People are incentivized to contribute to something if they own (or feel like they own) a part of it.


Why do people invest into home improvements? Because they own the home equity and those improvements increase their equity value.


Why do retail investors tune into earnings calls for Fortune 500 companies? Because they own a small piece of that business and want to see the value of their equity grow.


The same principles apply to building an online community.


Here are five ways we’ve improved our community by giving our members an owners’ mindset.

  • Ask members to contribute. The IKEA Effect is a cognitive bias in which consumers place more value towards products they partially created. We chose to make our resource library open and editable by members once they were accepted into the group. This gave members ownership and it created a better product for future members.


  • Reward the 1%. The general rule of any community is that 90% of members will consume and add little value, 9% will contribute 10% of the value, and 1% will contribute the remaining 90%. If somebody is creating 90% of your value, find ways to give them more of the upside they are creating.


  • Connect with members personally. This does not scale, but creating a personal bond with early contributors will result in them referring more people to you. Make your first members your community advocates.


  • Update them on progress. Members want to be updated on what is working, and scheduling regular updates builds more trust with your members. YouTube and Twitter are great tools for spreading your message, and I recommend using Visible if you’re looking for a more structured way to update members on your progress.


  • Designate community leaders. These should be people that are in charge of making sure that new members are following community guidelines and not breaking any rules. Give them a reason to want to do this (could be a title to boost their resume, or it could be a few dollars to help out).