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Why Do People Join (and Stay) In A Community?


Roland

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Auditor

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I’ve been thinking recently about why I (and others) seek to join a community initially, and why we have different levels of involvement in those communities.

Personally, some communities I’m in, I’m very engaged. Others, I just read and pay attention (commonly called ‘lurking’) but rarely engage.

Clearly, I joined all of those communities at some point for a reason, and understanding the reason might lead me to understand better how to build new communities.

My initial assumption is that there is one key element in why people join a community, both online and offline: a shared interest.

This shared interest could be a hobby, knowledge, a political belief, a love of a particular region, survival or fandom. Sure, this seems somewhat obvious, but it occurs to me that the shared interest doesn’t fall into the same category every time. A person who wants to learn more about fly fishing is seeking advice, where a person who is a fan of BTS just wants to talk about how awesome they think the band is. Persons in both groups had a shared interest, but are seeking different rewards in joining their groups.

It seems to me that people join communities to either:

  • converse with others who have the same interest
  • learn more from others who have the same interest
  • feel a part of a ‘tribe’ - which can take on different meanings dependent on the shared interest.

I am curious about this because when seeking a community, we have to either find one that already exists or build it ourselves. I’m also not sure if people join communities to advise or teach others; this may be a blind spot for me personally.

In order to build a community, we have to understand why people would join a community - at least it seems to me that would be critical, because understanding why people would join a specific community will help a community builder work to ensure that the community was actually providing what the ‘joiners’ are seeking.

To put it another way: If I was interested in learning more about woodworking, and I joined a woodworking forum, I wouldn’t find much value if all the posts/conversations in that forum were about poker or bitcoin.

I’m also curious if there are other reasons besides ‘a shared interest’ that is common across communities. Not everyone wants to engage in conversations in a community, which is why some people join subreddits and forums but never comment. But they still join because there are interested in what others are saying about something they are interested in.

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Special Agent

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I think another thing that makes people want to stay in a community too is how people engage. A community that is willing to converse is gonna be way more successful than a community that maybe just posts pictures or just post basic information that doesn't encourage discussion or collaboration. Another thing that makes people want to stay in a community is if the devs or owners keep the community engaged. For example maybe the people meet in real life every week or so or maybe they do giveaways. Even something as small as doing a weekly hot topic were everyone comes together and shares their opinion on something related or something completely out of the blue can help members in a community feel more involved. Really anything that makes the community feel active. Lastly I think if the owners of a community genuinely put care into maintaining and interacting with its members it makes the environment more friendly and seem welcoming unlike some communities that feel closed off or exclusive. 

Now of course there are other small factors like if the community is friendly or if it is up to date but I feel like if the basic needs are met people want to stay in a community. Honestly I feel like this community is a great example of a good community. I don't play Halo as much as I used to and I still love checking in at least a couple times a week to see what the community is up too. This community makes you feel welcomed and the owners of the site do a great job on upkeep and making everyone feel engaged.

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Agent

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I'd have to agree with a shared interest, and to further that, having a niche target demographic (doesn't have to be super limiting either). Something as simple as being an 18+ more adult oriented community has kept HSA with a steady stream of new people, while having a relatively large and active consistent member pool. We also have the understanding that being adults sometimes life comes at us hard, and fast, and someone might need to take a step back from their online divertissement, so naturally we have no activity requirement. So I guess molding and shaping the community to that niche demographic also helps, by making it a convenient place stop by and be an active participant.

R10 Senior Director of the Hard Style Assassins Gaming Community.
HSA 2022 Hall of Fame
Gaming Hub Council Member
He/Him
"Do we bend the rules in service to a greater good? And if we do, what does it say of us?"
"Our Creed does not command us to be free. It commands us to be wise."

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Junior Attendant

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I take into account if it's a forum I'm even interested in. I generally don't sign up to a forum or discord unless I have at least some interest in the subject matter. Then I tend to lurk for awhile and read threads and such and see how the community interacts with each other.  I try to get a feel of how the staff are as well.  Having good, friendly staff is a big part in deciding if I'm gonna stay in a community or not.  I've joined a few forums in the past where I've met some awesome people I'm still friends with to this day. Hell, I met my girlfriend on her own forum back in 2009. We've been a couple for nearly 10 years at this point.  So yeah there's a couple factors that help me decide if I'd join and stay in a community, but that's just me. I can't speak for anyone else.

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