Trust-building in online communities
A chat with Liftshare’s Community Manager — Lucie
Building trust among community members is an ongoing challenge for many online — based companies. While most agree trust is a central point to developing active communities, there are many opinions floating around on how to best achieve this.
Here is our take on it.
The power of communities is evident in both ASOSIO’s and Liftshare’s activity. But how exactly are the two companies related? Asosio is a free online platform that facilitates communities with a simple and safe communication tool. For an organisation, it can act both as an intranet and as an extranet.
Liftshare is also aiming at serving communities, but in a different way. In Lucie’s words: “Liftshare’s mission is to ensure that everyone has someone to share a lift with. The way we do that is by encouraging everyone with a car to post any journeys they’ll be making, whether one-offs like going to a festival or on a holiday in France, either regular journeys like driving to work everyday. People looking for a lift can go online and search for the journey they need and hopefully find a suitable match.”
Matches are not always perfect, but people manage to get around that. How do they do it? Lucie explains: “People are willing to go a slightly different route or wait for a passenger to finish work. Even though there isn’t a perfect lift, users chat to each other and make some arrangements.” Arrangements are therefore made through communication among passengers and drivers. If there is no communication, no arrangements can be made. No lifts can be shared either. Communication is central to lift sharing. From finding a ride to actually setting up the details needed.
What brings users on Liftshare?
Each community has common, but also specific characteristics. We talked to Lucie about the two pillars of their community and the reasons Liftshare users choose to be on the platform: “There are two elements that are core to the car-sharing community: trust and common interest. If you’re going to be sharing a car from London to Paris, you need to trust the person you’d be sharing the car with.”
Ok, I think I’m getting it. We have trust that has to be enhanced in order to increase the quality of user interaction. Trust is highly connected to increased levels of communication within a community. Encouraging trust among online users presents some unique challenges though. An issue Lucie mentioned when talking about this was the lack of some users’ profile pictures or bio descriptions : “When you’re in a small room and you constantly see each other, you have to interact and eventually connect. But the internet, you don’t have to interact, you don’t see each other or talk to each other because you’re not constantly reminded of each other. So yeah, it’s hard. And the trust is not always there. If you don’t have a profile picture and you haven’t uploaded a bio, then some people are a bit skeptical sometimes.”
Secondly, yes, there is a common interest in sharing a car, but this interest is driven by different reasons. I will refer to these reasons as ‘passions’. Users are mainly either environmentalists, money-savers or simply altruists. Or maybe a combination of those. The point is that they do share interests other than the one of sharing a ride, they have passions, hobbies, ideas, values.
“You might want a car-share for environmental reasons and that would bring communities together interested in green issues and environmentalists. Or you might be interested in car-sharing primarily for economic reasons and that would bring people together to communities that care about saving money by reducing the cost of travel. Lastly, but not less important are the people who share a ride just to help each other out. Those are a particular type of people, altruistic and social.”
How does Liftshare maintain their community?
“What proves effective is writing articles and blogs about these shared causes, such as global warming. We keep reminding users about the positive impact they have on the planet by car sharing. Sometimes, we present users with new motivations they could consider, so they shift away from, let’s say, primarily economic reasons, to consider the impact on carbon emission levels they have.”, Lucie says.
Liftshare sees the potential in the social aspect of their pool of users. The passions driving people on the common interest are indeed interesting to explore. Letting users know that there are other like-minded people out there has a positive impact on their feeling of belonging to a community. Moreover, being aware of the diversity of different passions behind sharing a lift also exposes alternative or additional reasons to consider when liftsharing, in this way opening new horizons.
And new horizons are also helping users better understand those whom they share a ride with. As Lucie puts it, “We don’t want people who share because of different reasons to stop sharing rides because of those differences”.
Another way of engaging users is making them aware of the fun aspect of it. Liftshare’s Marketing Manager often writes blogs on this topic. If it’s not a passion for the environment, the wallet or others then one might just be be part of the community by simply thinking about all the fun experiences there could be.
How can common interest turn into increased trust among Liftshare community members?
I wrote in a previous blog post about the need for a marriage-like relationship between users and product/service. The central point was around offering a two-way communication channel, to and from users, with comments on the several benefits that arise for the parts involved. You are more than welcome to check it out here.
The “User” is an entity representing the community of users. Making sure that there is a “User” means making sure there is an active community of users. “The User” should be able to speak back to the company.
Most important, “The User” should be alive!
With this in mind, let us try to look at Liftshare’s case. Some key words you should remember by now are :
Trust. Common interest. Different passions. Communication.
Giving users a platform to share their passions while being under the umbrella of a shared interest could be a way of increasing trust among members. Users share other interests than the one for car-sharing. Communication, as we established earlier, is key to building trust.
So why not try to facilitate a way to encourage communication among users? This could be about environmental issues or money-saving techniques, in order to let users connect with each other.
Communication will build the needed trust for an active engaged community. The common issue Lucie was talking about regarding loose contact of online community members could then be solved by users who keep “seeing” each other on forum-like communication platforms. As a result, tighter connections could be formed, connections that build trust along with a strong community feeling.
It would be interesting to see how Liftshare members would interact if they would benefit from a platform that harnesses conversation. Encouraging expressions of the social character of human beings could benefit not just those who come on Liftshare to be chatty. Instead, those who care for similar causes would feel they are belonging to something greater than them — a community!
Concluding, my dear community — enthusiasts…
Trust is key. Users come to you because of the content and stay because of the community. They want to belong, to contribute in something greater than themselves. Find out what brought them to you in the first place. Let conversation begin by providing the right platform.
Sit back and enjoy the fruits of organic engagement, while your community is building the trust much needed by the user. And remember: Trust Is Key.
…‘till we meet again,