A community is only as strong as its contributors. Whether you're at the top when it comes to user engagement, or you're at the bottom struggling to excite your users to participate, here are 13 tips to help you improve engagement and foster a mentality of sharing.
1. Create Exclusivity
Who doesn't like being rewarded for their work? (obviously a rhetorical question!) Everyone likes to be rewarded for their work, and your community is no different. To successfully run a community your members need to be engaged, sharing, and collaborating. To encourage participation, create exclusivity for your best users. Options to do so could be sending them a swag pack, creating a beta preview of your upcoming software release, sending them conference tickets, or inviting them to your headquarters. The opportunities are endless, so be creative.
2. Community Awards and Badges
Based on the user flow of your community there are many opportunities to award your users with badges or awards for their contributions. For example, if you have a contributor that is always asking great questions (that your marketing or product teams are most likely gaining insight from), you can award them with a badge (with whatever peculiar title you'd like) for their questions. Taking this to the next step, you can have awards that are given to users when they've accrued a certain number of badges.
3. Packaging and Delivery
In addition to your website design, there are lots of notifications and emails that people can get in or out of your website/app. Take a moment to review your on-site messages (or pop-ups) or the emails that a user will get from you when they are signing up or getting an answer to their question. Make sure that all of these notifications match your site and get your users excited to respond and re-engage with your website. The clearer you paint the picture of your brand at all touch points you have with your user, the more likely they are to engage, talk about your community to their friends and colleagues, and most importantly, remember you.
4. Remove Advertisements
It shouldn't be a surprise: people don't want to see advertisements everywhere anymore. They're over it. To improve your engagement and user experience, remove outside advertisements from your community. When people are engaging with your brand, asking questions, reading or learning, you want them to be focused on your brand and experience and nothing else. Tailoring your user's experience to solely focus on their needs and how you will help them with those needs will create an engaging environment where they go to solve their problems.
5. Let Your Users Personalize Their Experience
Simple touches to allow your users the option to personalize their account and experience with you is a great way to gain trust. Whether it be a green background instead of a blue one on their profile page, or a different text size and font to allow them to read better or faster, people take those things into account when deciding where they want to spend their time on the internet. An easy win is writing it in the code to allow your users to view your community and its spaces in their preferred language. Depending on the use and activity level of your site there are lots of options you can cook up with your team to deploy within your community.
6. Open Feedback Loops
You'll never know what your users enjoy or dislike about you if you don't allow them the opportunity to tell you. Better yet, open up the feedback loop on your own terms rather than them getting frustrated about something and posting about it on Twitter or another site. There are many ways to get feedback from your customers and you can choose whatever option makes the most sense for you and your users. For example, send out a satisfaction survey that asks them to rate you from 1-10. If they give you a rating between 1-6, ask for feedback as to why they rated you as such and follow up to ensure them that you will work to remedy any of their issues. If they rate you 7-10, ask them to tell you what they're enjoying or what has gone well so you can have insight into what features of your community are working.
Many companies send out quarterly or semi-annual net promoter score surveys (NPS) to their customers/users to get a well-rounded data-driven view of the health of their community. If you're looking to benchmark your performance and continue with a data-driven approach, NPS surveys are a great idea.
7. Product Development
We live in a time where people expect the latest and greatest in updates every few weeks (you can thank Apple for that). With that "norm" in place, you have to prepare your releases for your community wisely. Tying into your feedback loops with customers, they share those things hoping that updates to the community and the user experience will be made at some point. Staying current and continuing to improve your community and its features will help you stay current and keep people coming back (especially when they had a hand in an idea for an upgrade).
Lastly, be transparent with your updates and what you're planning to remedy for your customers. The more in the loop they feel with updates the most connected they will begin to feel with your community.
8. Actively Show You Care
BE PERSONAL! I mentioned it above and I will again, be personal. Make the experience your users have in your community unique and personal and they will feel will feel valued and heard. This could be taken in a few ways, the first of which being that you could target individuals with specific messaging or content that you know they are interested in. Another is working on a first name-basis; if you have a community that is capable of functioning with users sharing their first name within their profile or as their username, do it! The feeling that you are having a 1-1 conversation with someone on the other side of a comment, discussion, or bug fix will make a great difference.
9. Community Events
As I mentioned above, creating exclusivity not only gets people interested, but it shows them that they are special. Being a part of your community is something you want them to do, and you want them to feel like it is something that they want to do, too. A great way of doing that is hosting community events. Your community events can be in-person or digital, both are great options and allow for much higher attendance and engagement.
In-person events could be meeting at your office, or out a restaurant for a networking evening. Any setting where you have like-minded people in the same place is a good one. Digital events open up your opportunity to a global audience. Think about scheduling a live online discussion, or a webinar where certain people get to speak and share their stories. There are lots of options, you and your team just need to decide which of them will work best for the members of your community. Or better yet, send out a poll and ask them what they are the most interested in.
Sending out a shout-out to a user or a group of users is a great way to get people talking and to make them feel appreciated. Like we said before, your community is only as strong as its users, so take care of them and make them feel appreciated.
Ideas for recognition: shout-outs, awards, special permissions, birthday wishes with a personal note, user-join anniversaries, and many more.
11. Stay In The Loop
You aren't limited to the walls of your community when it comes to interacting with your users. If you have a rockstar user that asks amazing questions that encourage your team to think outside the box, or they engage a lot with others users within the community, or whatever it may be, look them up on social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) and follow them. They're taking the time to stay in the loop when it comes to your community; now afford them the same interest.
12. Go Offline
We may live in the digital world, but it doesn't mean that we are forbidden from sending a handwritten letter to your user or making time for coffee when you're local to one another. There is still LOTS of value in engaging with your users face-to-face, so take advantage of it and get to know them outside of your online community.
What better way to show one of your users that you are thankful for their participation and expertise than to offer them a job! Your best users don't just come out of nowhere out of luck; they are interested in what you have to offer. Think about your stand-out users next time you need to hire someone, because they might be the perfect person for the job (not to mention you will affording them an amazing compliment by showing you notice their expertise and potential)!