Keeping Mobile Communities Engaged in Pandemic Times

Changing the way we define community interactions

Our smartphones have become a huge part of our daily lives. Mobile phones can be an extension of our personality, they can be used to express creativity, for entertainment, or even to make a living. Some of us have embraced the mobile way and have joined the ranks of the builders behind the apps that, for many, have become a daily necessity.

As humans, we seek the acceptance of groups, of communities, we look for social interactions that allow us to share and receive information in the areas that interest us. Communities have adapted to the current pandemic environment by migrating to an online-only presence. This has led to a major setback for engagement in such spaces and has forced app developers to rethink the way we interact and share.

Mobile communities at Cognizant Softvision, however, have discovered ways to overcome these obstacles regarding human interactions.

The problem

The disappearance of the physical factor in community interactions created a gap in communication, as well as lack of interest in nurturing existing relationships or creating new ones. People suddenly found themselves in their comfort zones, with their loved ones, and slowly their focus shifted towards other aspects of their lives.

Social interactions…

As a member of the mobile community, I observed some patterns in the behaviors of my colleagues during community meetups, both during the pandemic and beforehand:

  1. The ones who isolate in a bubble: These individuals are quite introverted and are not very keen in expressing their ideas unless you explicitly ask that of them.
  2. The ones who love to be the center of attention: These individuals like to be in contact with as many people as possible and want to share their ideas as frequently as possible.
  3. The ones who meet in the middle: These individuals are balanced in terms of social interactions within the community. They tend to jump in whenever their values are challenged and defend them, they listen well and are always interested in new topics.

Life of the community…

A mobile community is defined by how passionate people are to learn and share information together. When the mobile spectrum of technology advances so quickly, it is imperative we stay ahead of trends. Different types of people give life to the community in various ways, and I have noticed that there tends to be four types of behavior:

A. The people that have no time to share, but want to do so. In pre-pandemic times they didn’t get the chance to, but now some are able to find the time to give back to the community.

B. The people that have time to share and want to do so. The pandemic allowed these individuals to share information more often.

C. The people that have no time to share and don’t want to. These individuals typically are too busy.

D. The people that have time to share, but don’t want to. These individuals tend to attend meetings, are interested in the topics, but are not very interactive.

Looking at these classifications, we should be able to easily identify how a community grows by understanding how the social aspect of the community affects the desire to share.

In theory…

While people in category 2 (center of attention) and A/B keep the spirit of the community alive by involving themselves actively, the challenge arises when we want to keep the other categories engaged, as well. Since the ratio is around 20/80 in most cases, where 20% of the people in the community are the ones that generate 80% of the content, we are faced with a challenge that might affect our very nature.

The challenge

Let’s think of a method for getting people from C and D and 1 and 3 (isolated and balanced people) to be more engaged. 

We all share something in common. The heart of the community is defined by a clear purpose: the passion for mobile apps and technologies that shape the future of the mobile world. Our common desire to learn is fueled by the community members’ desire to teach and work together.

Teaching and learning

While we know we need to learn new technologies, it’s difficult to find people to teach those technologies. The topics are usually complex and much time is required to prepare a workshop. 

To overcome this challenge, we’ve tried holding presentations on hot new tech topics in a condensed format, but they did not allow enough time to digest all the information. We also put on tech talks regarding technology used daily in our projects, which required less preparation time for the presenters and boosted engagement significantly. However, the number of these presentations was limited as working on the projects themselves took priority over workshops.

With the former two presentation styles falling short, we decided to hold debates. We noticed that full-on debates took too much prep time, so we began to hold simple, open discussions. The themes were voted upon and people were eager to join, but the fear of public speaking held many people back.

While continuing with presentations, our engagement slowly decreased. This is when we thought of implementing another form of community project– the study group. In this kind of event, similar to a workshop, we chose a hot tech topic, such as SwiftUI/Jetpack Compose, and invited one or two mentors to lead the group. 

This effort paid off greatly, as the study group proved to be a very engaging experience. The community was hooked, and the study groups showcased their willingness and desire to learn, as more and more members wanted to discover new technologies but never had the opportunity to do so in such an organized manner. This method of fun collaboration and knowledge sharing has been well-received and highly acclaimed. 

In the end…

In our mobile community we’ve learned that we have to adapt to the new means of online communication to keep people engaged. We need to understand the context and change the way we define community interactions in order to keep people interested.

Everyone plays a part in the success of the community. How do you help in keeping your community engaged?