Keeping community members engaged can be one of the hardest tasks to accomplish, especially when you are just starting out. In the beginning, you will have to do a lot of the content creation to encourage dialogue between community members. However, creating content is just the start. There is a lot more than you can (and should) do to effectively engage your community.
Strategies for Increasing Online Community Engagement
When running an online community, patience is of utmost importance. It is crucial that you take the time to nurture your community. Even if there are 10 members in your community, they should be encouraged to participate in conversations and discussions online. You need to implement your content and nurturing strategy from the very beginning in order to build a scalable, engaged community. Here are some tools and strategies that can help you achieve that.
1. The Right Community Managers
Your community manager is responsible for interacting with members, coming up with a content strategy, and being the problem-solver for users. For that reason, a community manager should be someone who identifies closely with the purpose of the community. For example, if you are running a community of restaurant owners, pick someone who is passionate about the problems ailing the restaurant business. Community managers should be people-oriented and proactive. They are much more than moderators.
They should also be keyed-in to what is going on in the outside world. Other than acting as inspiration for fresh content, interactions in the real world can also be useful for gaining a fresh perspective on how a community should be run.
2. Smooth Onboarding
Help new members feel a part of the community as soon as they join. Draft a welcome message that thanks them for joining the community. Include a list of FAQs that brings them up to speed with the rules of the community. Keep the language warm, inviting, and personal. Here, observing how existing members communicate within the group will be a plus. Incorporate words that are commonly used by your target demographic and don’t be shy to use emojis, if they fit.
You could even give them ideas on what their first post should be to encourage engagement. Be careful not to sound patronizing, though.
Encourage engagement by gamifying your community board. Award points to members for participation viz. new posts, responding to existing threads, logging in, and even moderation and reporting of offensive content. At the end of each month, reward the most active users with something tangible. Think outside the box here. While gamification can push engagement, if your reward is really enticing, engagement can quickly skyrocket.
4. Personalized Notifications
You must send notifications about new content in the community via email and in-app push notifications. However, personalizing these notifications is a better strategy. If your community is big enough to be segmented, separate them into active users, not-so-active users, and inactive users. Draft different messages for the three segments. Change the language and even the content suggestions, if possible. Here, A/B testing your messaging and content suggestions can help you improve your engagement rates.
5. Data Analysis and Content Creation
Once your community starts to pick a little, analyze what people are talking about. Create content centered around what people are looking for. A good community manager should be able to give you insights into what people are looking for. Scourge related communities and see what kind of content is resonating there.
In addition to creating written content, incorporate a lot of visual content in your community. Pictures and videos are a lot easier to digest and can encourage engagement within your community.
Other than all of that, moderation is important. Maintain a strict policy against offensive content and content that feels like spam. It is important that members feel safe to voice their opinions without feeling threatened.