Online Community Rituals: How To Leverage Rituals To Boost Engagement?

Muskaan Swami
September 8, 2022

In today's blog, we'll talk about leveraging online community rituals. This is one of the most important aspects of community building for all community managers. This includes those interested in starting a community too. And all the topics that we will cover in this blog are going to be as community-minded as they can get.

Having and participating in a community ritual is the most exciting and interesting part of being in an online community. And leveraging online community rituals to boost engagement is probably a less talked about aspect of community management. People talk about growth, measurement, and a lot of other things quite frequently.

But online community rituals are less spoken and in this blog, we'll understand online community rituals in the right depth. All so you can really utilize them as a tool to boost your community engagement. Community engagement is very much the devil in the community space because everybody suffers or struggles from it. And this blog will help you understand online community rituals in a way that will help you boost your community engagement.

Also, if you are into an online community building career, then check out LikeMinds right now! Our platform offers amazing features that will enable you to host live sessions and manage memberships seamlessly.

By the end of this blog you'll know:

  • What is a ritual?
  • How to create ideas around online community rituals?
  • What is the role of habits, rewards, and celebrations in creating online community rituals?

... And much more!

So, let's begin!

What Is A Community Ritual?

So, let's begin by defining an online community ritual. The definition of an online community ritual. As we know, community management is an evolving discipline. People have different contexts. So, different ideas manifested themselves in different contexts. But on a very root level, a ritual is basically a set of daily actions and choices that we make that shapes our future.

The most accessible example probably would be the fitness space or even finance. Saving is a form of ritual or doing a particular number of push-ups is a ritual too. The larger objective here is to be healthy or financially secure. And push-ups or saving money is a ritual for achieving those goals.

You have a regime. And each regime can be further split into rituals. So, these actions and choices are basically a routine. The 'Routine' word is the most important. If you do it as an event or as an occasion, it cannot be classified as a ritual. But if you do it consistently over a period of time, it will be classified as a ritual.

Now, you'd also want to be mindful of not confusing habits or rewards with online community rituals. These are different things.

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How To Create Ideas Around Online Community Rituals?

So, we have defined the online community rituals.

And now, how about creating certain online community rituals?

What are certain ideas that you can utilize to create online community rituals?

So, as mentioned above, it's about a routine. And it's about actions and choices. Let's look at the 4 important factors that you need to focus on for creating fun online community rituals:

1. Decide the right frequency: You can break down the actions and choices into daily, weekly, or monthly. While deciding the frequency of your ritual, remember that fatigue is real. So, be very mindful that you don't fatigue your members. 

2. Be innovative: Online community rituals are ought to be fun. So, you have to be very innovative while thinking of them. If you decide to give your community members a task or an assignment, they may not be motivated. Rather than boosting your engagement, it will impact your engagement negatively. So, inherently, online community rituals ought to be something that members get pulled towards.

That is the science and art of designing the right online community rituals. And if you're innovative, it can help you stand out as a community and enable deeper connections between members. Peers in a particular community can come out together to create their own online community rituals too. And that's why listening to the community members is equally important.

3. Ensure high-quality content: Now, most of us exist in an online community environment. So, whether you take a ritual, task, or anything else, most of it manifests itself in the form of content. Whether it is a ritual based on commenting on something, interacting, sharing, etc. Even a picture that you have shared after completing a particular choice action inadvertently becomes content.

So, if you have certain online community rituals that you have deployed in your community or you are working towards creating certain online community rituals, it becomes a form of content. And it also helps you to drive your content programming. So, you need to consistently ensure that the content that goes out as part of the ritual is engaging.

4. Co-create with the inner circle: While you create content for your community ritual, it's essentially co-creating. So, involve your inner circle. An inner circle is a group of people who are highly invested in your community. So, they can be moderators, super-users, or people who are very vocal ambassadors of your community because of your product.

And they can be utilized in creating online community rituals because they understand and they represent the community in the most appropriate way. And when you create something along with them, it has a higher chance of success. Because this is the same group of people who will hold your back and when you make a post, they will come and comment.

They will tag other people and that way you will really be able to create a community impact. 

The idea of online community rituals hasn't been something that is very nascent. Online community rituals have existed forever. Wherever you want to take inspiration for online community rituals, you can take that. Whether it is pop culture, spirituality, religions, or festivals. Largely, culture is the playbook for discovering new online community rituals and creating some context-driven online community rituals for your own community.

For example, in a social media involvement on Instagram, you might have come across #MondayMotivation, or #ThrowbackThursdays. In some communities, there is a ritual to do a weekly poll. Now, because this weekly poll regularly happens, it becomes a ritual. Traditionally we have seen people describing newspaper reading as a ritual too.

So, there are so many online community rituals performed on a day-to-day basis, that without necessarily realizing that it is a ritual, we ought to do it. It has become a course of habit. It has become something that we are fond of. And as a community manager, the objective somewhere is to try and cultivate rituals in your community so that it becomes a culture.

And it creates belonging between your members too!

Tips For Creating Online Community Rituals

What Is The Role Of Habits, Rewards, And Celebrations In Creating Rituals?

The role that habits, rewards, and celebrations play in creating a ritual will help you deepen your understanding of a ritual. All of us are familiar with leaderboards, gaming points, and badges. If someone completes a particular milestone in a community, they get a badge, which is a reward. Or they get some giveaway if they have achieved a milestone in a community.

Now, is that reward, the badge, a ritual?


But it can be a gateway to a ritual. Similarly, when you ask your community members to introduce themselves during the onboarding process, in some sense, it is a form of habit. That habit can also become a gateway for ritual. But a habit alone, cannot be a ritual.

And let's understand that a person's individual rituals might be different and online community rituals are different. Online community rituals have to be cherished together. A person might have his individual ritual of visiting communities and browsing through to see what is happening?

But that will not necessarily classify as a community ritual.

It has to be something that is cherished together. And rewards & habits both serve as gateways. You can imagine the habits and rewards as potential online community rituals. But not as synonyms to online community rituals. Let's take an example of a running community. If you finish a run people go to celebrate.

Now, does ritual have to be always a task, deliverable, or contribution that you make?

It doesn't have to be.

If you have the ritual of celebrating within a community, where people come together after one person's success or accomplishment, then that becomes a ritual. And it bonds your community together when your old members cultivate this ritual. And for any reason, if they exit out of the community, the ritual kind of still stays there.

It's because those people who have been on the receiving end of the celebration will do it for the newer members. The newer people who have achieved the milestone recently. So, let's take the example of farewell programs in colleges. Where the junior class gives a farewell to their seniors and they try to carry it forward to the future batches.

Is that a form of ritual?

It can be.

So, the reason why online community rituals are at the intersection of habits, rewards, and celebrations, is mainly because an ideal ritual is a combination of all these 3 things. If you have a habit alone, without a sense of celebration or reward, it may not sustain itself. Of course, there are contexts where habits alone themselves have that stickiness.

Where community members regularly perform something. If they are in a fitness community, they might have certain habits without the need for reward. But even in those cases, making it rewarding, and celebratory, definitely enhances the association. And is a means to honor the relationship with the members.

If you take the example of Indian culture or Indian marriages, we have all come across a variety of rituals that are designated for a particular relationship. The bride's brother will do a particular ritual. The groom's parents will do some other particular ritual. Even if it's a very traditional way, you can always take inspiration from these systems and honor particular relationships.

So, you can define a particular ritual as per the status of your members or as per their journey. If somebody has completed 3 years in your community, there can be an exclusive ritual for them. So, online community rituals, while it has to be co-created, you can always create slabs. Certain online community rituals can be particularly performed for a particular cohort of your community. Not necessarily the entire community.

And then, those online community rituals become aspirations for other people. They function as some sort of reward, celebration, and habit altogether. So hope that this gave you a good sense of these terms and concepts.

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Where To Take Inspiration From For Creating Community Rituals?

When it comes to taking inspiration for creating online community rituals, there are many things from which one can derive inspiration. So, just like the example of Indian marriages or culture given in the blog above, here are some more similar examples that you can look at for taking inspiration.

Convocation Ceremony

The convocation ceremony of educational institutions has the ritual of wearing elaborate robes and caps on the day the students get graduated. Isn't that a very special feeling? It's celebrating an accomplishment and students get rewarded and the spotlight is on them. They indicate that they are as a tribe in this, as a cohort of people through fashion.

That's one medium. You can always use similar things to create a sense of identity.

Organizational Identity

The next example is organizational identity. When one joins a company, they get a particular kind of tag that is related to the organization that they are a part of. People welcome the new employee by referring to them as a trailblazer for Salesforce, Zoman for Zomato, Swiggster for Swiggy, etc. That connects to a person's identity.

Popular Culture

These ideas can be borrowed from a popular culture too. It can be borrowed from the culture around you. The region where you are based. So, if there were Star Wars fans, then you can do something around the 4th of May. And because it's the Star Wars day, you don't have to be a community of Star Wars.

But if you see that this is one of the popular trends within your community, and there are enough people who'd like to gather around that particular idea, you can definitely create a ritual around it. Popular culture covers a lot of things. It can be video games, films, music, etc.

Mobile Games

Yes, mobile games can be used as online community rituals too. An interesting example of the same is the game Wordle. To play this game, community members come together at a specified time. And after finishing their game, they can share the results of the game in the community, and that way members will respond to each other.

A sense of activity and interaction will be created by this.

The identity of your community and its members plays an important role in designing online community rituals. If you have designed a ritual that people don't relate to, there are high chances that it may fail. So medium can be any. It can be a physical object or a digital entity. But it's important that it is something that people connect with.

And if you want to crack it really well, experts suggest that you look up to your community members for the best ideas. No matter how much of a veteran you are, ultimately the community members tend to have some of the most eclectic or relevant ideas. So, involving the community members in your process of creation is very crucial.

And that way you can definitely create a ritual that is relevant and also successful!

What Are The Benefits Of Having Community Rituals?

So now that we have inspired you to create online community rituals and have talked about what is a ritual. We know that it's an effort. It's definitely an effort that you have to put in. But a lot of questions follow this up, like:

Why would you put in all this effort?

What is the benefit of it?

How will you justify what you are doing to your company?

How will you translate it into a KPI?

How will you vocalize that what you are doing is worth doing?

So, these are some of our suggestions that you can utilize while you are thinking about investing your time in ritual creation or communicating value to your company. First of all, it gives members a sense of discipline and habit. You send notifications, but people are still not opening your application and not visiting your community. It's been a long while since they have come back.

What if you give them a ritual as a hook? Wouldn't they come for that?

Now this ritual can be a person-driven ritual or a content-driven ritual. You can design them as you want them to be. It can also create an essence of belonging.

Now, what is the essence of belongingness?

Like the example of elaborate robes and caps given in the blog above, not every university has the same kind of elaborate robes and caps. Doctors and lawyers tend to have more standardized ones. But a lot of universities customize their robes and caps for the convocation ceremonies. They give it their own twist.

So, similarly, when you do these kinds of twists, it gives the members a sense of belonging. It creates a sense of tribe for people. And that naturally increases member participation. People come together for that sense of identity. While they are coming together, in an online community environment they come together through, as mentioned in the blog above, online content.

So, that gives you a structured and reliable content calendar too. If you have designated certain days or dates for particular online community rituals, you're sorted for those days or dates. You can invoke participation from your members by posting something and seeking responses. And you can involve your old members, the inner circle in executing those online community rituals.

You as a community manager don't have to implement everything. You have to design and take the initiative. But your community members who are older and are active can be your co-creators in that.

And the most important point, in these three words: Identity, Onboarding, and Exit.

Identity is the example of Zomans, and Trailblazers mentioned in the blog above. When you create online community rituals, you can choose specific words which people use before creating a post. If they call each other by a particular name, or title, that definitely gives them a sense of fellowship. And when you onboard people, you can welcome them with that sense of fellowship.

You can help them break the ice with each other through certain commonalities that exist. And these are mediums of online community rituals. They can become more effective depending on your community's context. But largely these are some of the popular ways. We have put the word 'Exit' particularly because we think exit doesn't get spoken enough about.

Onboarding definitely has enough attention, but there are members who are not able to remain in the community for one or the other reason.

Now, can you make it graceful?

Can you give them a sense that they can come back to you and can rely on you?

And for whatever reason they are not being active, can you empathize with them and understand them?

So, if there is an exit, you can definitely create an exit ritual. If you look at life, as a civilization, we have created rituals to mark almost every important celebration and occasion in our lives. Right from birth to death and marriage to convocation. And things like getting a new job too. We do it in our own ways and similarly, these ideas can be implemented in your communities also. 

Community Engagement: What Is A Community Ritual And How To Create One?

Tips For Establishing Online Community Rituals

As online community rituals are one of the best ways to increase community engagement, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind while establishing these online community rituals. Below are 3 tips that will help you establish these online community rituals effectively:

1. Have patience: In the beginning, whatever ritual you are creating, you have that clarity and that conviction. The members don't. So, hang on there. Put a little bit of extra effort. In the first few days, you may not get a response. But when people see that you are showing up for that ritual and have that kind of commitment, there will be reciprocation from them too.

They will start showing up also. So, please be mindful of that. Don't get disappointed if your weekly delta is not moving. Community and ritual are definitely a long-term game. So, while you are creating something, remain patient. And be patient and consistent with your purpose.

2. Be open to change: While you're being patient, the online community rituals also evolve. You might get feedback, and realize new things based on how members are responding. How they are perceiving it. So, being open to change is very important. The design of a ritual is not sacred. A particular ritual can be sacred for your community, but the design of the ritual is never sacred.

You have to adapt and make sure that people are able to relate to it.

3. Have a surprise element: Surprise means different things for different members and different generations.

So, how do you make sure that there is a surprise element in your ritual?

If it is something very predictable and monotonous, it has the risk of getting downgraded as a task or as a unilateral thing. So, make sure that while you are designing online community rituals, you design them in an interesting way. Keep experimenting until you find your surprise element.

What Are Some Examples Of Online Community Rituals?

These are some of the examples that we implement at LikeMinds' Community called CommunityHood. First is, sharing your particularly significant accomplishments with others in the community. People responding, thanking, and expressing happiness on that is a form of community ritual also.

Online community rituals don't have to be something very major and laborsome all the time. It can be something very simple, that one member has done for another member. And you as a community manager can scale that up to the larger community. And gradually you'll see that people are creating their own online community rituals.

There are smaller clusters inside your community, where different online community rituals get created. And you have to constantly be on the lighthouse to see who is doing what, where and how you can scale up further.

The second is creating events. Yes, creating events is another form of ritual, where people know what they are signing up for. As mentioned in the blog above, not keeping it predictable and retaining the surprise element still stays very much true. But you cannot ignore the fact that people also need stability and consistency.

So, if you keep a healthy balance of both and do something regularly and show up for it, people start building that habit too. They start having that anticipation that this particular day is designated for this event. And they start participating. So, events very much qualify to be a form of ritual.

And the third example is of one of our past roundtables events, where we spoke about festivals. We want to just advocate and encourage you to look at unconventional places for ideas around online community rituals. Online community rituals are something that is there in almost every culture. You can probably find them in the most unlikely places.

So, you can go and check out that recording on the Likeminds YouTube Channel also, where we have spoken about festivals. We've discussed things like:

  • How can we take inspiration from festivals?
  • What are some ideas, events, and programming that we can do in our communities that are inspired by festivals?

So, because it has a direct connection with online community rituals, we thought we would encourage you to see that. And you can always share your feedback about it with us in the comments section on YouTube.

What Are The Dos And Don'ts Of Online Community Rituals?

Now that we have given you an overview of online community rituals, we have this list of 4 dos and don'ts for you. Keep these in mind and you are as good as gold to leverage your community ritual for increasing engagement.

Explain what you do

When you are doing a ritual, you have that clarity and understanding because you have spent so much of time. But the members need the right orientation. You need to explain what you are doing and how you are doing it, so that they can really understand it, connect with it, and grasp it.

Don't ask without giving back

If you" them don't design them like a task where you are on the receiving end alone. It has to be something mutual.

Feel free to ask anything

It's important to have these conversations involving your members. We at CommunityHood are very bullish about this. That's why you would see again and again in our blog that you can involve your members and you must involve your members. Because that also helps you to not make assumptions about your audience.

You'll be actively listening to them and you'll be able to create online community rituals and programs which are relevant.

Reach people where they are

Finally the most important - the platform and the channel point.

If you create something no matter how great it is if it is not reaching people what value will it make?

So reach people where they are. Where they are most comfortable doing it. Where they are capable to do it in the most accessible way. So do reach people where they are. That would be our last piece of advice for you!

And before you go if you want to learn network and collaborate with the top virtual brand community builders from across the country then join CommunityHood today. At CommunityHood we host live learning events around online brand community building every week. And some of our past guest speakers have been from the best online brand communities like BabyChakra Airblack and Community Folks.

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