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The Power of Influence: Building Trust and Governance in a Community

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Communities are bound by a code of conduct that govern user behavior. 

Sometimes these rules are explicitly written, such as terms, guidelines, or my personal favorite: “Must Read Before Posting Or Banned!!!” topics. (That’s a joke.  Please don’t ever write a topic like that!)  Sometimes the rules are unwritten, based on evolving behaviors and user-to-user interaction.  No matter the method of conduct or scale of communication, all communities contain these community guideposts that govern user behavior. 

Being able to influence, and being influenced by, these rules of conduct is our second element of Sense of Community. 

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Community Managers. The original influencers.

The privilege to persuade is a powerful feeling.  It fills users with a sense of control, knowing that they can impact others.  It gives purpose to users, who will tap into their inner helpfulness by assisting others. And it imparts a sense of satisfaction, which is one of the highest transcendent values a user can feel. 

It also leads to a better community. Over time, the mutual interaction between members builds trust, forming a community of authenticity where users can expect repeatable and expected behaviors.  It also leads to good governance, where members embrace the codes of conduct by the group, inculcate the code into their own behaviors, and repeat the code to newer members – reinforcing the very codes they learned themselves. Members conform to community rules and standards, sacrificing a little bit of their own individuality but gaining acceptance by the community. 

Clearly, influence and persuasion is a powerful element.  Let’s take a look at some ways in which you can build a better community by unlocking the power of influence. 

1. Show New Members How to Influence

If your community is anything like mine, you have a welcome topic or message: Do this, read, that, follow this. It’s usually filled with stuff to influence the member. 

But have you thought about giving the new member an opportunity to influence? And not just in a superficial manner like posting an Introduction topic, but one that’s filled with meaning and purpose.  In addition to linking to the best guides and expert content in your community, ask your users to help other members, answer challenging topics, or identify any skills that can help others. 

2. Influence through explanations

Have you seen communities where the moderators take heavy-handed actions and do things without prior notice? Or they assume you know everything?  It feels rude, unwelcoming, and very cliquish. On the other hand, I’ve also seen communities where the moderators and community managers take the time to explain every response.

When you take the time to explain the response, you share your reasoning with others.  That’s influence.  Over time, users will turn around to repeat the reasoning to others, which builds good governance.  (It also means less work for you!).  Communities are built on transparency and trust, and the more you can openly establish your community norms, the more clearly other users can repeat and reinforce your governance.

3. Be influenced by asking for help

One of the most powerful and uplifting things you can do is to ask your members for genuine help.  Be candid.  Be vulnerable.  Explain the challenge. And ask for help.  You will find members who will rise to the occasion. 

Humans are naturally compassionate.  We will always help others if we can and communities are one of the best platforms to ask and receive help.  If you ever make a mistake, take on a big project, or if you’re ever in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help and allow others to influence you. 

4. Influence as a privilege

One of the stellar reasons for choosing Invision Community are the multiple ways to publish content.  You can offer user albums, polls, blogs, articles, discussions, files, clubs, the list goes on.  This allows you to offer increasing channels of influence for your superusers. 

Unfortunately, most communities throw all the choices at a new user, hoping one will stick.  That’s like asking a new member who steps into a room of strangers if he wants a microphone, a loudspeaker, and a spotlight!  That can be scary. Influence is something to be gained over time, in small bits of comfort and trust.

5. Appreciate the influence. 

One of the most inspiring actions you can do as a community manager is to acknowledge and appreciate the influence of others.  When you do, you affirm the influence of others.

It's one of the simplest things you can do too.  Pick three random post by members on your site and reply: “I appreciate this contribution because …”.  You’ll be surprised by how well members respond to your note of appreciation. 

CONCLUSION

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The best influencers are the members who care about the needs and wants of other members.

The power to influence is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your members. By allowing them to influence other members, the codes of conduct, and even the direction of your community, they feel a deeper sense of community because they can make an impact on others.

The most influential members in a community are surprisingly not the ones who post the most or who act the most dominant.  The best influencers are the members who care about the needs and wants of other members.

Share in the comments below one of your success stories on how you influenced – or were influenced by – another member.   As always, I appreciate your contribution to join me in helping Invision Communities of all sizes build more rewarding and successful communities.

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