Tim Ebner is communications director and press secretary at the American Forest & Paper Association in Washington, DC. He is a member of ASAE’s Communication Professionals Advisory Council and a former Associations Now senior editor.
The American Staffing Association's manager for sections and member engagement explains how to keep online conversations casual, fun, and relatable.
Luke Zimmer, manager for sections and member engagement at the American Staffing Association (ASA), wants you to know that it’s OK to use slang, abbreviations, and emojis in your online community. Encouraging easy, informal conversation can lead to a highly engaging and dynamic experience for members in an otherwise faceless digital space.
Last year, ASA increased enrollment in its online community sections by 25 percent—a rate that approximately doubled from 2015. To get your community growing, Zimmer offers the following tips:
1. Keep it casual. Communicating in an online community should feel like everyday conversation. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes are OK, Zimmer says, so long as the online exchange feels natural. “Not to say that you should mess up on purpose, but sometimes making a small mistake and letting your community see that mistake is a great way to build community. It shows people that you are human too.”
2. Foster a solutions-centered space. Think of your members as a support group that can work together to find answers to challenging questions. Your online community should be the place that members turn to when they can’t easily Google an answer.
3. Add humor. Almost every online community has a designated space for fun. “It’s the area where you can vent about your work or share pictures of your pet,” Zimmer says. As your online community matures, allow some space for members to show their personality and get to know each other.
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Embrace the Emoji."]