You've got your community, great! But now what? How can you transform this space into a vibrant, awesome place where people actually want to go?
An active and vibrant community, unfortunately, doesn't happen overnight. It requires some work to really get the ball rolling.
As I'm sure you know, an active online community has a number of benefits, including providing customer self service support, acting as a hot spot for new ideas and encouraging brand loyalty.
Given the huge benefits your community can have on your brand, it's important to take the steps to ensure that your community is as active as possible. This will not only contribute to the above noted benefits, but it will also provide you with a ton of great statistics for your executives when they periodically approach you about the "value of your forum."
Here are 4 key tips on how to bring your community to the next level.
1. Include Categories/ Sub-Categories
This is one of the first things that you can do to really create a vibrant community where people actually want to go. Implementing functions of organization and compartmentalization work to compliment how human beings naturally work — we tend to sort the world that we live in so that it makes more sense to us. The same logic applies here to your community.
Let's take a look at an example. King does an excellent job at ensuring that their community forum not only includes categories, but it also provides a splash of the brand personality to illustrate these categories.
When you first enter the King Community, you can see that the forum is divided based on the game that you are looking to explore.
King has a number of different games and so the first step that they take in providing structure to their community is listing all of the games and having the users select the one that best suits the reason for their visit.
Once a game is selected, you'll be given an additional 4 categories to choose from, and each page is decorated with a beautiful and vibrant design suiting the game.
As you can see in the image below for the page on Papa Pear Saga, there are 4 categories of discussion:
- Superstar Corner
- Community Corner
The structure that King provides in its community is one that we could all take notes from as it provides excellent customer experience and makes the community easy to use and navigate. The use of categories and sub-categories in the King community no doubt played a role in their ability to double their engagement once they made the Vanilla Switch. Check out the King Case Study to learn more about the other things that King did to make their community vibrant and successful.
2. Have an Active Community Manager
If your community doesn't already have a designated Community Manager, it's time to get one. Community Management is extremely important because a successful and engaging community is one that is well-maintained and has active brand leadership.
A lot of organizations make the mistake of looking at community management as the same thing as social media management. It should be noted that a Social Media Manager is not the same thing as a Community Manager — make sure that you don't confuse the two and have a different person for each respective role.
As we discussed in our previous blog on the new role of community managers, community expert Sarah Judd Welch provides a great way to see the difference between these two roles. She argues, “the goals of a Social Media Manager are very different than that of a Community Manager. Community management is more focused on engaging people and building something with them, whereas social media is about managing the performance of content online. It might include engaging people as well, though it's often more analytically driven.”
Having a designated Community Manager means that you are able to maintain an active presence in your community, in addition to starting high-interest categories and discussions. As noted by Sarah, the job here is to generate meaningful discussions that your members care about in order to increase engagement.
3. Offer Rewards and Incentives
Everyone loves rewards, especially when you feel as though you've earned it. Offering rewards and incentives is one of the best ways to generate engagement since it provides a reason for participation. This is especially true when it comes to a support community — members are more likely to provide answers to support questions if they know that they'll be rewarded.
This strategy is called gamification.
Gamification, simply put, refers to the application of game mechanics into other things that are traditionally non-game related, with the broader goal of increasing user engagement. In other words, when applying gamification to your community forum, it means making participation in your community kind of like a game.
This is done through the implementation of a number of game mechanics, including:
Ability to earn points
Ability to earn badges
Having a Leaderboard
Ability to level up/ rank
Ability to earn rewards
Gamification is truly a great way to increase engagement in online communities, and I'd highly recommend looking into this option. If you're thinking about how Vanilla could help you achieve this goal, you might be happy to know that we offer gamification as a standard out-of-the box feature.
As one of our customers, Acer, puts it: "[We] were quite perturbed that we would spend X amount of dollars with our previous provider and not get premium gamification right out of the box. [We] found that at Vanilla, at a much more reasonable price, offers this as a standard feature."
4. Encourage Feedback on Ideas
People love sharing new ideas and thoughts, especially when they can get feedback from others. Sharing new ideas in the community is a great way to increase engagement and get the fans of your brand to feel like they're involved.
This is primarily done through community ideation.
Ideation is defined as the process involved in generating ideas, including gathering information on ideas and collecting thoughts about those ideas. Ideation is used to make improvements to existing products or services, in addition to generating new ideas and concepts for future developments.
Ideation works to increase customer and brand loyalty since it works to collect community feedback and also prompts members to give you advice on how to improve your products, services and overall customer experience. Implementing ideation is a great way to increase engagement and make your community a place where people gather to share ideas on a product they love.
If you follow these 4 tips, it's sure to give your community the boost it needs to become a vibrant and exciting place to be. Best of luck!