Community Leader Case Study 


Sustained participation is the greatest challenge
in online communities

ISACA’s Knowledge Center has community leaders to facilitate conversation and maintain activity levels through community growth. Each topic can have up to four community leaders working together. Discussion topics can range from a current technology trends
to an ISACA Journal article. Outlined below are characteristics of leaders with continued success in their topic. They are categorized into three focus areas: Involvement in Discussions, Subject Matter Expertise, and Communications.


Involvement in discussions

Routinely starts discussions

To keep the community active, leaders should periodically start new discussions particularly if there has been no recent activity. New discussions keep the topic current, while certain discussions may continue over long periods of time leading to a good variation of communities for members to engage in. Some instances where many topics are active during the same period of time, it is important to gauge whether or not a new topic should be started or withheld until some of the existing ones run their course. Effective leaders should determine how many topics can be simultaneously sustained by their community and try not to exceed that amount. An excess of new discussions could result in higher non-response rates where good topics go ignored due to getting overshadowed.

Replies to all posts in a timely fashion

Every post in the topic should be addressed as soon as possible. It is important that there is assurance that participating members will be acknowledged. Satisfied members are also more likely to return to the topic and those who do not receive a response may not visit the topic again. Setting immediate alerts are highly encouraged for community leaders to stay aware of topic activity.

Replies to acknowledge post even if uncertain in the answer

While they do have expertise in the topic, leaders are not expected to know everything. Even if they are unsure of the answer, addressing the member is important even by simply asking if others have more input.

Maintains top active discussions

Community leaders should strive to have active top discussion posts within their topic. Those discussions are the first thing a visitor to the community sees and it will be what they base their immediate impression on. Leaders should work together to maintain at least two active topics that have had discussion posts within the last 5 days. In addition, the remaining leading discussions topics should not be more than a few weeks old. A topic with recent discussions will attract more members and encourage participation. Conversely, a topic with stale discussions will discourage participation and the individual will look elsewhere, decreasing the probability they will return.

Some discussions require lengthy responses that involve a significant time commitment. Instead of addressing the entire discussion, asking the author to narrow the focus or clarify would allow for more resonable responses.

Although discouraged, many posts do not have a specific question and are there for information sharing purposes. A good practice for leaders is to address the posts and potentially pose a follow-up question.

Individually address each topic participant

In an online community, addressing each participant by their user name gives a personal touch and also clarifies addressing specific points in the discussion.

Follow up even when time has passed

Discussions may become dated or are left unanswered. It is never too late to follow up. It is not uncommon for old discussions to become new again once a leader has readdressed it. It also acknowledges to members that there is a leader available and interested in what the participants are saying.



Subject Matter Expert

Before being assigned as a community leader, each leader must apply and be approved by an internal ISACA team. The approval process is to ensure that each leader has the necessary background and skill set to lead their topic. As previously stated, community leaders are not expected to have all the answers and multiple leaders in the same topic can supplement each other’s expertise. Even knowing where to find the answers or resources is of benefit, such as reaching out to personal networks that could bring expertise to the specified discussion.

Community leaders are encouraged to respond to one another to encourage the conversation. Leaders of the same topic are asked to communicate with each other on a regular basis which is detailed in the next section.

ISACA relies on community leaders to report if information is not appropriate or accurate for the topic. For detailed information on proper protocol, please refer to the topic leader guidelines. If a discussion would be better suited for a different topic, leaders can refer the user to the appropriate topic and alert the corresponding leader(s). If a post is questionable, community leaders may contact or use the “Report This” button to specify their concerns.



Communicates to ISACA

The online communities coordinator is a dedicated resource for topic leader support. Topic leaders may contact the the online communities coordinator to address any comments or concerns via email at In addition to personal cooresponance, leaders receive a newsletter and individual performance metrics.

Communicates to co-topic leaders

If a topic has more than one leader, leaders are expected to communicate with one another. Each leader has his/her unique background that will be leveraged to grow and maintain the activity in the topic. Having familiarity with the other leaders of the same topic allows for an easier flow of conversation and duties. Leaders are encouraged to share ideas on how to improve their topic and even respond to each other’s posts to generate discussions.

Help promote community

When community leaders are attending an ISACA conference or chapter event they can be an advocate for the Knowledge Center and their topic. Presentations and materials to aid these promotional activities are available upon request. Community leaders may also choose to cross promote to their connections outside of ISACA. Spread the word!



A consistently engaged community leader results in an active topic. The more a leader participates the more motivated other members are to participate as they are confident they will receive a timely and relevant response. If there has not been a discussion in a period of time, a leader should initiate a topic discussion. Maintaining an active discussion forum is critical to the success of the community and it’s leaders must to work together to sustain active discussions on a regular basis. ISACA offers a support network for leaders and can provide assistance through a number of mediums which all leaders should take advantage of as they deem most appropriate. The continued efforts of community leaders can have a tremendous positive impact and are always greatly appreciated.