Belonging means acceptance as a member or part.
Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging or the desire to belong and feel like a part of community is a basic human need, much like the need for food and shelter.
So far so good. But question might arise, as community professionals is it important for us to consider about sense of belonging ?
A big YES !
Belonging is a primary component of inclusion. When community members are truly included, they perceive that the business cares for them as individuals, their authentic selves.
A lack of belongingness will definitely lead to
Lurking behaviour (no engagement)
Lack of initiative
And not to mention the participation and engagement will fall, which are directly proportional towards showing a lack of trust of your community members in your company. On a personal level feeling like an outsider is a painful, negative experience.
This in turn will sabotage all your community efforts.
Ok we get it. Sense of belonging is important.
Create a robust onboarding process. As this is the first interaction that your new members are having with your community, make sure to add some events to break the ice and make them feel special. Give new members the opportunity to get to know and see each other while they talk about membership goals and interests.
Show them The Full Picture Community members need to know the community's full picture. Communicate the history of how the community was set up, by whom, when, the vision it stands for. Share internal news. The current position of all endeavors, the milestones achieved, and future goals.
Tell them where they Fit in this full picture: Make them aware of their expections towards the community. Tell them about the communication protocols, community guidelines.
Make sure the conversations are not unidirectional: Get to know their personal goals and understand how the community can help them.
Recognition: Incentivize Participation. We will talk more on this on the gamification module.
Make sure you offer transparent paths to leadership, with many ways to get there. Invite and seek different perspectives—a healthier approach for any association. Also make the POCs clear. Let them clearly know who the points of contacts are and how to reach out to them in case the need arises.
At the end increasing the sense of belonging is to look for ways you are similar with others instead of focusing on ways you are different, you just have to imbibe it into your core community values.