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Research tells us that a majority of organizations are stumped when it comes to engagement, with 57% reporting it to be their top challenge. While we know that statistically, having a branded online community can lessen this burden by up to 49%, engagement still remains the top issue for organizations across the board.

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9 min

Sarah Robinson-Yu
Sarah Robinson-Yu

How To Increase Engagement in Your Online Community

7 minute read

May 5, 2020

Research tells us that a majority of organizations are stumped when it comes to engagement, with 57% reporting it to be their top challenge. While we know that statistically, having a branded online community can lessen this burden by up to 49%, engagement still remains the top issue for organizations across the board.

When it comes to engagement within online communities themselves, organizations report that their engagement challenges are due primarily to the inability to retain members. Oftentimes, communities are unsuccessful at getting members to return to the community once their initial purpose for the visit has been fulfilled and their task complete. The statistics on member contribution illustrate the challenges that organizations face when it comes to community adoption and engagement:

  • 43% of people who make a contribution will never make a contribution again.

  • 35% of people who make at least a second contribution will be gone within 30 days.

  • Only 16% of people are still making active contributions after 90 days.

This leads us to the million dollar question: how do you encourage community adoption and increase member engagement?

This blog will provide you with an overview of our recent eBook, Driving Adoption and Increasing Engagement in Your Online Community, to show you how to increase engagement in your online community.

Driving Engagement and Increasing Adoption

The reason engagement is such a challenge is because it's not solved by doing just one thing—heck, it's not even solved by doing two or three things. Member engagement is a complicated thing that requires a ton of moving parts and a comprehensive strategy that spans every inch of your community. Think of all these moving parts as pieces of the engagement pie;  a single slice on its own is simply not enough, and all are required to make it whole and complete.

But just like any successful strategy, you need to have a solid base; a foundation that you can build on that supports your efforts and helps you reach your goals. This foundation is composed of three key factors that are crucial for your community adoption and engagement efforts to see success. Ultimately, for your community to see success, your organization needs to have these three factors established: 

  1. An organization with community buy-in

  2. A present or established community manager

  3. Customers or members who have registered

Once you have the foundation for a successful community, you can begin to focus on how you can actually achieve or increase community adoption and engagement.

Generally speaking, there are many different ways to achieve this end however they tend to fall into 1 of 6 categories:

  1. Effective UX and UI Design

  2. Understanding Segment Desires

  3. Leaders that Forward Community Goals

  4. Engaging Community Content

  5. Strategic Community Gamification

  6. Strong Member Onboarding 

Community engagement is so much more than being unique or dynamic. It's about having the right foundations for success, knowing what strategies will be well received for your community and then refining these strategies for maximum effect. 

Let's take a closer look at what these categories entail. 

1. Effective UX and UI Design

UI and UX are incredibly important when it comes to getting your members to actually use your community and keep coming back—in other words, UI and UX play a central role in influencing your engagement levels.

The first thing that a user will be introduced to when entering your community will be your UI efforts. They’ll take a quick glance at what your community visually looks like and immediately make a judgement about your brand; this shapes how they perceive your brand and whether or not your community will be able to help them fulfill the purpose of their visit. Statistically speaking, it actually only takes your members about 50 milliseconds to make up their mind about your web page, so you better make sure that your UI is on point.

After that, if they've deemed your community visually acceptable, they’ll begin the navigation process, looking for how they can best fulfill their task—this is where the UX comes in. If your community design is clunky, has outdated content, is difficult to navigate and overall, makes it hard to find what your members are looking for… well, let’s just say that nobody will be returning any time soon.

2. Understanding Segment Desires

Any successful engagement strategy is informed; that is, it’s not just slapped together and put out there. The key to increasing adoption and engagement is actually knowing your community. You need to know the segments, personas and personality types in your community in order to understand what drives them. Knowing what drives your community members is how you’ll be able to make informed decisions when crafting your engagement plan.

3. Leaders that Forward Community Goals

It's difficult to run a community without any help, let alone working towards getting members to engage. That's why every active community has leaders; those who've been identified as being very active and who care a lot about the brand/ community. These people are crucial to the success of any community, and are usually recognized by being given a special status that allows for additional privileges. 

In your quest to drive adoption and engagement, you absolutely need to identify and recognize the leaders in your community. That being said, there are two types of community leaders that you should be aware of: moderators and super fans. In case you don't know what these terms mean, here's a quick rundown:

  • Moderators work to facilitate community knowledge sharing and assist with delivering members with the best value for their participation.

  • Super Fans, also known as Super Users, are hyper-engaged members of the community who participate at an extremely high level for their own pleasure or purpose.

All successful and engaged communities have leaders—just make sure you choose the right people for the job.

4. Engaging Community Content

Content plays a huge role in any community, especially when it comes to fostering engagement. One of the main reasons why people go to a community is to engage with content, so how it reads, how it's laid out and how well it addresses the members intent for reading are very important.

One of the best ways to foster engaging content is to make sure that your content is the one that’s found when someone’s looking to engage with that particular type of content. It’s kind of like being at the right place (at the top of the Google search) and the right time (when people are searching for that type of content). So for example, if someone is looking for content regarding the best gaming conventions of the year, and you have a gaming community, creating this article with SEO best practices will help generate more traffic to your community as searchers look to consume this content—they'll be brought straight to your community where the content is hosted. This is all done by making your community and your content as SEO compliant as possible.

5. Strategic Community Gamification

Gamification refers to the application of game mechanics into other things that are traditionally non-game related, with the broader goal of increasing user engagement.

Gamification should therefore be a key element of your community engagement strategy—but not just any gamification system will work. You can't just throw in a few badges and ranks and hope to see increased engagement levels in your community. Your gamification strategy needs to be crafted with your community members and segments in mind. Take a look at our eBook, A Strategic Guide to Community Gamification to learn more about how to do this.

6. Strong Member Onboarding 

Whether your community is still being developed, has just been launched, or has been up and running for years, it's never too late to start an engagement plan catered to new members. Having tactics specifically crafted for those who are new to your community are important because their attitudes and behaviours haven't been influenced yet, so they're essentially a blank slate. Doing the right things from the get-go can assure new members that your community is a place where they want to be.

Onboarding new members is extremely important, and your strategy should be crafted in a way that aims for retention and continued participation. If you can show them that your community can deliver immediate value, and that their membership is important to you, they're more likely to stick around.

Concluding Thought

Community engagement is key to a successful, long-term and profitable online community. This blog has provided you with an overview of how to increase engagement, with excerpts taken from our eBook, Driving Adoption and Increasing Engagement in Your Online Community

Be sure to download the full, 63 page guide to gain a deeper understanding of everything discussed in this blog so that you can see an improvement in your community engagement levels.

Driving Engagement and Increasing Adoption

Community

Sarah Robinson-Yu

Written by Sarah Robinson-Yu

Sarah is the Content Marketing Specialist at Vanilla Forums. Prior to Vanilla, Sarah worked in the public sector where she led and coordinated the strategic framework and operational policy development of business processes.

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