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The “Special Sauce” for an Active Community to Quit Tobacco

The “Special Sauce” for an Active Community to Quit Tobacco

Quitting tobacco is difficult—but when an online community provides around-the-clock support, it can make the journey easier.

As the community manager for the EX Community, our active online community at the core of the EX Program, I’ve seen this first hand. I observe daily what it takes for members to quit tobacco, and see how each quit is as unique as the person quitting. For each member, quitting is a journey that cannot be solved by a cookie-cutter solution.

Experienced quitters (those who have quit tobacco for more than a year) attest that the EX Community was the key to their successful quit after many failed attempts using other means. In my experience, for an online support community to thrive like it does in the EX Community, it takes several key ingredients:

  • Peers who are passionate about helping: The EX Community has members who have been around since the community’s inception in 2008 and continue to “pay it forward” to those in need on a daily basis. As new members quit tobacco, they pay it forward to the next wave of quitters. Many volunteer countless personal hours a week to help others, providing support and encouragement without judgment.
  • Information and participation from a trusted resource: In the EX Community, the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center experts post weekly contributions addressing member issues, health topics and tobacco-related news.
  • An authentic approach to communication: EX Community members balance being welcoming and providing straight-forward talk. As a result, the friendships built here go beyond the screen. In 2018, members of the EX Community will get together in two locations to celebrate their freedom from nicotine. Some members of the community have consecutively attended the previous five member-planned events held yearly across the country. Informal regional events occur several times a year as well.
  • Quick responses to questions or concerns: In the EX Community, most posts get a response within just 10-15 minutes. Unlike any other treatment modality, this kind of rapid response that is available around the clock ensures that people feel supported when they need it most. The community also is mobile responsive and allows on-the-go communication to give members real-time access.
  • A dedicated community manager to ensure people feel respected and heard: My role in the EX Community is to cultivate a safe environment for all members working to quit; collect and implement feedback from members; enforce the community standards; connect people to members like them; and create and curate content on the site to ensure searchability and discoverability. Unlike other social media platforms where the community hinges on a manager creating content every day, our EX Community members are what keep the site alive.

It’s important to note that some people actively post in the EX Community, while others choose to read and browse. Our research has shown that both types of engagement increase the chances of success.

Curious to find out more about how it works? I invite you to visit the EX Community and experience it for yourself.


Mark Schwanke

Online Community Manager

Mark has built and grown online support communities over the past decade, successfully managing more than 800,000 registered members. In the EX Community, he facilitates lively discussions and advocates for continuous community improvements on behalf of members.