It's not you, it's me! What can we do about it?


(Mark Baldwin) #1

I’ve recently experienced first hand what it’s like to become disengaged with a community. Sorry, but that community is here. Here’s the strange thing though, it’s not you, it’s me. I love this community. I love the insight and the people who post here. The discussions make me think about what I do professionally and I feel like I learn something new every time I visit. So what’s the problem?

Last month I ended up in hospital with a major back problem that put me out of action for quite a while. I couldn’t even sit up for a few days. (I’m feeling much better now) I had to take some time off work and then when I eventually got back to work I had a lot to catch up on. This all meant that I got out of the habit of coming to visit and I had so much to do, I just got on with my life.

Then, I was tagged in a conversation by @HAWK and it brought me back, but for some reason I didn’t want to engage in the conversation I was tagged in. I went back over the thread and I’ve got things I want to say, but it would just be repeating other people so I let it go. It was then that I realised I had missed so many conversations and topics, I didn’t know what to do and I started reading posts by @richard_millington and enjoyed them all, but still didn’t feel the need to re-engage with the forum. It’s like my relationship status with the site has changed. :frowning:

This is why I’ve created this thread. I have become that person that we all as community professionals need a plan for. Those people who we get into the community, they engage for a while and then they fall away. What can we do??

Facebook vs forums – platform needs analysis
(Bas van Leeuwen) #2

Interesting; I had the same experience two months ago as well. I was out of action (starting 20th of March*) due to a broken collarbone and didn’t participate in a month or so.

Came back, participated some and then just went into consuming mode for a couple of weeks again. It’s only recently that I’m back and actively participating again.

I honestly don’t know what caused it. I know I had a lack of energy, so professionally I had to focus on what was important (i.e. money making activities). If that’s the case, I don’t really see how anything @HAWK does might’ve helped. Though a simple “hey, we’ve missed you”, might’ve nudged me back sooner (in the end it was the vaunted introduction thread that pulled me back in)

[edit] And oh yeah, the get well soon wished from @irreverance, @hawk and @Nick_Emmett certainly helped. So yeah, guess I failed @Mjbill here… :-/
Glad to hear you’re feeling better @mjbill! Really like this topic you started, brave and interesting at the same time!

With Community Analytics we’ve been struggling with trying to catch signals like these (decline in participation etc.). It’s really difficult to separate signal (declining participation) from noise (holidays). If anyone has a good idea for an algorithm here, please let us know and you shall receive flowers and chocolate and stuffs :slight_smile:

(Mark Baldwin) #3

Very interesting. Like I said, I don’t think I can point the finger and say exactly what the issue is, but I knew if I didn’t start a discussion myself, I might not have got involved again any time soon. Almost like I needed jumpstarting.

(Sarah Hawk) #4

Wow. Thanks @Mjbill, both for your honesty and for the opportunity to troubleshoot this issue. I value and respect that. Retention IS an issue in many communities, including this one.

I’d love to hear how others would approach this issue. Here’s what I currently do:

  1. Look through the logs daily and call in 1 or 2 members that haven’t engaged for a while. (I now know that this doesn’t always work, as you were one of those members Mark!).

  2. I go through the logs of lurkers and reach out to several of them each day (researching them first to see what their areas of interest are) to try and lure them into engaging.

Those are both tasks that any CM would probably do, but if the community was working optimally, those would be new people that were being pulled in to discussions, not disengaged existing members.

It means that we haven’t become enough of a habit for people.

[quote=“Bas_van_Leeuwen, post:2, topic:2907”]
Though a simple “hey, we’ve missed you”, might’ve nudged me back sooner
[/quote] Would a system email along these lines have done it?

Well I’m glad you did! Glad the back is on the mend as well.

So it seems that there are two parts to this – data to pinpoint those that are slipping away, and something to lure them back.

@mcwumbly Do you have a Data Explorer query that lists specific members that haven’t been on in x days?

I’m curious to hear whether a personal email or message is more or less likely to re-engage people that a public call-out (either a tag into a relevant post, or a 'hey, we haven’t seen x and x for a while, how are your challenges working out). Thoughts?

(Mark Baldwin) #5

A personal email would have got me back to have a look but so did the mention. It’s more a question of getting someone to engage again after a time away. It’s silly but when you come back to a thriving community you realise that everyone has just got on with things and everyone is managing fine without you so why bother with drawing attention to yourself when you can lurk away.

It goes against common human behaviour to draw attention to yourself in a “hi I’m back, did you miss me ?” post. It’s like being late for a party or walking into a crowded room and desperately looking to blend back in without drawing attention.

I appreciate that this thread directly goes against that point. The irony is not lost on me.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

I’m all up for those!

So what is interesting to me about this is that during the time that you were ‘not engaged’ (henceforth known as the NE time), you were still reading/lurking. That means that it’s not FOMO (or a value deficit) that was stopping you from visiting, but rather something that was a barrier to engagement. Sense of community?

(Mark Baldwin) #7

I’ve been going over and over these ideas in my head and I think it all comes down to habit/routine. If you get out of routine, it’s not easy to just step back in again, pick up where you left off. Not sure what people can do about that to be honest, as it’s probably just human nature.

I suppose it’s a lot like setting yourself a new years resolution to go to the gym, get regular exercise. It starts off great, but some people give up if the have an injury or they’ve been on holiday as it’s easier to fall back into bad habits and let’s face it, most of us would prefer to be lazy. :slight_smile:

For me, the key to getting me going again was thinking about the benefits it brings me personally and not thinking about the community as a whole. Maybe a thriving community is one full of selfish people.

(Bo McGuffee) #8

My general approach has been to use the PM system to contact people who haven’t been around for a while. Usually, it’s something like, “Hey, ChickenLittle, I notice you haven’t been posting lately. You used to be really active in our [Off Topic] community. I’m a bit concerned about this new trend. I was wondering [if something happened that upset you] / [if everything was okay]. I would love to hear back from you. I hope all is well.” Whatever it is that I send, I try to give the reader a sense that their reply would help to relieve my tension, which give them a stronger reason to do it, even if it’s just to give me assurances that I didn’t do anything.

We don’t have the @username option in our forums, so I have to use PMs. Even if we did, however, I would still use them. If something is going on in their lives that they don’t want to discuss openly, then they are more likely to respond to a PM. It also allows me to probe for any potential communal issues that I would want to know about. Once they reply, we usually go back and forth a couple of times.

(Sarah Hawk) #9

I think that’s a very important point. We talk a lot about effective communication being that which speaks to someone’s values or key motivators, and there is nothing wrong with that motivator being achievement!

I do the same (I’d rather pull them back here than into their inbox) but that relies heavily on people having notifications turned on.

Interesting approach. I’ve always approached it more from a ‘I’ve missed seeing your insights’ angle, but you’ve made me curious.

(Bo McGuffee) #10

I actually avoid the “We/I miss you!” or anything like that. For some reason it comes across as insincere. Maybe it’s because I belong to some forums that send out automated e-mails if you don’t log in within a certain period of time. And, yes, they have “[Username], we miss you!” in the subject line. So, if I were to receive that kind of message, I would start to feel like a KPI rather than a person. But that’s just me.

Also, my experience in the church informs my approach. I don’t know how many times I heard people tell me they stopped going to this or that church, and nobody contacted them to see if there was a problem. They felt as if the community (and usually they meant the pastor by this) didn’t notice and didn’t care. Given that, I lean toward checking in on their emotions.

(Sarah Hawk) #11

I absolutely agree when the message is automated. I think when it’s personal (and actually genuine) then it’s a bit different, but now that I’ve heard how it makes you (and potentially others) feel I might tweak that a bit!

Thanks for your thoughts on this – they’re valuable.

(Bas van Leeuwen) #12

No, a system email feels like a system email; I am not engaged, a bot can’t change that, neither would a stock copy-paste mail/pm from you tbh. Something personal might.

(Sarah Hawk) #13

What do you take me for! :stuck_out_tongue:
It’s always personal, although I concede that I have the benefit of a community that is small enough to make that feasible.

What do others do in larger communities?

(Bas van Leeuwen) #14

I know you probably wouldn’t. But if you’d have to do it for all 75 active members, every time they’re going on holiday, it might get tedious.

(Kristen Gastaldo) #15

I find myself in this group as well. I really like this community and find value at almost every visit. But I got a new job, traveled for said new job, and moved back from the UK to the US. So I’ve fallen out of the habit of visiting. The email round up I received this morning brought me back.

As far as engaging the recent MIA members, in my last community, I reached out to several members with more of an “is everything ok?” email. This (felt like it) worked well with my really active members who disappeared. I know “felt like it worked well” is dangerous - and I don’t have the numbers, but almost every email I sent I received a response from the member with - “yes, just been busy” or “it’s audit season” or “my kid got married” type responses.

Some (again, would have to pull numbers) went directly to community and chimed in on a few. Often they’d just respond to me via email, but at least I got the community back on their radar.

(Alessio Fattorini) #16

This discussion is very interesting, recently my members have decreased the post rate and I can’t get why.
Many lurkers every day but still just a few interesting thread/posts
I’ll try with a PM like this and still go on with mentioning people in the valuable discussions as usual.

(Rob Bosch) #17

This discussion is so recognizable! I am in the same situation. Had 2 of my children hospitalized for over 2 weeks for a back operation. After that they needed a lot of care and attention. As @Mjbill stated: his habit of coming over to the community was ‘broken’. I have the same. Not only here, but also in my ‘main’ community:

If more people ‘suffer’ from this phenomenon, I wonder if there has been any studies on this topic? Any literature?

(Sarah Hawk) #18

Yay! Digests work @richard_millington :smiley:

So this is the thing right? I have the same experience. People respond, which is positive in that they obviously care about the community (or respect you) enough to justify their absence/behaviour, but that doesn’t change the issue or solve the problem. They are still disengaged.

I hear your point about getting back on the radar, but I’m not sure that’s a driver of long term behaviour change.

(And I’m glad you’re back!)

(Mark Baldwin) #19

I really like the digests too but @HAWK is right about the bigger issue. Getting people to come back and visit does not seem to be a problem here. Maybe some really simple engagement discussions are all that’s needed to get people going again, we all know that simple yes and no opinions get more people involved, lowers the perceived barrier for entry into a discussion.

(Sarah Hawk) #20

I’m always up for an experiment.
Any thoughts on a topic? My list is full of heavy engagement, making you think type stuff!