It’s super great when your online community is finally thriving. It’s even better when you feel like you start to click with each other. I mean, isn’t that why you started your community?
How do newcomers feel about joining your community? How can you maintain a thriving base and combat the community clique? It’s not that easy but the solution is simple: engage in intentional outreach, be aware of inside jokes, and engage new people.
What Is A Clique?
Isn’t a clique just another name for a community? We’re supposed to be close-knit. Right?
According to Merriam-Webster, a clique is defined as “a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons especially: one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.”
A community isn’t that different. Again, MW defines it as “a unified body of individuals: such as d: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests.“
The key difference between a clique and a community is that one is open and the other is closed. Which are you?
How does your close-knit community affect new people wanting to join? Aren’t we supposed to welcome new people?
It is a challenge. We have to go beyond ourselves to build a community that can grow and be self-sustaining.
In order to grow a community that will sustain itself, you have to have intentional outreach. Intentional outreach requires self-awareness at the group level.
What activities in online in your community includes or excludes people? This may require an audit. It’s difficult to realize that you actually only talk to your own friends.
Don’t Sit With Your Friends
When my friend Jen Miller and I started WomenWhoWP.org, our Meetup had some rules. One of them was that the organizers would not sit with one another. Of course, I want to see my friends. I want to sit with Carin and Jen and Yvonne, but the reason for our meeting was to serve others.
If we want to spend time with one another we do that outside of those areas. It doesn’t mean that we don’t converse at the Meetup, it means that we see our purpose is to engage in conversation with new members.
This needs to be done in your online community as well. Go out of your way to comment on posts that are from different people.
Limit Inside Jokes
Cliques live off inside jokes. These manifest themselves with meme wars, nicknames, and the lot.
Being aware of inside jokes, inside baseball, and nicknames is tricky. You don’t want to lose the community and connection that you built.
Recognize that every growing community has shifting dynamics. Having a nickname is a badge of honor in some communities and definitely affectionate. But when inside jokes run so deep that new people feel really left out, it can have the opposite effect.
It’s not bad to have inside jokes, it’s bad to only have inside jokes. So be cognizant of that while you are posting in your online community.
Intentional community building means celebrating the groups within the groups. It’s okay to have subgroups. Subgroups are the natural reproduction of any kind of online community. It’s a natural occurrence in any kind of community. We will always group off into 3-5 to 12 people; it’s natural.
Engage New People
What is bad is when we don’t realize that new people have entered our community. Not looking for the newcomers means we don’t engage them. We’re in a rut with our community clique.
Your community managers and admins should have a strategy on how to best engage new people. Maybe this is a personalized welcome message for each new person. Group welcome posts come across sterile.
Ask new members to write something we wouldn’t guess about them. For example, I was a second-string nose guard on my 8th grade flag football team and the only girl. Sometimes people find that interesting and then they ask me if I wanted to play football as a freshman. Which, I did, but didn’t but I digress.
Community Building is Continual Building
The good thing about building communities is that it is exactly that — building. Building means house improvements. Building means growing. Building means constant outreach. Building means renovation. Building a thriving, growing, and sustainable community means combating the clique in favor of the connected.
Avoid the Clique – Be Intentional
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