Tag Archives: motivation

What Motivates Participants to Engage in Online Communities

Many of my past posts have talked about the benefits of having a community for a company or organization. However, I have not spent enough time talking about the benefit to the participants in the community. It has to go both ways. A community will only be successful if the participants and the sponsoring organization both find value in participating regularly in the community.

A couple of recent interactions with people prompted me to write this post.

Last week, a reader of my blog, who works with a community in the travel industry asked me this question:

What’s your idea about the other side of the coin? Why should customers participate in online communities created by companies? What benefits do they get?

I also had a conversation on Monday with someone in the health care space who was struggling with whether or not to build an online community for their new site when other, similar communities already exist. Part of our discussion centered around why people would participate in their community and what value would the members receive that they were not already getting from other communities in their industry.

There are no easy answers to this question, and like many questions about community management, the answer depends on the situation; however, it boils down to a question of motivation. What motivates people to participate in your community?

Online Community Motivation
What motivates people to participate in your community?

The tricky part is that people are motivated in many different ways with complex interactions between motivations. For example, I might participate in a social media community as part of my work as a consultant because I think it will have long-term financial gain for me; however, I might be friends with many of the other participants and also participate for social reasons and because I have fun doing it while also feeling like I’m learning something.

Usually one of these motivations is the primary reason that a person comes into a community as a first time user. As a community manager or the organization sponsoring the community, you should focus on a couple of reasons that people might be motivated to participate and make them clear when you promote the community. Getting people motivated to visit the community for the first time is half of the battle.

It is also important to look at why people participate in your community and see how you can help get people more motivated to continue participating in the community over a significant period of time.

  • Can you make it more fun? more social?
  • What can you do to help people develop their skills and learn something new?
  • How can you recognize the status of top contributors?
  • Can you tap into their passion for a topic?

What motivates people to participate in your community? What do you do to help make sure that people stay motivated to participate?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Episode 1: Complexity of Motivation in Online Communities

Welcome to the first Fast Wonder Community podcast. This podcast contains the first of four recordings made during a recent discussion that I led at the December Portland Web Innovators meeting. In this edition, I lead a lively discussion about the Complexity of Motivation in Online Communities.


The next edition in this series of four podcasts from the Portland Web Innovators meeting will discuss reputation systems. After this four part series, I plan to move to mostly an interview format with interviews from thought leaders in online communities.

I will include the link to iTunes in the side bar of this blog within the next few days for anyone who prefers to get the podcast via iTunes. I am still relatively new to audio podcasting (so far, I’ve done mostly video podcasts), so please feel free to share any tips or suggestions that I can use to make them better.

Update: At Stefano’s request, here is the podcast in .mp3 format.