strong enough, or it's explicitly part of the group's mission, it may be able to accomplish work, build things, and do projects.
These can be difficult to start and maintain due to constraints on time and energy. Even small projects, over time, can accomplish a lot.
Projects might include...
Developing tools and maintaining code (especially for developer groups)
Content creation or managing a publication (knowledge bases, podcasts, blogs)
Hosting larger conferences or trainings for the public
Pro-bono projects to support a cause or local effort
Training or volunteering at local schools
Advocacy or activism work with mission-aligned non-profits
Developing industry standards, contract templates, etc.
Paid consultancy work
Contests can be a great way to spur engagement and creative energy within your group, and beyond.
To run a contest you'll need to create a design brief, clarify the rules, identify judges, build a clear process and timeline, get prizes, and promote the contest.
Clarify and communicate who the community manager are, give them the power to moderate
Have clear moderation norms and processes.
As a community moderator/ admin, you have a responsibility to tend the community and ensure it's healthy.
You need integrity to: 1) the idea/goal of group; 2) all members of the community.
If someone is dominating conversation in a way that's not healthy, take action to: 1) create space for others; 2) prevent this person's actions/posting from harming or burning out others.
Use community guidelines as a compass and rule-book to justify taking action against someone's behavior by warning them, removing their content, or banning them.
It is not censorship if a person's behavior violates norms and guidelines they've consented to.
As a moderator and community manager/ leader: Don't doubt yourself, claim your power. But always follow the community norms yourself.
Graphic from Maggie Appleton on Twitter... (April 2020)
If a formerly thriving group has become dormant, usually due to a core leader dropping out, it's possible for members or former leaders to rekindle that group.
These new leaders are essentially Starting a New Group, with the mission and membership of the previous group as a starting point.
Establish a new solid leadership team
Debrief the past
Appreciative inquiry - what worked well?
What led to the group’s decline?
Re-engaging former leaders to…
Learn more about the past
Hand over any systems
Activate the community as a bridging strategy
Re-engaging former members to…
Survey them on what they want now
Get them to spread the word
If the group has gotten a reputation for being toxic or not engaging, it may be best to gracefully end the group. This might create space for something different and better.
(Blog) Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism (Less Wrong Community) - suggested by Aleksandr Lapygin
(Video) How to Reignite a Disengaged Community (CMX YouTube - Chris Catania, ESRI) - suggested by Tarek Khodr