In online communities, newcomers can have both positive and negative impacts on the group. On one hand, they bring fresh ideas and resources, while on the other hand, their unfamiliarity with community norms can lead to misbehavior and harm the community. Robert Kraut and his colleagues identified five common issues that online communities face when dealing with newcomers and provided design suggestions for each problem in their book, Building Successful Online Communities.
One of the main issues is socialization. Different online communities have their own norms and regulations, and new members need to learn to participate in an appropriate way. Socialization is the process through which new members acquire the behaviors and attitude essential to playing their roles in a group or organization. Research has shown that active information seeking and organizational socialization tactics are associated with better performance, higher job satisfaction, and more commitment to the organization. However, institutionalized socialization tactics are not commonly used in online settings, and most online communities rely on individualized socialization tactics where newcomers are informally trained.
To keep new members and help them adjust to the community, Kraut and his colleagues suggest using formal, sequential, and collective socialization tactics. This involves providing new members with clear guidelines and rules in a systematic way. Additionally, old-timers can provide formal mentorship to newcomers, helping them navigate the community and understand its norms.
In the context of an online community, socialization is the process of becoming familiar with the community's norms, values, and customs, and developing a sense of belonging and identity within the group. Online communities provide a platform for individuals to interact with others who share similar interests, goals, or backgrounds, and they offer opportunities for socialization and learning. Members of online communities engage in various forms of communication, such as forums, chat rooms, and social media, and they use these platforms to exchange ideas, opinions, and information. Through these interactions, individuals develop relationships, establish social norms and rules, and form a collective identity that distinguishes them from other groups. Online communities can provide a sense of belonging and social support for individuals who may feel isolated or disconnected from their physical communities, and they can facilitate the process of socialization by exposing individuals to diverse perspectives and experiences.