Five Tips to Engage Members in Your Online Community
Creating a private online community can have a profound impact on an association and its members. It provides associations with the unique opportunity to establish a private social hub that caters specifically to members and at the same time foster engagement between members with similar mindsets and values. In addition, the online community can also be used to provide mentorship for members as they can learn from each other, brainstorm ideas and grow together.
But establishing an online community is one thing – creating an online community that can thrive, grow continuously and keep existing and new members engaged is a whole different story. Here are five tips that can be implemented to engage members in your online community.
1. Have the Right Technical Support for Your Members
The best marketing for your online community is a great experience for your members. When thinking about technical support for your online community, it is important to consider factors beyond the technical expertise of your support individual or team. The ideal candidate to provide technical support is one who takes the role seriously and thoroughly enjoys what they do. Additionally, they must be an effective communicator who is able to help members feel comfortable and at ease in all aspects of the online platform.
The ideal situation is to show empathy to individuals who may have technical issues or questions. Part of engaging with members is allowing them to feel like their opinions and questions are always accounted for. Remember, most members will recognize when their inquiries are met with generic cut-and-paste responses. Treat each member as unique and this will create respect and a feeling of inclusion.
2. Create and Publish Content Your Members Want
The main reason why billion dollar corporations like Wal-Mart and Apple have sustained long-term success is their ability to read the marketplace and ensure they are always selling products and services that meet the needs of their consumers. Establishing a successful online community is no different. As an association, you must be fully cognizant of your association’s goals and why members would want to join the online community. As such, you should also have a strong idea of the type of content that is beneficial to members.
As much as possible you should solicit feedback from members on the types of content they would like to see on the platform. This means that your association must constantly listen to members in order to understand what they are looking for and the topics that are of interest to them. When members are asking questions on specific topics and issues, develop content that deals with those questions. Additionally, review their feedback to see if they are satisfied with the content or if they are asking for clarifications. It is important that the content you publish always has an educational value they will remember, rather than providing fluff material that they will forget soon after logging off.
3. Build a Community Culture
When establishing an online community, you in turn are establishing a relationship with each member. By connecting and communicating with each other online, there are ample opportunities for members to build strong connections. To allow the best chance for the community to have long-term success, you need to understand what makes each member tick. A useful method for building the culture of your community is to consistently analyze how the members interact with each other. Also, providing adequate opportunities for members to interact online through special interest groups for example will help to foster the community spirit. Lastly, get to know members, they will appreciate that you understand them and this keeps the community unified.
4. Solicit Input from Members Who Join Your Community
When a new member joins your online community, you should welcome them. Aside from offering warm greetings, introduce them to what the general environment of your community is like by communicating with them one-on-one (whether by phone, email or direct messaging) and providing material that offers guidance that will help them acclimate quickly and feel even more at home.
It is worth noting that while new members are likely joining your community because they share a similar belief or mindset as existing members, they bring new ideas or interests to the table. As you welcome them to the community, engage new members by asking what changes or additions they believe would improve their online experience. This helps them feel like more than just a number. As the community grows, members will feel like valuable contributors who are empowered to work with the association and other members to take the community to greater heights.
5. Monitor Engagement with the Community and Adjust Strategies if Needed
As the online community continues to expand, it is critical to constantly assess how your members are doing. When the online community was launched, you may have developed a well-designed plan on the personnel you needed, your target audience, how you would connect with the members, what categories of content you would provide, and so on. But is everything going according to plan?
This is where your members are extremely valuable. Monitoring the community involvement regularly will inform you if the members are as engaged as they once were, or if stagnation has set in. If you are seeing a decline in member interaction and in the rate of growth, do not hesitate to turn to plan B. This could be as simple as promoting a trial run to introduce new features into the platform and asking your members for feedback, then making the necessary modifications based on their responses. As previously mentioned you should constantly seek feedback from members. So encourage members to offer suggestions on how to re-invigorate the community with new ways to interact and share innovative solutions. This is an effective way for you and the members to take ownership for elevating your online community for the long term.