An online community means more than just creating content for people with similar interests. The ability to interact with each other opens another perspective on how we can solve our problems and help others do the same.
The value of an online community lies in the variety of people it connects.
Sharing our thoughts and asking for help or support from an unknown group is challenging. Communities overcome this by maintaining a space that fosters a sense of belonging and respect for one another. A community that is not properly moderated is condemned. Once you’ve established the community, which you can learn how to do in our previous article: ‘How to build an online community for your startup?‘, your next priority should be ensuring engagement.
Our Community Manager, Joana Donkova, will answer some of the most prominent questions and give her advice on creating a vibrant community.
Why is community engagement so crucial for keeping an online community alive?
Why do people join communities? To engage, that’s why stimulating engagement is so crucial.
Community engagement is the foundation of a thriving community and the driving force that keeps the community alive and dynamic.
You need to maintain a supportive and inclusive environment where people feel comfortable interacting with each other, sharing advice based on experience, and asking for help or feedback when they need it.
Members are more likely to remain active and engaged in the community when they feel their contributions and participation are valued and acknowledged.
Additionally, active engagement from community members can lead to the creation of new and diverse content, which can draw in new users and keep the community lively.
10 tips for increasing online community engagement
According to research, 90% of community members are lurkers (people who read or observe but do not contribute). But, instead of being discouraged by this, use it as information about your members and as a reminder to set realistic goals.
Source: The 90-9-1 Principle
The following tips aim to convince lurkers to get involved and cultivate the voice of your community, making it enjoyable for everyone.
1.Start from your perspective. Finding a role model is the easiest way to set the framework for your upcoming community. Make a list of the qualities of a community you are a part of that you like or dislike. After all, it is YOUR community. Consequently, it should reflect your ideals. Ask yourself these questions:
- What keeps me returning to this community?
- What made me feel special?
- What is something I would change?
2.Create valuable and engaging content. Deliver what you’ve promised your members. Try to provide new and exciting content consistently. Offer resources such as guides, tutorials, or other materials to help members learn and grow and provide support when needed.
3.Encourage interaction. Provide opportunities for members to connect with one another and share their thoughts and ideas. Facilitate engagement by starting discussions, answering their questions, and creating polls.
4.User-generated content. The most powerful incentive for people to engage in encouraging your audience to share their experiences. Referring to companies fosters a stronger connection between members, who bond over reviews, shared ideas, and, most importantly, mutual support.
5.Increase responsiveness. Conversation is a two-way street, so try to respond to any comment or question, ensuring the members are heard. If the topic isn’t in your domain, try to find a member who knows the answer or is more knowledgeable in the area.
“Make things simple for your members!
Don’t make it too difficult for members to participate, as this may cause them to unfollow your community. Companies frequently complicate access and participation procedures. Though it is tempting to collect user information for analysis, avoid doing so all the time. Put yourself in the shoes of your members and make their experience as smooth as possible.” – Joana Donkova, GMP Community Manager
6.Reward regular contributors. Show appreciation for members who actively participate in the community by recognizing their contributions. Reward constructive comments, which can be positive or negative, but the result is almost always positive. These statements might seem harsh to the person receiving the comment, but they bring significant value to the community by conducting objectivity.
7.Involve members in the growth process. Be transparent and communicate about the future plans for your community. Practice co-creation, listen to your members’ opinions, and allow them to participate in decision-making.
8.Organize events. As your community grows, you will attract more experienced people who are already popular among your members. Utilize these authentic connections and organize events such as AMAs, interviews, podcasts, and webinars. This is a fantastic way to boost your community and give its members a sense of exclusivity.
9.Delegate your responsibilities among colleagues. Even though there might be a few people in your company, assigning several tasks to each of you will make managing easier. Their involvement in the community will provoke others to activate, portraying a safe and dynamic environment.
10.Gamification. Leveraging the competitiveness of your members keeps them engaged. You can choose a reward system based on the options available for your community’s preferred platform. For more information on choosing the ideal platform for your needs, see our earlier blog post on building an online community. By offering badges and titles to contributors, members may feel more incentivized to stay active and post content.
By implementing these tips and listening to the needs of your community, you can keep your community engaged and foster a sense of belonging and aspire support among members.
How to effectively manage an online community?
“A Community Manager is the brand advocate for a company.”
As a community manager, your job is to forge deeper relationships with the members. You need to facilitate conversations on topics relevant to the members and make them feel welcomed, heard, and appreciated.
Empathy is the most important attribute a community manager should have. Understanding people’s pain points make it easier to connect with the members.
Another essential quality is consistency. Being constantly in touch with your members, providing content, and regularly engaging establishes a deeper connection. This makes your audience feel like they’re part of something big, supporting the ideals that you stand for.
Managing an online community can be challenging, but you can use several strategies to effectively maintain a positive and inclusive environment.
Here are 6 ways to successfully manage an online community:
1.Establish clear guidelines and rules. Communicate the expectations and regulations of the community to all members to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.
2.Monitor the community regularly. Regularly check for inappropriate or offensive content, and take action if necessary. This can include removing the content, issuing warnings, or banning members if necessary.
3.Encourage self-regulation. Encourage community members to report rule-breaking behavior and help maintain a positive environment.
4.Provide a mechanism for appeals. Develop a system for members to appeal against any actions taken against them, offering them a chance to explain their reasoning.
5.Be fair and consistent. Apply the rules and guidelines equally to all members, and stay consistent in enforcing them. Keep an open line of communication by listening to their concerns and feedback.
6.Re-evaluate your guidelines. Fill in the gaps identified by the received feedback. Then, keep improving your guidelines as your community evolves.
How can tools help you manage your online community?
When it comes to content distribution, many platforms offer in-app features such as planning, scheduling, and keeping track of the performance of the content.
The most leverage you can get from using tools is a moderation software tool that will assist you in your community manager role. There is a variety of tools available. Find the one that aligns with your budget and provides insights about your members, giving you a clear view of the structure of your community.
This tool tracks the activity and responsiveness in the community. It gives you an option for automating workflows to make onboarding and re-engagement sequences to interact with new, active, and inactive members, as well as segment them.
Having your members’ data will elevate your content by making it more personalized and targeted to their needs, establishing an authentic connection with your members.
Your key priorities when creating a community should be fostering effective communication with your members and promoting interactions among them.
Use an empathetic approach to create a space for support and collaboration, allowing participants to inspire one another with their unique viewpoints.
The rewarding outcome of having such a community will inspire more growth opportunities and provoke different directions for individual development in yourself and others.