Engaging with users and eliciting behaviour change is something that we are invested in. A huge part of what we do as marketers, businesses and organisations is driven by a desire to do good in the world and to create a new shift in a behaviour for a user group. When looking to get a user or a cohort to stop (or start) doing something, the answer for success lies in understanding the psychology of the users.
When we can truly address a particular psychological need – whether it’s a need for fulfilment, engagement, trust or something else – we can be more effective at imparting behaviour change. With an increasingly technological world taking the place of everyday interaction, it makes sense that more people are engaging with online communities as a way to get much needed support and community interaction. One only needs to look at the efficacy of the community behind the app Hello Sunday Morning to see how an online community can be hugely helpful in changing a behaviour.
You don’t need to be tackling something as huge as alcoholism, as well, because an online community can be helpful no matter what you are seeking to address. In this article we’ll look at how online communities can address psychological needs and engage users in successful behaviour change.
Online community benefits with psychological needs
An online community can provide an environment where there is support and social influence to a scale that it can promote behaviour changes, such as the cessation of smoking and abstinence. When looking to change behaviour, an online community can help by addressing psychological needs.
Core needs that are often addressed in an online community include:
When we have the opportunity to share our experience with others who are invariably going through the same thing, there is a trust created there. When we have a trust relationship we are more willing to learn in that space and are therefore more open to changing a behaviour.
Sharing personal information can help to increase trust – and there are a great deal more ways in which you can provide an environment where trust is built. Consider the importance of trusting a source before you are willing to let it into your life – and then shape your online community around information and in creating a space where trust is valued.
Acceptance and fitting in
We want to be accepted for who we are. And when we’re in a group where there are social norms outlined as part of that group, it’s possible to see group members conforming to those norms. Indeed, many people are willing to change a behaviour in order to fit a group norm and to belong in a community. Consider the impact and value of being accepted as a powerful part of shaping your behaviour change message.
When we feel good, we are more open to change because we’re empowered. An online community by its very nature is a supportive environment which creates a feeling of support and therefore greater self worth by being part of this community.
We aren’t so different from Pavlov’s study on behaviour change in that we can be trained with reinforcements. When our communications are ‘liked’ online, there is a reinforcement which can be linked to good behaviour changes. While these are significant benefits we must be wary not to rely solely on a social media community, for example, as there may be unintended but important consequences of relayed inaccurate or misleading information due to a group’s inability to be regulated and moderated at all times.
How to build an online community
When looking to build an online community there are a few key things which you need to implement in order to give your users a place in which to experience their interactions. Without an effective online community in the first place, it will be hard to see the effects of psychological conformity and reward being played out.
Have a community manager
Whether you want a fully-equipped app with all the features or are just after a simple forum for discussions, you need to own the data, the SEO and the content. Make sure you have a dedicated person who is managing the space and who is committed to creating the kind of environment you want. Is it fun, professional, thought provoking or supportive? Whatever the situation, make sure your online community is moderated and maintained, otherwise your users will leave the space.
Measure your data
Look to your analytics and find out what people are searching for, and in what demographic. You want to know what questions people have and are creating a community geared to answer those questions.
Ensure your user experience is clean
While a public platform may have a lot of advertising to make the community space possible, you are going to find that ongoing advertising and obtrusive messages are going to impact on how much people want to interact with your platform. Similarly, don’t be tempted to add too many extra features or options, because it can be distracting for users. If you can, survey your users and get specific feedback about the user experience.
Focus on your users
Understand your behaviour change message, understand your users and know what they want to achieve. Then focus your online community around this. As your community grows, look beyond the numbers of growth and think about how you can engage your current members, adding value to them and giving them the option to recruit new members as well.
Social networks are part of our lives, and since social media and online community have grown become part of our health education and wider health promotion it’s possible to see how influential they can be in shifting behaviour. If you would like to know more about building an online community where the focus is around support, psychological gain and growth for your users then get in touch. We are behaviour change experts and are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of your users.