Crafting Clear Community Invitations
In any community, there is a small group of core members whose contributions deliver outsized value in comparison to those of other members. This isn’t something to frown about; in fact, it’s indicative of a normal and healthy community.
Because these core members are so vital, it’s important that you never take them or their contributions for granted. Ignoring them is a recipe for community churn. Instead, it’s critical to continuously invite these core members into deeper engagement with your community. This often takes the shape of a VIP Program, advocate status, or invitation to a Community Advisory Board—but the possibilities are infinite.
My friend and colleague Charles Vogl refers to recognizing your core and inviting members into deeper engagement as inviting them into “inner rings”. Members are intentionally ushered into these inner rings, which helps to recognize them as important contributors to the community.
To intentionally invite core members into these inner rings, you’ll want to consider the criteria, selection process, and invitation copy. Inviting members into the core will require clarity at each of these critical decision points. Here’s how to achieve the clarity you’ll need:
Clarity of Criteria
Who exactly do you consider to be your core members? It must be clear to members who is selected and why they are selected. Without this clarity, choosing whom to invite into a higher tier of engagement can look like favoritism or nepotism, which in turn discourages others from participating or causes them stress as they try to fit some unclear criteria for membership. That doesn’t create a special air of exclusivity; it creates chaotic, high-school-like community dynamics.
Instead of leaving criteria open-ended or private, create clear standards for who will be invited into premium membership with the community. Perhaps the criteria are:
- At least 2 years of active membership
- At least 50 post responses of high quality in the last year (as measured by peer-reviewed quality scores)
- Established thought leadership through article writing
Whatever you choose, document it, and then make it accessible to those on the outside and inside. This keeps you accountable for upholding your own criteria and will bring ease to the rest of the community.
Clarity of the Selection Process
Next, it must be clear how members are selected to be invited into these inner rings. Make the selection process transparent and clear to those who are on the outside. Let folks know how they can get selected to be part of this group. The most common processes are application-based, done by handpicking (though be careful: this easily introduces bias), or triggered by a certain level of participation.
Also, be sure to clearly signpost and communicate information around admission deadlines or if participants are accepted via rolling admission.
Clarity of Your Invitations
Your invitation is the very start of this core member experience and is therefore the first impression these important members will have of your leadership. Your invitation should come from someone specific (not an automated [email protected] email), ideally from someone who the community member already knows and respects.
The invitation itself should be warm and welcoming, but should also set clear expectations for what they are being invited into. Be sure your member invitations include:
- What they are being invited to
- What’s in it for them
- What you are asking of them
- What success will look like for them
- How long the program will continue (if it is time-bound)
It’s best at this invitation stage that you invite them in and ask for their consent to add them to the group. Do not “voluntell” them that they are now part of something new! This robs them of choice, which means the program is likely to be filled with members who don’t really want to be there. Instead, let them tell you that they enthusiastically want to be part of the program and then follow up with details about how to join.
Once members are clear that they are being invited into something special, something exclusive, that’s when the magic can start happening.
Learn more about identifying your community’s most dedicated members and building a super user program with our free eBook here.