Yet another great research report coming from Bill Johnston of ForumOne. The topic of his latest report is Online Community Culture. 75 people participated in the study, so the sample size is fairly small, but is what you would expect from a niche survey of people managing online communities.
The study found that the most important factors in establishing and maintaining a community’s culture include:
- Quality, up-to-date content
- Clear objective / value statement
- Strong moderation / facilitation
My past experience managing communities leads me to agree wholeheartedly with the findings that these three factors are critical for having a healthy community culture.
- Communities without great, relevant content tend to wither away as participants decide to spend their valuable time in communities with higher quality content. The culture gradually disintegrates as key people leave. When I have spent some extra time creating content and encouraging other people to create great content, the community activity levels and culture seemed to show improvement.
- A clear objective / value statement for the community keeps everyone working toward the same goal. My worst experience managing communities came from an environment where there was disagreement among the top management at the company about the value and objectives for the community. It was impossible to build a community culture without a clear objective / value statement.
- Strong moderation / facilitation helps keep the community clean and on track. Members don’t want a community full of spam or other worthless content.
I encourage you to read the entire blog post about the Online Community Culture report (or the entire report if you are one of the lucky people with a subscription). The blog contains additional data points, quotes from the survey comments, and a great analysis near the end of the post.