How Community Managers Can Use Three Simple Questions to Discover Who Belongs

It's hard to belong.

Yet when you know you belong, you just know it. You feel it. And you create an environment for others to feel it too.

Belonging is the force that solidifies the essence of community. The actualisation of an innate human desire creates sparks of innovation, creation, connectivity and learning opportunities. Belonging amplifies the space to just be. A space open to emotions and feelings in their entirety whatever flavour they come in. True belonging, amongst one-to-many humans.

As a Community Manager* it's hard to know if community members feel a sense of belonging with the community. What patterns, language and activities do you observe to indicate a sense of belonging? How do you find out?

Well, one way is to just ask.

Capture a belonging sentiment

The following is the Belong-O-Meter. A tool — a simple set of survey questions — to gather sentiment on a member's sense of belonging.

Question 1:
Thinking of the <name of community> community, which sense of belonging do you most identify with? (mandatory)

1 = This is a community I feel no sense of connection to.

2 = I get involved with this community every so often. I can take it or leave it.

3 = I have some sense of belonging to this community. Other members make me feel welcome. I like being part of it.

4 = I feel I belong to this community and respect it a lot. There are a good number of people who I learn from and look out for me. I look out for them and they learn from me. What we do as a community has a positive impact. I mention this community to those who aren't yet part of it.

5 = This is the community I trust to provide true belonging, amongst one-to-many humans. I am energised to be part of it, no matter what I and other community members take and offer. This community has a place for anyone it resonates with. We respect and learn from each other. I evangelise about this community and the way it creates a deep sense of belonging.

Question 2:
What made you give the answer to question 1? (optional)

Question 3:
I’d love to learn more if you’re open to sharing. Add your name and contact details and I’ll be in touch to set up a 1-2-1 call. (optional)

The problem with surveys

Surveys are fallible. What one person says doesn't necessarily equate to how they act. And given the nature of the survey, you’ll need a good sample size to reduce the bias associated with more energised community members. Given their role within the community you might assume an energised community member would be more inclined to offer up a 4 or 5.

Yet the survey is a start and it's simple to implement. The first question is emotive. It helps a member reflect on their relationship with the community right now. It invites a conversation. And those conversations help you as a Community Manager get deeper with the people, your people.

Each member is unique and has their own interpretation of what belonging means in their context. Discover what that sense of belonging means to them. Such information is a gift.

Every quarter should do it

Offer the survey to individual members every three months. Automate the process as soon as they join the community. And start off the three-month cycle for community members who have been around for a while.

Spot trends over time. Observe how individual members move from one score to another (or a lack of movement). Debrief your observations with your team. Combine observations with other community-related data points and see how such information influences your community-building strategy.

A belonging intelligence

Belonging Intelligence is Business Intelligence for communities.

Share your thoughts

Did you try the Belong-O-Meter, what happened? What thoughts or ideas would you like to share? Are there alternatives to the statements in question 1, if so, what might they be? Reply to the following tweet.

*I use "Community Manager" to mean any community professional such as a Community Builder, Community Advocate, Community Strategist, Community Enabler. What else would you add?

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Photo by Cristina Cerda on Unsplash