This blog is for anybody who is trying to build an engaged online community. It is a real challenge to keep people engaged in online learning and while we can, and should employ as many effective tactics that we can, there is one tactic that is key to creating a real community feeling across the ether. That tactic is grooming a vital few of your members in the spirit of the 80/20 rule.
The 80/20 rule, or the law of the vital few, is also known as the Pareto Principle. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto argues that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results. Pareto’s Principle has come to be known as an axiom in business management and life, but I have seen this play out with group participation as well. If I can get 20% of my people to be very active and show up well – others will follow. My members will not show up simply because I do. The hierarchical teacher/student dynamic makes most students see me as different and separate from them, though. Latitudinal learning structures, where members learn from each other as much as from the teacher or leader, is far more effective in creating community.
By ensuring that 20% of your members have been instructed to be active participants – both on the live calls and on whatever social forum you are using – you will start to create a culture of togetherness. That means 2 out of every 10 members are showing up to the live calls interested, vocal, sharing, posting, commenting, and liking what is going on in the forum, and generally being engaged. You can ensure their participation by praising these kinds of actions, being specific in that praise and telling them how much it means to you and how helpful it is for the other people in the group. I do this privately, in an email or text, or in person. I have also utilized the specific talents of these vital few in special events such as retreats. This will give them ownership of the event and will hold them to a higher standard, pushing the bar up for the group as a whole.
Once you run one program, you will get a feel for who knows how to “show up”. Then, ask them to continue being a part of the group so that they can keep modeling that behavior in exchange for a deal on the cost of the program. They can be paired with newer members to put those vital few in more of a leadership position and elevate the chance of success in the newer clients. I’ve offered exceptional members an arrangement where they give me monthly feedback on what is and isn’t working in the course (encourage and teach them how to give critical feedback), agree to post new threads on the forum once a week, like and comment on other member’s posts 3x weekly, let me know who needs more support, and are required to attend 80% of the live calls. What I’ve found is that other members will start to share and show up in similar ways – becoming more vulnerable, transparent and present. It’s a beautiful thing!