Introduction: While community-wide communications may be the prefered method of engagement for researchers, it is important to remember the need for non-observable messages too. One of the most overlooked aspects of community engagement is the need for conversations to take place 'off-the-record'.
It's in these channels that relationships are formed, new ideas for discussion can be suggested and members gain the confidence to suggest controversial opinions.
Method: There are two types of private communication. The first is between moderators and members, while the second is between members alone. The former is vital for probing on more depth when required. This is particularly useful when you notice a thought-provoking, emotionally charged or unusual comment. The private prompting tool can be used to ask for more information in a safe environment.
Example of a Member Message Log
The second type of private message is between two community members. Though moderators will not have access to the content of these messages, that is not to say they do not have any use. These communications often form the backbone of sucessful communities. New members can use the tool to ask questions of top-ranked community members or moderators. It's also useful for dispute resolution, providing support and even discussing new ideas before making them public.
Benefit: Though there are a number of benefits to enabling private messages in your online community, the most important is that it facilitates new interactions between community members that may not have been otherwise possible - helping build relationships that drive the discussion forward.
Find out how to tailor the research community experience to individual members with through the power of personalisation.