How to Break the Digital Ice in an Online Community

By: Joe Rominiecki

Just like in a real-world networking event, some simple icebreakers can get people talking online. Lindsay Starke of Professional Photographers of America shares three simple ways she has gotten members eager to participate in its online member community.

Getting people to interact in an online community isn't all that different from breaking the ice at a face-to-face meeting. Lindsay Starke, online community coordinator at Professional Photographers of America, says it's all about "making people feel like theyre a valued part of the community."

Her three biggest successes in driving engagement in The Loop, PPA's online member forum, rest on helping members get to know each other. Sounds simple, but Starke says these tricks have worked wonders:

  1. An "Introduce Yourself" discussion thread. Started in June 2013, it's still going strong more than 300 posts later. "Some of our members have sort of become the unofficial welcome wagon," Starke says. "These people will go in and welcome [new members] and recommend resources from the rest of our benefits or certain areas of our community."
  2. Discussion and Member of the Week. Starke selects interesting discussions to showcase, which usually gives them another boost in activity. And she picks a member each week who either posts often or posts in-depth advice. Informal as it is, "its become this meaningful thing within the community" and has created a sense of togetherness. "People congratulate other people on it," she says.
  3. Conference meetup for The Loop users. About 50 users were invited. "We actually had a couple meet on our online community and get married," Starke says. "So, we themed the meetup as a sort of a little wedding reception, and we had a cake and things like that and invited them as the guests of honor."

Joe Rominiecki is a senior editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is a contributing editor to Associations Now.