When helping a client plan for an online community, we always recommend starting with the outcomes they’d like to achieve, and then we help them choose the smallest toolset which makes those outcomes possible.
Here are some questions that might be helpful during the planning process:
- Are you looking to build a sustained online community or are you looking to get people together for a 1-time activity?
- Is the goal to build relationships, exchange knowledge, take an action, etc?
- What is the form of knowledge that is getting exchanged? Is it in the form of opinions, stories, quick facts, recommendations, or world view?
- Is it necessary for people to build on each other’s knowledge or is it sufficient to collect their perspectives without any interaction/collaboration/refinement?
- Are there important differences between participants that will affect their interactions?
- Is the group social, professional, or somewhere in between?
- Can participants get together in-person to supplement the online activities?
- How tech savvy are the participants?
- How much time do the participants have to participate in your initiative?
- What leadership roles do you want to make available to participants?
- Are moderators or ground rules are necessary?
- What kind of results do you have to produce? What does success look like? What can you measure to track your progress?
Have more to add to the list? Leave a comment below!
In this post, we’ll weave together the following concepts to help you create a vibrant network of collaborators:
A ladder of engagement is a way to think about how your members can move from simple ways to engage at the beginning to more valuable ways over time.
A regular group rhythm helps members know what to expect and it keeps them engaged over time.
Critical mass is the point at which you have enough members to sustain the community over time. That number could be as low as 5 for groups where people already know each other, and it can be as high as 200 for online communities where members have not yet met.
Phase 1: Member Registration Opens
We recommend telling members that the first phase of building the community simply consists of members signing up and getting to know each other by browsing each other’s profiles. You can mention that the circle will become more active once it reaches a critical mass of 50 members, so that they know there’s nothing else to do at this point.
When inviting new members to your new QiqoChat circle, think about how you can get them started moving up the ladder of engagement by identifying some simple activities which will get them started easily:
- Create a free account. (1 min)
- Fill out your profile. (2-5 min)
- Browse info about other members (2-5 min) such as where they are on the map, what skills they have, what needs they have, and what they have to offer.
- Set your notification preferences. (1 min)
Phase 2: Critical Mass
All the tools on QiqoChat are available for your members to use as soon as you create your circle. You can turn them on/off if you like.
Once the community gets to critical mass, then we can encourage members to move beyond browsing each other’s profiles and to start moving up the ladder of engagement by trying the various tools:
- Say “Hi” in the chat (or in the Slack community if you have set one up).
- Ask a short question.
- Browse articles and conversations.
- Comment, create an article, or start a conversation.
- Join a live event.
- Host a live event.
Phase 3: Establishing a Regular Group Rhythm
All your members are different, and everyone is available at different times and on different days.
A regular group rhythm helps members know what to expect and it keeps them engaged over time.For example, if members know there is a certain type of recurring weekly or monthly event, they can put it on their calendar and they can join–even at the last minute–once their schedule opens up.
Here are two built-in features of each QiqoChat circle which helps establish a regular group rhythm:
- Crowdsourced weekly newsletter to which everyone can add one announcement per week.
- Daily digest emails which provide only the new top-level conversation starters. People can then subscribe to if they are interested in following the topic more closely.
Additionally, if you schedule a recurring weekly or monthly live event using the audio/video tools that Qiqo provides, you will balance out the written tools mentioned above with an opportunity for people to speak with each other.
QiqoChat is a tool for peer-to-peer learning in online communities. Ten of our tools are free, and the two audio/video tools are 1¢/min per person. We look forward to seeing what you create!
For the past few years, we’ve attended the Online Facilitation Unconference. This year it’s happening from October 22-24 and it is already drawing dozens of dialogue practitioners from North America, Europe, and Asia. The conference is organized by Intellitics Inc, makers of the nifty Zilino platform for online dialogue.
The best part of an online unconference is that all the participants have a hand in shaping the agenda by proposing the topics for all the breakout sessions. These “self-organizing” conferences are fun to watch as they come together in under an hour, and the conversations are highly engaging.
Early bird pricing for this unconference is still in effect for the next two days, so it is quite affordable. We at QiqoChat are excited to be a silver sponsor, and we hope to see you there!
Digital Habitats by Wenger, White, and Smith is a tremendous resource for those who are cultivating communities of practice.
One of the key lessons is that it is necessary to provide a variety of ways for your members to interact, so that those who have little time can participate and those who have more time can engage more deeply.
For example, below is one diagram they also posted on their blog which displays a variety of community activities. The broadcast/one-way activities are on the right (“from” members of your community), and the more collaborative/interactive activities are on the right (“with” members of your community).
We have many ideas for how you can mix and match the tools on QiqoChat to achieve most of these activities, and we look forward to seeing which combinations you come up with to meet your community’s needs.
Edcamps are a special type of “unconference” where educators choose the professional development topics they want to cover in small-group breakout sessions.
Edcamps must be free, so we created have a special link to help Edcamp organizers create free online edcamps: http://edcamp.qiqochat.com/new_circle/edcamp
To see how easy it is, we created the following video to show you how to create an online Edcamp in just five minutes:
We’re making QiqoChat free for the Edcamp movement to help us get the word out about the tools we offer.
How can we better serve you? We look forward to your questions, comments, and suggestions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.