American politician, Frank A. Clark, once said, “A habit is something you can do without thinking, which is why most of us have so many of them.” Nowhere is that more obvious than on the Internet. Most people visit the same sites, do the same things, almost without realizing it. When we can’t follow our Internet habit, because of site maintenance or some other uncontrollable cause, we feel an almost pent up anxiety.
Wouldn’t it be great for your members to have that kind of dedication to logging in to your online community every day? Don’t worry. You can help them create that habit.
What is an Online Habit?
Horace Mann described a habit as “a cable; we weave a thread each day, and at last we cannot break it.” Habits are something you have to repeat consistently before you begin doing them without thinking.
A 2009 study debunks the long-standing myth that it takes three weeks to form a habit. Instead, it’s estimated that it takes closer to 66 days of dedicated action to form a habit. In the short-term, that seems like a long time. But in the life of your member, that’s a very small amount of time to become a major part of their online interactions.
There are a number of methods people use to create habits. Here are a few that can be implemented in your online community.
Method #1) Don’t Break the Chain
Maybe you’ve heard about what has become known as Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret (yes, that Seinfeld). When Jerry Seinfeld was a struggling touring comic, he devised a plan to stay on track. He bought a calendar that showed every month on a single sheet and hung it on his wall. Each day, he accomplished his goal, he marked the day off with an X. After a few days he had a chain of Xs on his calendar. After that, he wouldn’t allow himself to “break the chain.”
The key to the success of this approach is the visualization aspect. You don’t want to break the chain because your progress is visually represented in a way that you are forced to look at it every day, and this holds you responsible. To break it means starting all over again. Some companies use this same approach by placing in bold signage how many days it’s been since a workplace injury. This technique keeps safety in everyone’s mind because it places it on a visual to-do list.
In order to incorporate this technique in your online community, you need to illustrate logins (or other desired behavior) in some visual way, such as a badge or on screen count. Challenge members not to break the chain. You can even turn this challenge into a sort of contest or game, by recognizing the member with the most consecutive log-in days.
Method #2) Start Small
The Zen Habits approach to habit creation involves starting small. Don’t tackle too much. Start one change at a time. Multitasking is the death of habits. Having too many goals, means a scattered approach and none of them will be obtained with any satisfaction.
Your members should not feel overwhelmed by what you are asking them. Don’t try to make logging in, contributing, and sharing part of your online habit goals. The first step is to get them to log in consistently, after all, they can’t do the other online activities without logging in. Don’t dilute your message with multiple kinds of requests. Focus on one thing you want them to do and then help them do it consistently.
Method #3) Establish Mini-Habits
This is another popular way to form a habit. It breaks down your end goal into smaller activities that can be incorporated into even the busiest life.
If your end goal on your online community is more engagement, enticing members to log in every day is a good way to establish a mini-habit. It takes seconds to log in and can be done while sipping their morning coffee. But even this small action can become a habit if it’s practiced daily.
One way to get members to log in every day is to give them a reason. You can do this through emailing teaser content to them daily with a hyperlink to read more, which then takes them to your online community. If you take this approach make sure the content is appealing to them. Blasting them every morning with what you want to say may only end up turning them off and your email will find its way to the trash, or worse, being marked as spam.
Online Community Engagement Takeaway
In order to become part of someone’s online habit, you need them to log in on a consistent basis. To do this, they need something from you, whether that be content, valuable information (from their perspective), or something that motivates them. An example of this is not wanting to break a chain or some form of gamification that provides an incentive for consistent log-ins.
For instance, online healthy living community, Spark People, offers a “prize wheel” for a daily spin that provides members points for logging in. Points allow users to level up and advanced levels are a prestigious designation.
Creating a habit requires consistency on both your part and theirs. Give them a reason to be consistent.