"How can I improve engagement in my community?" is one of the most common questions we get asked at Hivebrite.
It's a tricky question on a general level because engagement can mean different things to different communities.
That being said, there are some best practices to enhance engagement that can work for most types of community.
Make It Super Easy to Participate
Create multiple entry points into your community, such as your organization's website, email, newsletter, and posters. This way, members can easily log in, see what's going on and get involved.
Carefully consider the design and user experience of your community. Members need to quickly understand how they can participate. Clear and easy-to-understand calls to action are essential. "Add a comment", "Upload photos", "Share this post", "Post your article", you need to make it clear to members what they can do and how they can do it!
At Hivebrite, we recommend our clients create a welcome page for their community. This page outlines the community's vision and how members can participate to get the most value out of the community. Hivebrite client Harvard Business School has a great welcome page that states the community's mission and community benefits. This type of page is excellent for newcomers and serves as a handy reminder for older users!
You also need to remind members to return to your community and contribute. Ask your members what kind of notifications they want to receive. Do they want to be alerted as soon as tickets for your latest event go on sale? Would they like to be notified as soon as a job in their area of expertise is posted? Perhaps they want to receive a notification each time there is a new blog article.
Keeping members updated on the content that matters most to them will encourage logging into the community and engaging.
You can notify your community via email and newsletter. Mobile app push notifications can also be powerful.
Give Newcomers the Friendliest of Welcomes
We all know the feeling of being new to a group. For some, it can be an intimidating experience.
This is where the community manager comes in!
You need to acknowledge and welcome newbies. Provide a well thought out community onboarding process to explain how the community works and what members can do!
New members especially may be reluctant to contribute for fear of looking bad. Consider creating a space in your community for newcomers where they can ask beginner questions. You could even enable members to participate anonymously!
Sometimes it's tricky to get old and new members to interact. If this is your case, ask your community champions to reach out to newcomers to introduce themselves and encourage their participation.
Identify and Nurture Your Community Champions
Who is posting or replying to discussions? Who gets recognition from other members for their willingness to engage? Who demonstrates moderation and leadership skills? These members are your community champions.
You need to recognize and reach out to your community champions. This group can give you invaluable feedback on your community from a member perspective. And, of course, you need to keep them motivated to continue their great work.
Beyond rewarding your community champions (more on that below), you could also ask them to lead a specialized group within the community. Leverage the full benefits of these super users to cultivate a culture within your community environment!
At Hivebrite, we have developed an engagement scoring system to make identifying community champions almost effortless. Community managers can define the most meaningful member actions (commenting an article, attending an event, replying to a question, posting a photo, …) and attribute points for each step. Each members' score is automatically calculated based on their activity in the community.
Rewarding members for their contributions is not just about motivating them to continue to contribute. It also shows that they are recognized for having a vital role within the community, which may indirectly increase their participation in the long term.
Badges and swag are great rewards, but you should also consider providing business-orientated rewards for your top contributors. For example, invite them to beta test products, give them early access to top content, offer discount event prices and access to executives.
Get Involved in the Conversation
If a member asks a question, reply to them promptly. Boost the quality of your responses by soliciting the most expert person in your team to respond to them.
Let your community know that you are listening and there for them. You could even ask members to share an answer if it solved their query.
Create a Safe and Understanding Environment
Consider creating an off-topic area and initiate lighthearted conversations. This will help make your community fun and personable.
In addition to being entertaining, your community must also be safe. For relationships to be made, members need to be open and share. But members will not share if they think they will be judged or ridiculed. Members need to feel that they are understood. A values and mission statement will help with this.
A values and mission statement focuses members on their common purpose and the overall goal of the community. They remind everyone of what is important to your community. You could even involve your members in the creation process. Developing these statements collectively generates more motivation as members will believe in something more strongly if they had a hand in creating it.
Take a Test and Learn Approach
Getting people to interact with each other and content in an online community isn't straightforward. Engagement doesn't happen automatically. You need to look at it as an experiment, use a test and learn approach, and adapt based on what you learn.
As your community grows, so should your strategy. You need to regularly survey your members to ensure that the benefits your community brings are consistent with your members' needs.
Hivebrite is an all-in-one community management platform. It empowers organizations of all sizes and sectors to launch, manage and grow fully branded private communities.
Want to discuss your community challenges and how Hivebrite can help? Let's schedule a demo!