Community Engagement

65+ techniques to create an engaging online community
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What is community engagement?

Community engagement, in a nutshell, is all about crafting a coherent set of processes to nurture the members and investing in member development. An engaged community drives stronger relationships and member retention which directly impacts loyalty and lifetime value.

While the members of a community share a common passion, each community is unique because of the distinctive experiences, aspirations, goals, and the expected value. This means the community engagement strategy would be tailored based on the community and there is no all-encompassing strategy.

That said this exhaustive guide for community engagement will inspire you and help you mold your strategy by selecting what could work for your community.

Let’s dive in now!

Understand

Engaging with the community starts with a deep understanding of the members because it is always about the members, not your business. The business benefit that you gain from community engagement is the by-product of the value you deliver to the members. Read on to explore how you can better understand the dynamic of the community and lay a strong foundation for engagement.

  • Discuss with a selected number of members and interview them to learn about their challenges and the direction they want the community to take.

  • Extract the common elements from the interviews and craft a survey (e.g., polls) to validate the ideas on the broader set of members.

  • Establish a process to continuously connect with members at different community lifecycle stages to understand the needs. For example, someone who is a lurker would have a different need in comparison to someone who is a prolific contributor.

  • Consider expanding the coverage of your community into a wider range of topics as your community evolves with time and grows. For instance, a community dedicated to marketing practices can also introduce a section for lifehacks. But, this decision needs to be taken only after deeply studying member behavior.

Build trust

Listen to the customer and understanding their needs is crucial; however, you must showcase that you are going to act on the feedback. This is the stepping stone for cultivating trust and closing the feedback loop.

  • Act on the feedback, take steps to incorporate the changes, and communicate the same.

  • Showcase how you take care of data privacy and regulations by implementing various compliance tools (e.g., Cookie Consent and features to comply with GDPR).

  • If you are processing payments, emphasize the security guidelines (e.g., encryption level) you are following and showcase the official badges or logo of your payment processor (e.g., Stripe).

  • Ensure that members are empowered to have their say in the direction of the community and show that their voice is always heard.

Onboard

When a guest arrives at your home, you don’t simply open the door -- you greet them and show them around. Also, you ensure they are comfortable and offer your help if they need anything. This applies to your communities as well.

  • Send a welcome email to greet the members and showcase important information.

  • Create a guided tour to introduce the key functionalities, features, and guidelines to the members.

  • Leverage the insight generated by interviewing and surveying the member to craft a message that would appeal to the new members. Use a banner to prominently display the message.

  • Create prompts or a clear path for the new members to introduce themselves and post their first content. For example, an introduction thread or a group for new members to post content.

  • Keep a solid mechanism to encourage the members to complete their profile and add additional services that help you with engagement (e.g., connecting Telegram channel).

  • Create a video explaining your community, what the members would gain from the community, how to conduct and contribute to the community. You can add testimonial in the video to reinforce the value and leverage social proof.

  • Set up automated email sequences to introduce key elements of your community in small chunks.

  • You can also create a buddy program in which a new member can get guidance from the experienced members.

Enable open expression

Creating a safe and encouraging space for the members to express themselves is paramount since the user-generated content is what would drive your community.

  • Create channels (e.g., “speak your mind, “show and tell”) in the community to enable the members to share what matters to them, their experiences, post feedback on the community as well as your offerings.

  • Create a space for the members to showcase their best tips based on the domain in which you are operating. For example, if a Community of Practice operates in the customer success space, a dedicated space could be created to share the best tips on churn management.

  • Encourage users to ask good quality questions and emphasize that asking questions can be as effective as posting questions. This can help when you have members who are not confident that their expertise can deliver the right answers.

  • Integrate the community into your website and product so it is frictionless for the user of your product to participate in discussions (without separately opening up the community website).

Notify

Notifications are pivotal when it comes to getting your members back to the community to improve retention and participation.

  • Reach your community members via notifications on messaging apps and allow them to interact with the community right inside the messaging app.

  • Deliver email digests based on the members’ preferences and activities to bring them back to the community so they interact with content that interests them.

  • Send instant email notifications whenever the members are interacting with the content. For example, if a member has posted a question and another member answered the same, then an email notification would be sent that someone posted a response or commented.

  • Send in-community notifications to the members for answers, questions, comments, mentions, and more.

  • Send browser-based notifications and leverage cloud messaging solutions like Firebase to reach members on mobile devices.

Apply gamification

Gamification techniques are widely used via businesses to improve engagement and this works especially well in online communities to promote healthy competitions.

  • Set up automated gamification techniques for common activities, like awarding badges when the member creates five posts, replies, or gives upvotes on another member’s post.

  • Boost the ego and social status of the members by providing special privileges. For example, the most helpful and active member could be promoted to become a moderator.

  • Involve your internal team to give special personalized treatment and publicly acknowledge the good contributions of a member. Start off by thanking the member in the community.

  • Apply special badges when your superusers and advocates create detailed content to help peers. This type of content also helps in deflecting support tickets, so they are highly valuable.

  • Bring in the colleagues into the community since they might have a certain expertise that the community management team might not have. Reward them for participating as well!

  • Every time a member of community likes, comments, shares, or posts, they should be awarded a number of points according to each action. Based on this, you can create a leaderboard system.

  • Set up an MVP (Most Valuable Person) program to recruit the most active and empathetic members to help with community management, advocacy, and promotion. Check out the Spotify Rock Star program for more inspiration.

  • Create exclusive groups and add members to those groups when they hit certain milestones in terms of the contribution. For example, a group for the members who got 1000 upvotes for a single post.

  • Consider adding rules for staying in a group -- those rules could be configured to remove members when they become inactive in those groups.

  • Literally play games with your members. For example, if you made subtle changes to the product or community UI, then ask the members to spot the difference between new and older screenshot.

  • Offer swags to the members based on an acquisition milestone. For instance, you could send goodies to every 1,000th member.

  • Give points to the community members when they share your community content on other third-party sites and popular social networks.

Run competitions

Competitions are yet another type of technique to promote community activities and incentivize the members to take certain actions. However, this should not the primary driver of community engagement.

  • Post a challenge and reward the members who solve the challenge most effectively. For example, the challenge could be around creating something using your product. If you can reward with virtual currencies that can be redeemed to purchase your services, it’d have added advantage.

  • Leverage Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) by posting short-lived offers and prompt the members to take action. For example, if you are running a sale on your e-commerce store, you can post an exclusive offer for your members and in return ask them to spread the word.

  • Consider running a “caption this” contest to encourage your members to comment on the images and GIFs and improve brand engagement.

  • Set a scavenger hunt by hiding clues in your posts and offer a reward to the members who are able to find the right answers.

  • Run a customization content and encourage users to showcase how they are customizing your solution. It can apply to anything from sneakers to software products.

  • Create a trivia contest by posting questions around your product, company, or domain in which your business operates. That way you are educating as well as improving the community engagement.

  • Another way to run a contest is to encourage members to fill in the blank. You can post a statement - “My favorite part of working with <product name> is _____” and ask members to post the complete sentence based on their experience. This can be a way to gather feedback as well.

  • Run a contest by asking members to associate your brand with celebrities. A great way to assess the members’ perception of your brand personality.

Moderate sensibly

Moderation is critical to ensure that your community remains safe from spammers. Also, it helps you control and eradicate members who would potentially harm the engagement in your community by demotivating other members.

  • Ensure that you have a solid community guideline and members are aware of the code of conduct. You can include the link to the guidelines during the onboarding process.

  • Never put a blanket ban of the type of content -- the last thing you want for your members is to be apprehensive of posting content out of fear.

  • Promptly take care of the reported content and use the judgment to take action. For example, a content border on self-promotion might be actually a vital content for the community.

Educate

A customer who clearly understands the solutions you offer and exactly how to leverage everything at their disposal is the one you can consider fully empowered. With empowerment comes confidence and the belief that they can recommend the product to others. Given below are some of the ways to educate the members.

  • Create webinars to showcase how your offerings add value and share the same in your community to propagate the message.

  • Create resources based on problems that your members are facing and share in your community.

  • Invite industry leaders to your community and conduct AMAs to help the members learn best practices.

  • Create a section in your community to allow members to share their experiences and learnings so the peers can also get the benefit.

  • Send monthly or bi-weekly newsletters with the best content curated from the community.

  • Ensure that the most popular and high-quality posts in the community are clearly displayed and easily accessible. This prompts the members to actively participate and contribute. For example, you can create a section called “Editor’s pick”.

  • Use your superfans to share video testimonials about how they use your products and how your product makes their lives easier.

  • Empower the members to request answers to other members with the right expertise. In fact, if the community platform can automatically detect the expertise of the member and suggest the right members to get answers from, the community engagement can get increase automatically.

Have fun and celebrate

It is important to enjoy and celebrate in your community as moments of success need to be shared and cherished in the community to inspire the members.

  • Showcase how the existing members are achieving different milestones and successfully implementing your solutions. Celebrate the small bits of success with the entire community.

  • Create content that would most likely drive engagement based on the data that you gather from the way different posts perform in the community. For example, content from certain topics and themes might generate better engagement in comparison to others.

  • Look into the content formats like videos that are more engaging than traditional formats such as text and images.

  • Create live streams on specified days or special occasions to involve the community members with your brand. For example, if you are celebrating Halloween, do a live stream to keep the members engaged with your internal event.

  • You can also schedule a time to hang out with the members in a virtual set up via Zoom call. Consider this as a digital event with all the things that an in-person event would have.

Create valuable networks

Networks are the lifeblood of your community -- the more intricate, widespread, and valuable connections you form in the community, the better the engagement. It also highly impacts the longevity of the community.

  • Enable members to follow or connect with each other so they get notified whenever there is an update.

  • Create sub-communities or niche interest-groups inside the community to bring like-minded people closer and enable yet another channel for member discovery. A popular way to approach this is to create groups for members from different locations.

  • Ensure your internal team is not always jumping first into the discussion or responding to criticism. If you hold back and let a community answer and solve the issue via peer-to-peer value delivery, it’d have a much powerful impact on networking.

  • Create “Happy Hour” hangouts via virtual meetups by randomly grouping different members and enable networking.

Foster culture

Creating and establishing community culture is highly valuable since that will set the tone as well as the way members interact with each other. And new members will adopt this culture to assimilate well.

  • Consider assigning a name to the members of your community. For example, avid users of popular social Twitter, are called “twitterati”. This type of symbol and internally used terms can uniquely bind the members.

  • Create a “Cheers for peers” space for the members to nominate a peer who has been the most helpful to them or to the community overall.

  • Set an internal culture to ensure that every question receives an acknowledgment or a form of response within 24 to 48 hours.

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