Published by Kerry on 31 Aug 2009 at 11:42 am
Without engagement you don’t have a community. But just how do you get people involved? We’ve made a list based on insights from our favorite community managers on how to keep your members coming back for more.
- Listen, Listen, Listen You’ve probably heard this over and over again but it’s worth repeating. Engaging your community is like any conversation – two-way. The more you understand where your prospective audience is coming from and what they need to get their jobs done, the better you can convince them that your community is the place to do it. So develop a listening strategy. But don’t just listen on your own site, go where your target audience lives online. Beth Kanter has a nice presentation where you can learn the basics. Kivi Miller has practical advice on what to do with what you hear.
- Make your content ‘bite-sized’ Once you have a compelling message and lots of great content ideas, how do you ensure that your members use and spread that content? The answer that Gayle Thornsen offers is to take things like dry PDF reports and break them down and repurpose them into smaller, more digestible pieces. A photo, a video, a webinar, a slideshow are all ways to make your content viral and help it go the extra mile.
- Provoke conversations Ask questions, don’t just make statements. Rich Millington, online community builder for the United Nations Refugee Agency, has a great post on ‘7 Kinds Of Conversations That Always Stimulate Activity‘.
- Signpost the way Martin Reed over at Community Spark says to “provide [members] with more direction and purpose. Suggest things for them to do, and open up new areas of the community based on their activity level and length of membership.” At WiserEarth we use the concept of an engagement pyramid and are starting to redesign the site to guide visitors and new members into specific activities and pages.
- Ensure good commenting Only a few community members start conversations or generate original content, but a much larger number is happy to give their opinion as a comment. Set an example by your own comments and learn to Comment like a King or Queen. Make sure to gracefully moderate those people that are not following your community guidelines.
- Reward your active members We’re social animals and all respond to a little recognition. Rich Millington, online community builder for the United Nations Refugee Agency has a great list of ’10 Excellent Rewards That Don’t Cost A Penny’. Interview them, thank them, give them special privileges. As Rich says, “The best rewards are invaluable to the recipient and worthless to others.”
- Don’t become the bottleneck While it’s important at the start of any community to actively introduce people you think should know each other, you don’t want to be the sole matchmaker for long. So make it easy for people to bring their existing social network onto your community. For example, you can build Facebook Connect into your site using services like JainRAN. This will speed the growth of your site and increase the number of social relationships. Then make sure that you offer tools for people to easily get in touch with one another (such as emails, chat) and provide opportunities for them to bump into each other (such as forums, groups, events etc) that are structured around specific interests.
- Simplify, Simplify, Simplify Feature creep and information overload are the bane of good community sites. If you haven’t done a pruning exercise before, decide what kind of behavior you want to encourage and then prune the functionality and key messages to leave only the core. Paul Boag has a nice post on the lure of complexity and the practicality of simplifying. Let’s face it – when we’re using the web, we all have short attention spans.
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