Are you spending valuable time organising your research community group, only to be met with few members turning up?
Do you want a more engaged and devoted research community?
It can be difficult to get attention in today’s information overload.
But don’t give up just yet.
You can use the following five tips to help build a sustainable research community.
In my recent blog post, I provided 5 tips to help you start building a research community.
In this follow-up post, I suggest 5 more tips on how to make the most of a social media channel to help build a thriving research community.
Include A Blog In Your Research Community
Blogs are so easy to set up.
Setting up a blog doesn’t require expert level technical skills. We’re all familiar and comfortable with blogs, and all the research community members can exploit the virtual ways of sharing information and experiences.
It’s important, however, to find the right post frequency. Not too frequent to overload your members with information, but not too infrequently that members fail to check for new content.
You can link also to other blogs that have valuable content in order to meet your group’s diverse needs.
Use Blogs To Increase Group Commitment
The consistent and regular posting of valuable blog content will help to develop a sense of loyalty among the membership and encourage members to re-visit the blog and engage with the research community more often.
Members can also contribute to blog posts, reinforcing group ownership and loyalty. More advanced postgrads can help to advise less experienced members with informative blog posts, which will also reinforce their own education.
Encourage members to share your blog content. If you make it easy for current members to share your content with friends via their favourite social media, you may find that this attracts new members to grow your research community.
Promote your virtual research community with a “push” strategy by placing your blog address, or a link to a recent blog post, news update, or event, in your email address signature.
Use Blogs To Share Information And Interact With Members
Sharing information is one of the key elements of a research community. The social nature of a blog, particularly its comment thread, is one of the most effective ways to share information and invite members to participate in sharing their opinions, views and questions.
Try to encourage your members to comment on your blog posts by ending your posts with a question for them to answer or by adding thought-provoking comments related to your research areas.
Given the opportunity to post comments, members are more likely to become that engaged and devoted audience you desire.
Use Blogs To Communicate News And Events
A blog is a great tool to use to engage your membership.
News, updates and other types of information can be posted on the blog and rather than sending long emails with this information, you can send short emails to members with links to the information contained within your research community’s blog posts.
Again, this type of communication will lead members back to your online research community regularly and increase commitment to the group.
Use Blogs To Publicise Your Research Community
It’s a good idea to increase the likelihood of your virtual community blog turning up in search engines, such as Google. Google will love your blog if you always tag your blog posts with the keywords or phrases other researchers are using when searching for information.
Promote your research community by using “pull” strategies, which simply means helping pull people to your content. So ensure that you tag all your content, including photos, pictures, video or audio.
Search engine optimization is an art and science and constantly changing. But don’t be tempted to use any “black hat” methods to game search engine results, which would have unhappy side effects.
Finally, remember that groups are not static. The purpose of the group evolves or the membership changes. The structure of groups continually changes due to different priorities and diverse needs of members, or to role changes within the group, career moves to other institutions, or ending of short-term research contracts.
The dynamic and shifting nature of research community groups requires continuous effort to sustain them. Research communities are built on relationships. Blogs, with good content, and guest posts on your blog, are great social media channels to encourage interaction between members.
Your blog should be a safe space to share successes, challenges and failures, which is a great way to create group loyalty.
Clearly, to grow a sustainable research community, a lot of thought needs to be put not only into starting a research community but also to increasing and maintaining its membership.
There’s no use generating more members if you can’t engage with them to retain them!
In Part 3 of this blog series let’s look at some social media tools you could use to engage, grow and maintain your research community.
Have I missed any important tips? Share your best research community boosting tips with us in the comments below.
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