You’re greeted at an open door to a warm smile. As you walk through the sweetly-scented foyer to the sitting room, you spot a silver tray adored with tea awaits your visit. You sit, smile, chat. You’re welcomed. That’s intentional hospitality.
We’ve talked about starting your online community with intent. It’s vital to have ground rules and moderators. But that’s just a baseline. To establish your growing community and allow it to thrive, you need a key element: hospitality.
Online communities need to establish a true sense of belonging. You have one chance to create a first impression — online and off. It’s the same with hospitality. A community has shared values, shared goals, and a sense of connection. You can’t build a connection with new members unless you have hospitality.
Many communities launch successfully, only to fade out and disappear. This is due in large part to a failure to assign ownership of the community and to have a strategy that lasts past ‘launch.’Mashable
What is hospitality?
When it comes to hospitality many of us know how it feels rather than the textbook definition. Close your eyes for a moment and think of a time when you felt safe and welcome.
When’s the last time you walked into someone’s home and felt completely comfortable? What are the things that made you feel quite comfortable? Was it the smile or the beverage they offered you? Or was it the comfortable couch?
You can create online hospitality with your theme, design, and behavior. Make things easy to find. Make rules easy to find. Design is important but most of the engagement is with words. When all you have is words, you need to go the extra mile.
Beyond the Moderator
A growing online community should go beyond the moderator roles. Sure, we need rule keepers. But we also need the greeters. Recruit the people in your company or community who have the natural talent to welcome people. Ask them to chat them up when they arrive (post). This can be a weekly welcome post. Many communities do this in batches. It can be efficient or generic. How you want your community culture to be will depend upon your admins. Welcoming new members can also be done in more subtle ways with a private message or a comment on a new person’s post.
Demonstrate that your community welcomes positive interaction more than banning spammers. This is what it means to go beyond the role of the moderator.
Your community manager can be looking for possible partnerships, friendships, and relationships. All ways to help people, grow your community, and build your business.Moz
Good hospitality isn’t forced. You’ve probably been in those situations, too. You know the ones? You’re greeted coldly, they take your bottle of wine, and make a face. They may not even fully embrace you or greet you adequately. You follow them to the dining room table. This is going to be a long dinner party.
Hospitality should be effortless. At least — it should feel effortless. This comes with skill. Not all moderators have the skills to be active listeners online. Active listening is a key component of online hospitality.
Encouraging people to post is important but what does that actually look like? Encouraging online hospitality means acknowledging posts. The Community Manager or hospitality moderator should comment on it in a way that facilitates discussion. “That’s super interesting Rob; thanks for posting. What do you all think about solar powered butterflies for your garden? Is it too whimsical?”
While encouraging participation, community managers need to keep in mind that not all members in a community will participate in an equal manner.Cleverism
You can even encourage in-person Meetups and get togethers. Of course, in-person events have their own logistics to think about along with community guidelines. Many companies do this in their offices well and often. It’s a natural way to foster the relationships that began in your online community.
If the group is large enough, you can even encourage members to start their own Meet-Up groups or even plan mixers, hosted by your organization, in areas where you have offices. This gives customers and community members a chance to meet face-to-face, and potentially interact with someone in your organization if the latter is possible as well.Jessica Thiefels
Online Hospitality With PeepSo
You have all the tools you need to start your open, hospitable, and welcoming community right here with PeepSo. Create your community your way. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start today.