As humans, we are wired to connect. Science has shown us that a fundamental part of human nature is social interaction—and an increasingly significant portion of those connections are initiated online.
That’s because in the online world, where we have fewer psychological restraints, we share information about ourselves more easily and much sooner than we would in person. Whether it’s offering up opinions, discussing our feelings, or reaching out to others with support, we all generally have an easier time joining conversations in an online environment.
This is all a part of the online disinhibition effect, which is the term researchers use to refer to how we have fewer inhibitions in online interactions than in other social settings. This leads us to open up in a way that would normally feel out-of-character if the person on the other side of the screen knew us personally.
And, in the case for publisher-hosted communities, this aspect of human behavior can’t be ignored.
In this post, I’ll dive deeper into the motives that drive us to seek out and interact in online communities. Then, I’ll address why this is vital information for publishers, including how it translates into real business results.
We have a natural drive for self-disclosure
As humans, we naturally want to express ourselves and connect with others. There are a few reasons why we choose to take these interactions online.
The first, and perhaps most obvious reason, is that in-person self-disclosure is challenging for many people for an entire spectrum of reasons: social phobias, shyness, and certain physical disabilities can stand in the way of in-person interactions.
The online world masks who we are and what we look like, making it easier for us to open up and speak freely. What’s more, there are fewer consequences of negative social interactions online, taking the pressure off of reaching out and replying to others.
All of this helps us make meaningful connections online and maintain ongoing conversations that keep us coming back to weigh in again and again.
Positive interpersonal interactions lead to stronger communities
Not only are humans inclined to share and connect more online, we also have a natural drive to do good online.
According to the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, the online world can spark positive interpersonal interactions that aren’t always possible in person—which is great news for publishers who are concerned about the health of their community.
Online, we have fewer inhibitions. While we typically associate a lack of inhibitions with inappropriate behavior, fewer inhibitions can also lead to positive outcomes.
One example of this is coming to the defense of someone who is bullied online. In person, the fear of retaliation and the stress of becoming involved is often too great of a burden. But online, where we already feel more comfortable speaking our minds—and with fewer consequences—defending another person in the face of perceived injustice is much easier.
These positive interactions can also be as simple as offering emotional support, advice, or resources to those in need—all of which feels less complicated in online environments.
Publishers can find long-term success through hosted-communities
Publishers have a real opportunity to leverage this social aspect of human nature.
In a time when boosting registrations and driving loyalty is mission critical for long-term success, publishers can reach their goals by becoming the hosts of online discourse.
After all, your audience is already actively engaging in conversations online. Wouldn’t it be better if they were engaging on your website?
Turn casual website visitors into loyal users. Publisher-hosted communities pay dividends because they provide a place for these engagements to take place. It’s an opportunity to turn your casual website visitors into registered, loyal users who keep returning to interact in conversations and spend more time on-site. By nature, your audience wants a place to exchange ideas—and if they aren’t doing it on your website, they’re definitely doing it somewhere else.
Quality conversations lead to more engagement and time on-site. Most people are driven to do good online. As a publisher, you have the power to bring out the best in your audience by building thriving communities with effective moderation.
In this environment where quality conversations can flourish—and where members feel valued, look out for each other, and feel emotionally invested—you are better equipped to grow your audience and drive retention. Across OpenWeb’s network of publishers, users who are exposed to quality conversations are more likely to behave better themselves, stay on-site longer, and visit the publisher’s website more frequently.
Give your audience what they want: a dedicated community on your website
The online world can elicit human behaviors that simply don’t happen in person. We share more, connect more, and proactively seek out communities where we can interact. Publishers should give their audience what they want: a dedicated community on their website.
At OpenWeb, we know that publisher-hosted communities lead to more registrations and subscriptions, increased time on-site, and more ad revenue. They are an essential part of sustainable, long-term success for any publisher. Learn how publishers can make it even easier for their audience to get engaged and stay engaged.