What motivates people to join, love or leave, your community?

Measuring behaviour of community members gives you valuable statistical data; understanding member motivations enables engagement that’s demonstrably valued.

Why people are joining or leaving the community?

This question comes up when trends in member numbers or behaviour don’t match your expectations or explanations. I’ve had this exact conversation recently with leaders of a national community that initially exploded in popularity with hundreds of members, then engagement dropped while still investing massive efforts to sustain it. There are theories about what‘s happening, but even detailed data didn’t explain why.

If your goal is growth in numbers or engagement, not knowing the causes of changes makes it harder to choose the appropriate action.

A community manager’s focus is often on types of content, pricing, formats, or frequency of interactions. These things are concrete, quantifiable, and it is easy to survey members on their preferences.

What can’t be seen easily or even revealed directly is what community members genuinely value. Also, the managers and the members are often not themselves fully conscious of what’s driving their own behaviours so couldn’t tell you if you asked directly!

How knowing motivations can help

Despite the apparent difficulty in discerning them, at certain levels, there are a limited number of fundamental motivations for human behaviour (and I’m not talking about Maslow). Community managers can identify, prioritise, and use an understanding of member motivations to design attractive value propositions and resonant communications.

Recently I worked on uncovering motivations with a very influential Perth-based organisation that runs programs nationally. The work included coaching individual team members, giving leaders an overall picture of their whole organisation, and consideration of what that all means for strategy, roles and member communication.

There are no ‘problems’ with the teams motivations; however, they are particular and so come with blindspots. The dominant motives of achieving success, enjoying life and being needed meant the team has to make conscious effort to effectively communicate with members who may value integrity, safety, or harmony more highly. What motivates members literally goes to the core of why they join and stay in a community.

My work with them revealed different possibilities for their overall strategy, value proposition and communication. For example, they could balance the frequent, bright, opportunistic, achievement oriented communications with more thought-through, precise, diplomatic communications about timeless fundamental, risk management and resilience or diversity in the community.

Four ways to discern core motivations

Knowing your individual and shared motives empowers leaders, teams and communities. Identifying specific motivations and values enables fresh interpretation of past data, deliberate experimentation, and prediction of future member behaviour. You can imagine, and I’ve seen, many hours and dollars saved and impressive results in growth and engagement through strategies based on a deep understanding of motivation.

Measuring behaviour of community members gives you valuable statistical data; understanding member motivations enables engagement that’s demonstrably valued.

Getting to the core of why people are joining, engaged in or leaving a community goes beyond understanding theories, generic models, analysing behaviours or surveying members. You can, however, get specific knowledge of your community’s motivations:

  • directly,
  • through dialogue with members, informed by validated framework,
  • using appropriate diagnostic tools, or
  • deliberate experimentation using specific hypotheses from a model.

I’ve used all four methods effectively and I’m a passionate ally for leaders, teams growing healthy, resilient communities.

If what I’ve described sounds relevant to your situation you would like to discuss further, please book a FREE initial call.

129 comments

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