What is community engagement?

It’s becoming increasingly understood that the true value of a user base lies not in its size, but rather in its depth of engagement. As such, a new trend is emerging. One in which companies and brands place community building and community engagement strategies at the heart of their marketing strategies.

The benefits of community building and community engagement are endless. It’ll drive more leads, improve brand loyalty and increase user retention. Also, having an active and engaged community is more cost-effective than spending thousands of dollars on Facebook and AdWords in order to drive more leads.

In a nutshell, community engagement strategies are a process of building and nurturing your customers, users and/or fans. However, it’s essential to understand that there are different types of community and each of them have their own values and interests. So, in most cases, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and community engagement strategies often vary.

Before, we dive into the 10 community engagement strategies you need to know, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of community engagement.

What are the benefits of strong community engagement strategies?

1. Increasing brand awareness.

Engaged community members are your best brand ambassadors. They really understand your product or service and are more likely to advocate your brand to their friends, family, colleagues and contacts. What could be better than having thousands of brand ambassadors and advocates around the world talking about you?

So incorporate these advocates and ambassadors into your community engagement strategies. Find a way to incentivise and harness their enthusiasm and love for your brand, product or service. Perhaps you can run a referral scheme to encourage them to refer people in their network to your company?

That’s why it’s really important to have your own-branded community, dedicated to you, your brand and the community you’re building around your brand. And that’s something Disciple can really help you with. You can find out more here.

2. Monetising your community.

People who love your brand will buy more from you. People who engage regularly with your brand values and messaging are more likely to choose your brand when they’re making a decision on where to make their next purchase. This is one of the most important benefits that community engagement strategies can bring.

The first step in all successful community engagement strategies is to choose where to gather and engage your community. When choosing where to build and engage your community, you should first consider and assess monetisation options that your new community platform will make available to you. Very few social media platforms offer sophisticated and native options to monetise your audience. But this is an essential part of building your brand community.

At Disciple, we offer a range of monetisation options: subscriptions, sponsored, in-app purchases and e-commerce. Our community platform gives you the tools you need to gather, engage and monetise your most valuable community. You can find out more here.

3. Analysing your users.

Data is everything now. And one of the greatest benefits of an engaged network is that you can turn it into your own research community. Your online social network can give you really useful insights into what your customers want and the challenges they face. This is vital information for you and you use that information to inform everything you do.

When marketing your product or service, position your messaging so that you’re solving a particular problem. One that you know your customers are facing right now.

4. Improving retention levels.

Retention is a really important measure of how well your brand and community is doing. It essentially measures the percentage of people who are returning to your community. The higher your retention, the more engaging your community is there’s something that keeps people coming back for more. So this is super important.

Building engagement levels within your community is a great way to increase retention. If your community is a fun, engaging and exciting place to be, your members are much more likely to keep coming back. So make sure your community is adding unique value to your members. Something they won’t find anywhere else.

That’ll keep them coming back. And that means they’re much more likely to think of you and your brand the next time they’re looking for whatever it is that you do best. And that association will set you apart from your competitors and build a loyal, engaged community around you.

american football team and their supporters

So, what are the best community engagement strategies?

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.

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 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.

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!

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.

You can find out more here.

5. Be responsive.

Communities are all about interaction. So get involved and interact with your community!

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.

9. Gamify.

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 Unsplash or Pixabay 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!

using bright visual content is an excellent community engagement strategy

Here are some examples of types of community.

• Social communities are very popular between artists and public figures. They’re a great way to gather, engage and monetise your audience all in one place.

• Support communities are often used by customer success teams in order to improve the way people find help when using a product or service. Quite often, support communities will allow power users or trusted members to reply to questions posted by other users. This alleviates some of the pressure on the customer success team whilst building trust and mutually beneficial relationships into the support community. This can be a really great strategy when used correctly.

• Advocate communities are places where people share their passions about a particular brand. It can have a really positive effect on brand loyalty, awareness, education and PR.

• Research communities are often created by companies who want to conduct market research in order to better understand their customers. There are many examples where companies have used research communities to build and improve a product, like this example from PlayStation.

So, those are just some of our ideas for a solid community engagement strategy. Our Customer 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.

If you have any questions, comments or ideas we’d love to hear them! Let us know in the Discuss section below.