Communities are a powerful tool in Wisr for members of your site to connect in a group format based on shared experiences, common interests, peer-mentor/student ambassador pods, and more. Administrators create communities and, depending on your site setting, members may have the ability to request that new communities are made. Communities allow members to make connections, exchange content and resources, schedule and share upcoming events and deadlines, and participate in group discussions. In this article we’ll provide a high-level overview of communities, our perspective, and a lightning round FAQ.
What is a community?
A community is a place where group conversations happen. Communities are the most impactful when used to support a specific program or topic. As we see it, communities should be used to bring your constituents together for a clear and intentional purpose. Examples may include a community designed to connect entrepreneurship students with alumni advisers, communities loaded with specific content for admitted students, or a community used to facilitate a regional alumni chapter. Communities that are too broad or do not serve a specific purpose tend to see less activity and may dissuade users from engaging within them.
When thinking about creating a new community it’s important to consider who will use this space, what conversations will take place, and is this a group resource or better suited for individual chats. Asking questions such as: “What kind of conversations between alumni and student would happen here?” or “Who will drive activity in this community?” or “Will this content help my admitted students?” can be a helpful exercise. If your community idea is just a way to categorize people into a group (people who got X degree or went to Y campus location), and not a place where relevant discussions could flourish, then it's probably not the best use case for a community.
Understanding the lay of the land: Engagement features within communities
There are four main components of a community. Each offers a unique way to engage with your members and boost activity within your community.
- Members: The members tab is a complete list of the community members. Here users can see active members and who has been invited to join. This tab is also where your members will be able to see who serves as community leader or site administrator.
- Discussions: Conversations occur within the discussion tab. Within discussions members and admins can post questions, respond to each other, link to articles, share advice, embed webinars/panels/videos and several other forms of engagement. The bulk of your community activity will probably take place in the discussions tab.
- Events: You may already be familiar with the site wide events tab. Community events are similar but tend to be closely related/important to members within your communities. Community events can also be used to share upcoming deadlines with your members. Community events will appear in the site-wide events tab and can be filtered out depending on personal preference. Users will also receive an automatic weekly events digest email.
- Files: Resources that are helpful for the entire community, but may not be related to a specific discussion thread are housed within the Files tab. Your site administrators and community leaders can upload videos, presentations, program documents, and additional resources. These files can be linked in event descriptions and discussion threads.
This article will provide detailed instructions on how to operate these tools (Events, Discussion Board, and Files).
When you create a new community it is important to prioritize continued engagement in your community strategy. Each community should have a specific staff member or community member to act as community leader and drive activity and grow the community membership. No community – in Wisr, or the world in general – flourishes without people actively working to make it better. When you create a community, make sure to involve the people that will ultimately be responsible for helping to grow and nurture it. Often this is staff member, alum, or student worker who is passionate about the topic discussed within the community, or a peer leader in a specific program.
Community Engagement Best Practices
There are several tactics your office can use to boost community engagement and ensure the tool is impactful for your users. From thinking strategically about the types of communities you create to choosing a dedicated community leader. We’ve seen it all and have distilled our top takeaways for running successfully engaged communities.
- Types of Communities:
- For information on building out communities for an admitted student network, please reach out to email@example.com to request the Wisr Strategy Guide: Virtual Enrollment Yield Programming.
- Incoming Student Engagement: Within your peer mentor driven student engagement site there should be three different styles of communities.
- Peer mentor pods: Peer mentor pods are the most important communities within your prospective/incoming student network. These communities will be directly managed by your upper-class peer mentors. We typically suggest one to two peer mentors per community, with one acting as the main community leader. In this community peer mentors will post monthly content to engage prospective and incoming students, use the events tab mostly for deadlines or group meet ups once classes have begun, and will act as the first line of information for your prospective and incoming students. Peer mentor pod communities should have their privacy settings as “Invite-only” and peer mentors should manage inviting their mentees to join the community once matches are made.
- Peer Mentor Trainings: The second type of community should be another “invite-only” group, this time for your peer mentors. We suggest using the community feature to share training materials and up-to-date information with the students who run your peer mentor pods. This training community should be a space where peer mentors can ask for advice from other student leaders as well as the staff members who oversee your Wisr site. Events in this community should be used as deadline and post reminders.
- Open Resources: The third kind of community within your student engagement network should be designated for open resource or information sharing. Examples may include a housing community for incoming students to connect. In these communities staff members and student should post informative resources and answer common questions. Events may be used as both in person events (i.e. information sessions, campus tours, orientation weekends) or deadlines (i.e. FAFSA dates, campus scholarship applications, etc). These communities should have a “Public” privacy setting and will probably be the largest communities within the site.
- Current Student Engagement and Career Exploration
- Industry/Career Clusters: Industry groups are a great way for students to explore different careers by connecting with alumni for guidance and advice. There are creative ways to use communities such as embedding webinars in discussion posts or hosting live Ask Me Anything sessions with alumni within specific roles/industries. Events in this community may be to promote in-person career center events, alumni panels, or deadlines for internship applications.
- Internship Job Board: Internship season can be stressful; however, several alumni probably work at companies looking for promising college students to serve as summer or semester interns. An internship job board community is a great way to encourage alumni to post open positions at their companies and immediately connect students with hiring managers. It is important to monitor this community closely and remove discussion posts as internships are filled or application deadlines pass.
- Alumni Engagement: There are several ways to use communities to connect with and engage your alumni base. However, it is always better to prioritize a few communities with high usage over several communities with few members and little engagement. When choosing which communities to launch first, use resources like alumni surveys and event feedback to guide your decisions.
- Industry/Career Clusters: Grouping like-minded professionals is important for informed networking and building connections across your alumni base. Examples may include Entrepreneurs, Data Science, Alumni in the Arts. These communities should be public and have a dedicated alum or staff member regularly posting and driving conversation. Events in this community may be to promote in person networking sessions, career-oriented webinars, or volunteering opportunities/deadlines.
- Regional Chapters: Strong regional chapters can be a vital part of your alumni engagement strategy. Facilitating these chapters in Wisr. Areas where you a high concentration of alumni (and where students want to move after graduation) are a prime segment to engage through local discussion and in person events. Discussions should be relevant to the locale and events will probably skew heavily to in person meet ups.
- Private Alumni Boards/Committees: When managing a private alumni board or committee long email chains can become disorganized and tedious. Using a private or invite only community to lead these groups can be much more efficient and effective. Files will be highly useful in these kinds of communities. Shared resources like past meeting minutes, agendas, planning documents, and important videos can be uploaded to the community and linked in discussions as well as events. Creating a private or invite-only community will ensure that all members hold a role on the committee or alumni board.
- Affinity/Identity-Based: Identity, background, and shared experiences are a great way to bring people together to offer support and guidance. Examples of this type of community may include First-Generation Student and Alumni, International Students and Alumni, and Women in STEM.
- For information on using communities to host student and alumni events, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to request the Wisr Student and Alumni Virtual Events Strategy Guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a community leader? Community Leaders have all administrative access to the community they are a part of. They can suspend or approve members, edit the details of the community, and invite members. Community leaders are signified by the check mark next to their name in the member side of communities.
- How many communities should I have? When it comes to Wisr communities, we always believe less is more. Focus on having strong, well-led, and engaged communities. Most schools will have anywhere from 5-10 communities, with a few exceptions. If you are wondering how many communities you think would fit your site best, contact email@example.com and someone from our Customer Success Team would love to chat more with you about it.
- How do I invite someone to communities? To learn more about community invitations, check out this article that details the different ways to invite your members to join a community.
- How do I get community notifications? You will get a wrap-up email of all the different things happening in your communities. These will come anywhere from once a day to once a week, dependent on how much activity is going on in your community. To learn more about notifications, head here.