Are you looking for tried and tested strategies to drive engagement with your community?
We’ve heard it time and time again, that the true value of an online following lies not in its size, but rather in its depth of engagement. It’s therefore no surprise that we’ve seen so many companies and brands starting to place community building and community engagement strategies at the heart of their marketing efforts.
Let’s face it. The benefits of community building and community engagement are endless. For starters, it’ll drive more leads, improve brand loyalty and increase user retention. Also, let’s not forget that having an active and engaged community is WAY more cost-effective than having to invest a tonne of cash on Facebook or AdWords to drive more leads.
In a nutshell, community engagement strategies are crucial for building and nurturing your customers, users and/or fans. Although each community has it’s own values, interests and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, we’ve tried our best to distill all the knowledge we’ve acquired from the hundreds of communities we’ve set up into actionable strategies that you can start implementing right now.
1. Give community members a place to express themselves
The most important element of any community is – unsurprisingly – its members. So, keep in mind that a successful community is almost entirely about them, not about you. People love to talk to each other about things that matter to them and this is something you should always encourage. Make it easy for members to tell their stories, share their experiences and grow their passions.
The more your members feel that they are being heard, listened to and valued, the more likely they are to remain on your platform. This makes community building and engagement an excellent tool for retention.
At Disciple, for example, we encourage all our customers to give their community members a place to express themselves through “fan walls” or “have your say” walls. As a result, over 98% of content on our platform comes from community members, leaving just 2% of the content to come from the community hosts.
User-generated content is a great way to show your online community that you care about their ideas. In terms of engagement activities, it supports you by ensuring you’re not the only one posting content for your community.
2. Focus on community moderation
On the one hand, it’s really important to allow your community to really express themselves. But, on the other hand, it’s crucial that you take measures to keep your community a safe space in which members respect each other’s opinions. In other words, you need to moderate the community in order to prevent trolling, bullying and offensive or inappropriate behaviour.
You’d be surprised at how quickly the entire atmosphere of a community can change if a few bad actors are given the freedom to post offensive comments. Many social media networks have failed due to poor community guidelines and an all-too hands-off approach to community moderation.
We’re currently writing a guide to community moderation. We’ll share it here soon to give you all the community moderation guidelines you’re looking for.
3. Segment your user base for epic community development
As I said previously, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to community engagement strategies and your user base is probably very diverse. Which is a great thing! But, how do you approach that and make sure everyone is receiving information that matters to them?
Well, firstly, you need to understand who your most engaged, core community members are so that you can gather them into one cohort – or segment. Then, do the same with members who are less engaged and, finally, create a cohort for members who are not engaged at all.
This is really useful for things such as reward systems and building further exclusivity into your community by identifying your most engaged followers and rewarding their loyalty by giving them special access. Equally, by identifying your least engaged followers, you can encourage them to get more involved by showing them the access that your most engaged subscribers have get.
There are endless ways to segment your user base and create customised experiences for each member. So get thinking. And get creative!
Segmenting your audience is one of the key community engagement strategies
4. Bring your social media following into your own closed community
Most people with a fanbase or following have built that following using social media. And social media can be a great way to start building a fanbase, brand community or following.
However, there are a number of shortcomings when it comes to social media. The biggest of all being the inability to create a closed, exclusive or even paid community. This prevents people like you from building your own ecosystem that people really need to buy-into in order to become a member.
Here at Disciple, we create own-branded, affordable community engagement ecosystems for people, brands and businesses of all sectors. The one thing that all of our customers have in common is community. All of them have a fanbase or following that they’re unable to reach, engage and monetise on big social media platforms. We provide a deeper, more personal solution.
5. Be responsive
Communities are all about interaction. So, none of your community engagement strategies will work, if you are unresponsive.
How many times have you been a member of a group in which hearing from the host or celebrity is like gold dust? Well, whilst that level of exclusivity can be a good thing, your fans and followers should expect to hear from you, from time to time.
So be responsive and get involved with your community. Read what people are posting about, like and share your followers’ posts, comment on them and get to know your followers.
Take it from us, this will be an awesome move for community engagement…
6. Make it fun to be your fan
Community engagement can be a really fun thing when done right. For us, the key is to get the balance right between promotional content and really fun, creative content. The balance will depend largely on the type of community you’re building and the community of people you’re engaging.
But, as a rough guide, try to keep the balance at about 50/50. Roughly half of your content should be purely original, fun and exclusive content. Things like photos, videos, drawings, song lyrics, book excerpts or whatever you’re working on. This will then create the community engagement you need to then set up monetisation opportunities. And that’s when you add your promotional content. That’ll do the trick.
7. Encourage your members to invest some time and effort
There is a common misconception that asking your followers, fans and community members to put in some time and effort will make them more likely to leave the community. Let us dispel that myth right now. The reality is, asking your users to invest time and effort into the community will make them more likely to keep coming back.
Here’s an example. Building out your LinkedIn profile takes time and effort. You think carefully about the right information to put up there and spend a while selecting the photo that shows not only your professionalism, but also your personality. And this is exactly what will keep you coming back. You’re invested and you’ve bought into the idea.
So, how can you encourage this within your own mobile community? Well, you can encourage your users to build out a complete profile. Run a competition for the best profile or the best bio. Incentivise the competition with a really catchy prize to encourage people to spend some time on the task. Et voilà! You’ve got another community engagement strategy bringing your community closer together and closer to you.
8. Welcome new members
Greeting new arrivals to a community is not a new idea, but you’d be surprised at how many community hosts forget this crucial step. Set up a welcome email, use Disciple’s platform to set up a welcome message that lands in new members’ in-app messaging inbox. Just make sure you do something to acknowledge and thank people for joining your community. Make them feel welcomed.
Now that your members feel welcomed and a valued part of the community, they’re much more likely to be engaged and get actively involved in your network. You can also use the welcome message opportunity to explain the purpose of the community and give them ideas for their first post or conversation. This is one of the simpler community engagement strategies, but it’s incredibly effective.
Gamification is an excellent community engagement strategy. By adding a gaming element into your community you’ll encourage positive competitiveness within your community. That’ll keep your members coming back for more.
One thing we’ve seen working really well is assigning Top Fan Points. Every time a member of a Disciple mobile community likes, comments, shares or posts, they’re awarded a number of points according to each action. Naturally, the more active you are in the community, the more points you’ll have.
And, if you announce and reward the member/s with the most points on a monthly basis, other members will up their game to win next month’s mention and prize. It’s a simple idea and it’s a native element of our platform, but it makes a really big difference to community engagement.
10. Use visual content
Visual content is a must for your community engagement strategies. Videos and photos are so much more engaging than just a paragraph of text. Even if you don’t have an image or video for what you’re posting about, you can use free stock images from places like Pikwizard and Unsplash to make your post more visually engaging.
You’ll be amazed at how big a difference this will make to your community engagement. Visually pleasing content will immediately grab attention and draw people into the information you’re giving them. Video really is the silver bullet for community engagement so use it whenever you can!
11. Make thoughtful decisions with a community manager
When you first set up your community you need to make sure you have a person (or people) who will handle all the decision making. Normally, this person is the community manager and they’ll work hard to ensure the community development happens in the right way.
Whether you’re hosting your community on social media or you have your own online community, the decision making process should fall to someone.
This person will be able to increase online engagement within your community by deciding what sort of content is allowed, how often you’ll interact with your community and more.
For example, your community manager might decide to publish a weekly blog post highlighting the top comments or posts from the community.
They can also make the decision whether your community should be present on other social networks like Twitter, Facebook or even Youtube. Check out some ideas on how to drive engagement on Facebook here.
Are you ready to increase community engagement?
So, those are just some of our ideas for a solid community engagement strategy. Our Community Success team is proud to offer best-in-class community engagement strategies, ideas, and solutions to our customers. Click here to find out more about how we can help you achieve your community engagement objectives.
About the author: Pavel is a Head of Growth at Disciple. He writes about community-based marketing and how it can help brands grow.