When you start out with your online community you want, indeed need, to create the right culture for your community. You want the habits to form that define your community in the right way, as new members will join based upon that initial culture, and will be influenced in their own behaviour by what has preceeded them.
New research from Yale underlines just how important getting these early habits right is. It reveals how often people continue doing something, even when the costs of switching or changing behaviour are incredibly small.
The study, conducted by Professors Constança Esteves-Sorenson of the Yale School of Management and Fabrizio Perretti of Bocconi University, looked at how we watch television. They wanted to analyse the behaviour of Italian viewers in an environment where there are six channels and switching via remote control is incredibly easy.
So in other words, viewers are not over-laden with choices, and the cost of switching channels is very low. Both of these factors have traditionally been used by economists to explain so called behavioural inertia. For instance people often continue paying a gym membership they never use, because they can’t be bothered with the hassle of cancelling it.
“In cases where choices are consequential, such as in the selection of health plans or retirement accounts, policymakers should strongly consider either requiring individuals to actively choose an initial option or setting the default in such a manner so that it will generally be the best choice for most people,” says Esteves-Sorenson.
They found however that this is not the case when it comes to watching tv. They found that our choice of what to watch is substantially influenced by whether we’d watched the preceeding show on that channel. For instance men were found to watch the news much more often if the news was preceeded by a football match. When the news was preceeded by a romcom however, it was the women that were tuned in rather than the men.
On average, the researchers find that the audience for a TV program increases by two to four percent for each ten percent increase in the audience of the preceding program.
All of which underlines the importance of getting things right to begin with, because getting people to change their behaviours once they’re already established is very difficult.
How to create the right culture for your community in 5 steps
- Choose the right founding members
- Provide guidance and rules for new members that inform them of how you want them to behave
- Ensure you and your team lead by example
- Remove unwanted content and provide an explanation why it’s been removed
- Use gamification to reward members for behaving in the right way