Why does someone decide to join a community?

This is the underlying question that has to be answered by anyone responsible for community growth. Now from this point forward, when I say growth, I mean increasing the community membership with the right people who should be there...versus mindlessly inflating membership by qualifying anyone with a pulse.

Here's my simple inequality that communicates what is required for one person to join a given community:

Perceived Value > Threshold of Participation

Threshold of participation

The threshold of participation is the effort required by a person to join and engage in a community. Imagine the threshold as a series of obstacles blocking the entrance to the community. Some obstacles are beneficial. For example, the obstacle of indifference is perception that the community is not aligned with his/her primary interests. This obstacle is actually helpful because the goal is to filter out those who have no interest in the cause. Other obstacles to be considered by the community leadership are:

  • Ambiguity: Cannot determine what the community is about, or if I am the right fit.
  • Irrelevance: The community is not addressing the problem effectively.
  • Duplication: Similar communities exist of which I am already a member. "Yet another ..."
  • Inactivity: The community looks dead (or appreciable activity cannot be observed).
  • Cost: Membership requires an investment (monetary, time, or otherwise) that is too high.

Obstacles, whether perceived or real, weigh in each prospective-member's mind, and can easily dissuade him/her from joining and engaging in the community. Why have you decided not to join and participate in some communities?

In the next blog post I will discuss the first part of the inequality - perceived value - and how it influences community growth by overcoming the threshold of participation.