One of the most powerful aspects of Switchboard is the potential for organic, indirect, and peripheral connections that help users find what they are looking for. Having all posts open to the entire community supports this potential, and there is a way to amplify it to further foster it on Switchboard: connecting users that are already participating and engaging.
As a steward, you have the ability to use powerful admin tools to do this, but the vast majority of your community does not. In light of this, it’s important to model behavior that the community can easily follow, and the easiest way to do that is through existing posts.
People who post asks/offers and/or comment on asks/offers are clearly engaged and interested in connecting with the community, this is one of the easiest ways to grease the wheels in posts to foster engagement on your Switchboard. Just think about it: users who don’t know each other look at an ask and reference an earlier offer the asker should connect with, or users make a suggestion for someone who posted an offer to connect with another person that posted a similar offer to collaborate or share ideas. The best part here is that all of this information is easily searchable using the keyword search tool.
For example, the post author for this ask open to a range of opportunities, but it’s rooted in working with a particular group of people. It’s not a perfect connection, but perhaps it starts a bread crumb trail that helps the author of ask find what they are looking for and make a new connection along the way.
This particular Switchboard has many offers that have been posted, so I used the keyword search to find posts about public policy first.
In looking the search results, I came across an offer that is peripherally related.
I clicked on the post author’s name of the offer to look at their profile, and I noticed they have posted a few times and commented a fair number of posts in the past. Knowing this, it’s a safe bet that the person who posted the offer is pretty active, so referencing that post in a comment in the ask has a higher likelihood of facilitating a connection between these two people.
As you can see, the author of the ask didn’t even see the offer I had referenced, but it was valuable and opened a door to walk through in finding what they are looking for. What great about this, too, is that I’m modeling this behavior for the community, so they can mimic it in the future. Ultimately, the more the community sees this behavior on the Switchboard, the more common and normalized it will become on the Switchboard.