As a Community Manager, one of the more challenging tasks is to create engagement within a new community. Of course, in a new community, you should have already planned for the new launch through a private beta and a soft launch with key members.
However, if you’re noticing a drop in engagement levels, below are four more of our favorite ways to drive engagement to your online forums and communities. Any one of these techniques is a powerful addition to your arsenal. But for maximum impact, consider employing each one at different points throughout the year. People love variety, and this certainly holds true online.
1. Partner with a Podcaster
One way to create some engagement your forum and also some awareness through cross-marketing is to partner with a podcaster in your niche. Host a competition on your forum related to membership activities, and as a prize, offer a short guest appearance on a podcast episode you’re doing with a podcaster in your niche.
This idea will fuel a huge amount of engagement on your forum. Podcasts are a truly popular form of media right now, some attracting audiences in the thousands or even tens of thousands. If you choose a niche podcaster that your members genuinely take interest in, they’ll be keen to appear on air with them.
There are a few moving parts to this idea, of course: you must secure a guest interview on a niche podcast, for starters. You have to get a sub-spot for your member to appear, as well. If you can put in the work to pull this off, you earn increased engagement from your members, networking opportunities for yourself and increased referral odds..
2. Ask Your Members for Feedback (and Offer Prizes)
Another great tactic is to ask your members for feedback on possible improvements and give prizes for the top 3 suggestions. This multifaceted idea accomplishes a number of goals simultaneously.
First of all, you get a flurry of great ideas straight from your members about how to improve your forum and their experience. Member engagement is always fantastic, but member engagement that results in a flood of high-impact ideas? That’s truly ideal.
Another benefit is that you allow your members the chance to capitalize on their particular strengths. There are so many ways to offer productive feedback that virtually every member will have an idea to contribute. This allows your members to express themselves and feel valued for their individual contributions.
You, as the forum owner, end up with a whole slew of actionable ideas related to your site. Who’s to say you can only act on the top 3 that you award prizes to? It’s not as though the remaining others (potentially hundreds or thousands) will magically disappear. Keep them around for inspiration at a later date.
3. Have a “Most Interesting Submissions” Contest
There’s no better way to encourage participation than through hosting a “most interesting submissions” contest. Your members will be required to submit anything interesting in your niche/industry. The user who’s voted the most interesting content will win.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you won’t end up with quality contributions, you most likely will. Your members will quickly get past the initial hubbub and return to their usual quality comments, while still being mindful to keep up the pace.
A forum is a self-cleansing system when it comes to content. Poor or shallow thread topics die out quickly because they don’t attract much attention. Alternatively, if a thread has grown dull, members might spice it back up by changing the topic. Either way, your forum has behaved as a self-balancing system for your benefit.
So even though this might seem like a last ditch effort in favor of pure quantity, you have a natural filtration system working in your favor.
If you want an engaged community on all levels, you must actively start creating “campaigns” in your forum, at least to some degree. For the best possible results, stack these ideas on top of those from our previous article on gamifying forums and alternate them throughout the year.