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Building Trust in Virtual Communities

Our pre-conference seminar on Community Management at Vircomm '99 got great reception, and we really enjoyed putting it on. Thanks to everyone who attended for your participation in an interactive community building discussion.

During the session, we asked attendees to share one idea for generating trust in virtual communities. The result was 25 suggestions -- some are short and sweet, others are more in-depth. Some are even specific to certain community content or tools. All are worth reading and considering for your community. Thanks to all the attendees who shared their ideas with us!

    DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do.

    Be consistent.

    Admit mistakes -- if you try something new and it doesn't work, admit it -- BUT DON'T QUIT TRYING! The Community will appreciate the honesty.

    Always be responsive -- if a member asks a question, has a need -- do answer promptly, thoroughly, honestly and in a collaborative voice. Give really helpful information; teach, don't preach.

    1) Provide a safe and caring place. 2) Reward.

    Fairness, honesty, care about members by doing/acting, hold true to the MVP [Mission, Vision, Purpose], respect, follow values.

    Policy of "no surprises" for members.

    Respect, Respect, Respect ... of their ideas, vision for the community they help grow and constructive comments for change in the community structure (even with their participation is outside the Executive Producer's view of the community). Treat them as if they've come to hour house for a party (which can be made or broken by party-goers.

    Actively seek out examples which demonstrate trust and publicise appropriately -- which may be to the whole community or may be only to the individual.

    Act and react on their reactions. Let them know and feel that their goal is your goal.

    Protect members' privacy. Get back to people in a timely manner. Do what you say you're going to do.

    Set expectations and then deliver on your committments.

    For message boards: Make sure that all questions get answered in a timely manner, even if you need to have paid staff do the research. If people see lists of unanswered quesitons, they are less likely to post their own questions. Conversely, if they believe their question will be answered, they will check back, and in the process will also probably contribute toward answering others' questions.

    Do not set expectations too high. Make them realistic and reachable.

    Share good experience outside your community!

    Do something that goes against the good of the company.

    Publish a survey in the community of how to improve the community. Recruit more volunteers.

    In relation to health specific communities: Share experiences that staff or staff members families have had in dealing with similar conditions.

    Enable users to view all registration, demographic and other data your site has about them.

    Establish (or re-establish) the ground rules for participation.

    1) Answer/get back to a comment of a member within 24 hours. 2) Protect 1 user profile.

    Share details of revenue, expenses and OI with community members. Involve them in making the community profitable. After all, without profit, the community will cease to be.

    1) State privacy statement and don't sell individual profiles to third parties. 2) Make any paid ads, sponsors, endorsements explicit, not hidden in part of editorial or community content. 3) Keep private e-mail correspondence private.

    Assign a "friend" from the active members lists for each new member. (This could also encourage the "friend" to become a more regular helper.)

    Give members full control over their contribution, including their personal data, and over what information will be sent to them.

Thanks to everyone for sharing!