Want more engagement? Be more engaging.
We are frequently asked how to make the online experience more compelling, more engaging. Here are 20 proven techniques that will work. Not all are applicable to all types of Communities. You will get a sense for what will work and what won’t with your given audience. Pick two or three to start with and experiment. Then add a few more. Please leave us a comment below to tell us which ones you picked.
1. Be a Leader
- Cultivate pride and identity in each member so they see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. You set the tone for the Community.
- Step in and encourage users to interact with each other.
2. Make it easy to participate
- Use multiple entry points. (email, newsletters, intranet, posters)
- Make the Community a regular part of your normal communications.
3. Welcome and Encourage Newbies
- Ensure that new members are welcomed and feel acclimated to the new community. One to one contact from the Community Manager is a fantastic way of building good foundations. Thank your members for performing actions, suggest content they might like or point them towards new activities in order to build long-term engagement.
- Create a Welcome Wagon group that reaches out to new members, including a tutorial movie (Jing) on how to get the most out of their interactions.
- Make sure that the purpose of the Community is clearly articulated for every new member.
- Be very clear about how members can engage and encourage them to start posting and making connections early in the process.
- Post a tutorial on how a complete profile helps them get the most out of the Community.
- Have an Ambassador in charge of highlighting or interviewing new members weekly, then posting highlights in the Dashboard Digest.
4. Create a “water cooler” environment in new communities
- Make your online community a place where people can go to engage in light-hearted conversation with their peers in a non-threatening way. This is an important way for members to establish a comfort level with each other before broaching more sensitive topics. Idle chit chat is an important part of a community and it will take some creative influence to help executives understand that it is a crucial facet of the business case.
5. Interact with your Community
- Interacting lets members know that someone is listening. Make comments in Forums and frequent interactions with Group creators.
6. Post inspiring content
- You created the Community with a business objective in mind and have effectively communicated that purpose to the membership. Your choice in content posts should echo and support those objectives so that the Community reflects it’s purpose and has continuity with your brand identity.
- Set a goal to publish or upload at least 2 new pieces of content a week.
7. Ask questions that matter to the community
- Asking questions using actionable language is recognized as a good way of generating discussion. However, this only works if the questions you ask are relevant to your audience. Take the time to understand what your audience reacts to and then plan around this.
- Make the questions structured, i.e. Do you agree or disagree?
- Make sure you follow up and acknowledge them when they answer the question.
8. Identify and nurture your power users
- Getting together with them as equals and co-conspirators helps bring more volunteers into the fold, because you give them a vested interest in the success of the Community.
- Solicit the Top Posters to moderate a monthly ‘Great Debate’ on a specific topic that they are expert in. (Use Manage to find this information out.)
- Interview the Community Experts. (Use Advanced Search to find them.) Having them actively involved will build engagement and encourage other experts to ask to be interviewed when they see the recognition it gains.
9. Showcase and cross promote UGC (User generated content)
- Be clear on the purpose and desired response to posted content and conversations – it will help members know what is appropriate and feel comfortable contributing. Clarity of purpose will also help you track and measure results effectively.
- Remind people that they can subscribe to a Forum thread so they don’t have to check back in when new posts are made.
- One of the best ways to pull people into a conversation is to let them know that they have an audience. Encourage peers to respond to new content that is posted, particularly if a newer member of the community posts it. Responding as the community manager is OK but it is not as satisfying as a peer response and it can inadvertently halt the discussion because it is viewed as the opinion of an authority figure.
- Curating and showcasing community content energizes and motivates users and can help get new content contributors.
- Feature a Member a Month based on interesting content they’ve posted.
- Post Top Commenters/Posters in the Dashboard Digest or Company Newsletter or other regular communications.
10. Encourage posting of images showing the Organization in Action
- Create a Resource area for photos from around the Organization.
- Monitor most active and give rewards to groups that are most active.
11. Be timely about reviewing UGC
- Make sure you review and comment if needed on Forums and Resources.
12. Reward contributors
- Create a metric that combines posts, group membership, logins, aggregated time spent online into a score and give a monthly prize.
- Run a contest with a random drawing from all posters to a specific Discussion with a great prize. (something from Apple?) When tied to one of the content strategies above, this works at stimulating meaningful interaction.
13. Encourage Robust Profiles
- Regularly review the Most Aligned and Least Aligned reports. (Via Manage)
- Contact Least Aligned monthly to urge them to be more involved.
14. Contextualize the data from the backend reports section of the Community
- Take a look at the Word Selection reports and consider creating Groups or Forum posts that take advantage of this information.
- If you had a group of words: I Need Help With, and I Can Help With, you could easily find the experts who could provide help and solicit their support in a Discussion campaign.
- If you see that Movies are a top interest, create a Movie Lovers Group or a general discussion thread that anyone could contribute to (so they didn’t have to join the group to see what is going on).
- Instead of just reporting on statistics you find in Manage, try to draw conclusions that help your users.
- If you find that 18% of your users say they are Entrepreneurial, use that information to find a way to tap into that resource. See if you can harness that energy in Team Building or New Product Development. Be creative with the information you glean from the network.
15. Use the Marketplace for Promotion
- Create at least ten graphically rich house ads to announce events, special classes or programs. Change them out often to avoid staleness.
- Be aware of the branding and visual nature of these ads and make them engaging.
16. Get more out of Groups
- Create a ‘Getting Started with Groups’ post that highlights best practices.
- Create logical categories for Groups that support your business objectives.
- Talk with Group managers, be cordial and lay out guidelines.
- Regularly check to guard the quality of the Groups that are created. Help them when you see there’s only one person in the group, them.
17. Create an Ambassador Group that meets regularly
- Having a group of interested people who can provide ideas, help promote engagement, and do things like serve as a Guest Editor, and soliciting stories can be a valuable resource to the Community Manager.
18. Create RSS feeds in Online Resources that are applicable to your Community
- Be the first to publish information on industry and related topics.
- Example of an RSS Feed from a Cartographic Blog:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter feeds for Mark Sylvester:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter search results for Community Managers, where the tweets also included links to posted content:
- If you are good at building HTTP strings you can look at this resource to learn more about Twitter:
19. Use the Dashboard Digest weekly email feature strategically
- Pick a day and time that works best for it to be well received by your members.
- Feature Community updates, current conversations to pay attention too, Top Users, Interesting Stories, etc.
- Make sure that it’s easy to contact the Community Manager with ideas to improve the Community.
20. Create an area for Continuing Education and Ideas related to Community
- Use this as an avenue to improve the organizations’ use of the Community while maximizing their ability to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. Solicit stories, examples, links and ideas that help everyone.
- How to make great connections
- How to write compelling communications
- How to collaborate effectively
21. BONUS Solicit anecdotes about Connections or Collaborations
- Look for stories that are a direct result of use of the Community and highlight them on a regular basis in your Communications.
There are a lot of ideas here. We suggest that you pick a few and implement them and measure the impact. Set a schedule and do a little bit each day so you are not feeling overwhelmed with tasks related to managing the Community. Create a calendar of events at least three months out so you can easily measure your activities and see progress.
Note: Concepts assembled from direct experience with introNetworks’ clients over ten years, the Community Manager Roundtable, Leah Bettancourt (Mashable), Angela Conner (18 Rules of Community Engagement), Dan Harris (Fresh Networks), Ian Jukes (21st Century Fluency Project), Online Communities: what works and what doesn’t – Bart De Waele.