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Creative Commons License photo credit: dakotaduff

Steve Magruder asked: “How [can you] motivate users to see the value of your board when many of them don’t seem to “get it?” I sometimes wonder if my site’s mission is lost on people, even though I have striven to make it as plain as day.”

“… How can I get people to appreciate that they have an open discussion space for discussing local issues (or any subject as it applies to other sites) and the power that lends them? It seems like so many are lost on the power of public discourse.”

Thank you for the question, Mr. Magruder. The truth is that you don’t get a lot of opportunities to communicate the value of your site because that isn’t generally what people are looking for. They judge your community based upon it’s content, features and activity.

But, you do have opportunities where you can talk about what your community offers and encourage others to take advantage of it.

On your about page, in a specific section of your email newsletter, in your Twitter bio for your community’s Twitter account and in areas like that, explain the power of your community. Depending on the space, you may need to be brief. But, this is one area where people expect this information.

You may be able to use your header to remind people of the goals of your community. This is especially true for members who are logged out. You can include a call to action to register in the header and provide them with a list of benefits of doing so. This is where you can talk about the value of your community.

But, depending on your design and the amount of other content (or advertisements) that you have to accommodate, you may be able to keep some sort of notice in the header full time. You could even run a message that changes randomly to display a different way to use your community, citing a specific example or discussion where that is happening.

If you don’t see people discussing issues that maximize the platform you are providing, why not start some? Start the discussions you’d like to see, encourage others to join in and participate in them. As the administrator, you are an example that people will follow.

If you feel that your community is not being utilized to it’s full potential by some of your members, you could write an educational series of articles or posts explaining what the community offers and how it can be beneficial, even citing examples where members have done so.

You can then highlight these within your community and encourage members to read them. Not everyone will “get it,” but anything that you can do to make it clearer will help them to understand.

Finally, be flexible and open to new areas where members can find value. Sometimes, members will help you to discover value you didn’t realize you had.

Question for the comments: how else can you communicate the value that your community offers?