For your community to flourish long-term, you must put your members' experience at the forefront of your community strategy.
Here are five ways to keep your members happy, engaged, and coming back to your community!
1. Ensure You Understand Your Members
Creating an outstanding member experience starts with understanding your members.
Before even launching your community, you need to consider why your organization and your target audience need a community.
Not everyone in your audience will have the same reason for joining the community. Creating personas is a helpful technique for understanding your future members and their needs.
Personas are archetypical members whose goals and characteristics represent the needs of a larger group of members.
You can really go to town with personas and include a variety of information, from demographics to communication preferences. However, the most important things to capture are the goals and challenges of each persona. Ask yourself, why would this persona join my community? What value would they get?
So where can you get this information?
Start by talking directly to people that represent your ideal members. Find out where these people hang out, virtually or in person, and get involved in their conversations.
Startup Colorado's community connects rural entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive. Before launching, the team interviewed rural entrepreneurs and assembled a steering committee of entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders throughout rural Colorado. Discover more.
If, for whatever reason, you cannot directly interview these people, talk to people who directly communicate with them. You can also leverage other sources, such as your website's analytics and forum discussions, to glean insights on your ideal members.
Armed with this information, you can efficiently define your community's engagement strategies around your members' needs and expectations.
Just remember, creating personas is an iterative process. As your community grows, your target audience might evolve. Keep your personas fresh by regularly checking in with your members.
2. Be Clear and Transparent
Clear communication is vital to member experience.
Your community's mission statement details why your community was created, the goals you want to achieve, and what value people get from joining the community and contributing.
Creating a mission statement ensures all your community stakeholders are on the same page and join your community for the right reasons. Think about it: if you don't clearly understand your community's value, you can't expect your members to.
Get tips on creating a community mission statement here.
Being explicit about the type of behaviour that is acceptable in your community (and what isn't), is also critical to ensure your members feel in a safe and supportive environment that promotes inclusion.
Creating clear and compelling community guidelines enables you to outline how members should exchange with each other, what is allowed, what isn't, and the consequences for breaching the rules.
Get insights on how to create compelling community guidelines here.
Never assume your members know what you want from them. Just ask clearly. For example, if you've just organized a great networking event, ask your attendees to share their photos in a dedicated space in your community, don't assume they will do it automatically!
3. Prioritize Feedback
Consistently gathering member feedback puts your members and their experience at the center of your community.
Before collecting feedback, you need to identify why you want it. For example, do you want to improve your community's onboarding, content strategy, events? Without a clear intention, your feedback might not be as impactful as you hope.
Once you've pinpointed the goal of your feedback, decide how you will collect it! You can do this through formal surveys, interviews, and focus groups. When planning your questions, ask yourself what do I want to know, and will this question give me the answer? Keep your questions to the point but encourage rich, open-ended responses.
In addition to richer feedback options, net promoter scores can also be a handy metric to keep a pulse on your members' satisfaction. Ask your members to give a rating on how likely they would be to recommend the community to a friend or colleague (zero = not at all likely and ten = very likely).
Actively seeking feedback and demonstrating how you are taking it on board to improve the community shows your members that their opinions and experiences are important to you. This will further motivate them to contribute to your community and build advocacy.
JA Worldwide is one of the world’s most prominent youth-serving NGOs.
Millions of people worldwide have had life-changing experiences with JA Worldwide’s programs. The NGO created a community to further strengthen the impact and reach of its programs by keeping in touch with alumni and enabling them to connect with each other.
We asked some of their alumni members about the benefits of being part of the community!
4. Make a Great Impression From the Start
Your community's onboarding process is essential to member engagement and retention. It's your chance to integrate newcomers, demonstrate how they can get the most value out of your community, and motivate them to take an active role!
Set your members up for success by creating guides, video tutorials, an FAQ, live and recorded webinars, and other documents to show them how to use and get the most out of the community.
Suggest starting points in your community based on what you know about your members. The Startup Colorado team collects custom data in the sign-up process to discover more about its members. Then it suggests personalized starting points in the community based on their needs and interests!
A buddy program- matching new and existing members- is a great way to encourage connections and help newcomers get to grips with the community!
5. Carefully Consider Your Community's Structure and Design
One of the many advantages of private communities is that you control the content, the branding, and the experience.
Avoid overwhelming your members by starting your community with only your "must-have" features and specialized groups. Add more features and sub-groups as engagement builds. You could conduct pilot tests before launching a new feature or group to gauge how useful it would be to your members.
Top tip: Inform your community of upcoming features to create hype and apprehension before their launch!
See how communities are using Hivebrite to achieve their community goals!
"The platform and its features offer everything we need and more to engage our members and keep them coming back. Hivebrite's modular nature means we can activate additional features as community engagement grows and our strategy evolves."
Erica Isotta Surace, Co-Founder, D2 Collective
Make sure your community is easy to navigate and that members can easily discover what they're looking for! Calls to action should be clear. You should keep accessibility top of mind when designing your community so that members of all abilities can perceive, understand, interact with, and contribute equally to the community. This can cover various elements, from color contrasts, patterns, and symbols to label text input fields and keyboard navigation.
Replicating your organization's visual identity in your community is also a great way to reinforce brand identity!
Hivebrite is an all-in-one community management platform. We empower organizations of all sizes and sectors to launch, manage and grow fully branded private communities. Schedule a demo today!