Are your posts random notices slapped on a community kiosk hoping someone will pay attention to them?
How do you make your content compelling, so your community will engage with it and by extension, with you? Here’s a simple way to think about how to frame online conversations and make them relevant.
Clever marketers use snappy headlines to grab the attention of our inbox. They have learned how to influence our behavior, even though most Community Managers are not trained in human psychology and clever marketing strategies.
Considering that we all suffer from partial attention span disorder, it’s interesting that when something catches our eye and keeps our interest, we will continue to pay attention even if there are other things demanding that same level of attention.
So the question we ask ourselves when looking at low audience participation tends to focus on the content; How applicable is it, How interesting is it, How relevant is it, even, How graphically compelling is it? These are areas to consider when sorting out what you are going to post or start discussions about.
Here’s another way to think about Discussion Forums. There are four types of posts, just like there are four types of meetings. They are:
- Decision Needed
- No Agenda
With these four types of posts there’s an easy formula to set the expectation of the reader regarding the What? the So What? and the Now What? of the posting. As a result, you will see a marked improvement in engagement.
1. Informational Posts
These could just as easily be done in an email. You are letting people know about News or a Job Posting, an upcoming Event or a Link to online information that is of interest to them. You are probably not seeing any ‘comments’ or ‘traffic’ with these posts, right? What did you expect? Why have a conversation here? You don’t see comments on a kiosk in the real world do you?
2. Brainstorming Posts
Write these so people know you are looking for ideas and will be facilitating a virtual brainstorming session and to encourage comments, share concepts, with people engaged in a collaborative environment. These are fun to moderate and be a part of and the Now What? becomes pretty clear. Your expectations of high engagement can be justified, and if you don’t see engagement, you can look back at how you positioned the premise or phrased the Now What? to them, so that they knew what you expected of them. You literally have to tell them, “Give us your ideas.” And they will. Make sure you circle back and thank everyone. Then, when you select an idea, give recognition to the person who surfaced that great idea.
3. Decision Needed Posts
These are actually pretty effective at driving engagement. You are setting an expectation that something is going to be decided and if people want to be a part of the decision, they will need to weigh in. There is a clear So What? to this type of post and a clear Now What? call to action. The trick here is to have the discipline to come back and use an Informational Post to let everyone know what decision was made. This closes the loop and makes sure participants will contribute the next time a decision is needed. Recognition is a powerful motivator.
4. No Agenda Posts
These types of post don’t really have purposeful information, they are not looking for ideas, and you aren’t going to make any definitive decisions after reading them. Yet you will need some type of discussion that’s free and easy and appeals to those who just want to chat.
How they all work together
An example of these posts in action might be that you use an Informational Post to announce a series of ‘Great Debates’ starting in a month. You follow that up with a Brainstorming Post to showcase some initial ideas your team came up with for topics in the debates, encouraging the community to add to the list. Then, when the brainstorming has concluded and a clear set of winning ideas is complete, you create a Decision Needed post to select the next six-months of Great Debate topics. You may limit the audience for each post.
This gives everyone the context of what is coming up, what will be discussed, and gives everyone a chance to chime in and be heard. When the Great Debates are launched, the chances of ideas getting traction and engagement have been improved tremendously.
Creating compelling conversations that help your community feel more connected is pretty simple. It starts with setting expectations, then being consistent over time so participants learn how their voice will be heard and how they can make a difference in the community.
As always, we love to hear from you – click the Contact Us button if you’d like to have compelling conversations about how you are connecting to your community.