The association industry is rapidly figuring out how to deliver learning virtually. But the other promise of in-person meetings, creating connections, is one area that has been tougher to address digitally.
Likely as we solve this problem, we will develop many options for virtual networking during virtual events and other synchronous and asynchronous methods. In the meantime, because the technology is available now, online communities will increase in importance.
Currently, there are two flavors of online communities in the association space. The most prevalent is the Q&A Community. When a member needs a recommendation for a speaker or wonders what templates colleagues are using, they can ask their questions and, in the best case, receive a bunch of relevant answers from community members. Community managers of Q&A Communities focus on administrative duties, including policing users’ posts. Sometimes you find a few members appointing themselves to a policing or critic role.
The second type of community is the Connection Community. A connection community is a warm, supportive, safe space for members. Users can ask questions, but they also feel free to share their goals, worries, and triumphs. Community managers of this kind of community go far beyond the administrative duties, and you see them modeling the behaviors they want to see. They are kind, curious, helpful, and supportive. They act as connectors. (A great example is Marjorie Anderson’s Community by Association – you can join for free by finding the “community” link). Connection Communities can evolve into a cohesive group of peer mentors or even an extended professional family. We often find that most members appoint themselves to cheerleader roles.
A Q&A community adds a wee bit of year-round engagement. A Connection Community provides a whole bunch of year-round engagement, goodwill, and deep connections.