Whether you’ve grown your community to ten members or 100 members, you should be proud of what you’ve achieved. For you have already thought about your community topics and found a way to bring people together with a shared interest to an online space that you control.
But the hard work isn’t over yet. Some communities benefit from tonnes of user-generated content. What this means is that with little to no effort from you, your community members are happy and willing to share content they have found or created themselves.
For other communities, however, you need community engagement ideas to ensure that when someone joins your community they continue to use it in the way you’d like.
Where to start?
Community engagement largely depends on what type of community you’re looking to create. Each online community will exist for a specific reason and once you know what reason that is you can start to put together community engagement ideas that work well for you.
Disciple’s founder Benji stated that in order to keep your community engaged, you need to “create a true synergy between what you’re looking to achieve and what your community members are looking for from your community.”
When we spoke to our community managers about their community engagement ideas we wanted to find out the balance between self-serve content and community owner led.
What we mean by this is, once you’ve grown your community how much input do community managers have vs letting the community decide the content.
For many community managers, working out the balance is hard. If you leave it up to your community members, you run the risk of spam content flooding the community and other community members becoming disengaged with the content, or worse, leaving the community altogether.
On the flip side, if you take too much of an authoritarian approach to keeping your users engaged, you stop the natural organic conversations that can happen between community members.
What the experts told us
We spoke to Arielle from Buffer about their community engagement ideas. The Buffer community is huge and has a range of different types of people within it. One thing that worked well for them was that their community is based on their product. This meant that growing the community wasn’t hard. They’ve already built an audience of engaged people who love their product, so offering them an extra online space to talk about topics that interest them was a natural next step.
Buffer has found a healthy balance between self-serve community content and interaction from Buffer employees. Because their community is hosted on Slack, they’re able to segment chats groups to specific topics. This way, if someone is interested in only one topic, that’s the only content they need to consume. Likewise, if they’re interested in everything, they can consume as much as they’d like.
One strategy they’ve found to work is to provide a space within the community where people can provide actual feedback. Their feedback channel allows community members to share their experience with the community and what they’d like to see moving forward. What’s more, because this all happens within their community, there’s a strong feedback loop. An idea you propose at the beginning of the week could be implemented by the end of the week. This public and transparent approach to feedback is a great way to keep your community engaged as community members quickly come to realise they have control as to how their community grows and what they want to see from it.
Further to that, Arielle tries to jump on calls with their current or potential community members to see what kind of needs they have as individuals. From there, they can design community events, discussions or topics that support those needs and keep members engaged.
What this means for engaging online communities moving forwards
When it comes to keeping your community engaged, it goes without saying the first step is to make sure that you have built a channel where people are keen to get involved. If your community relies solely on you posting content and no one engages, you’ll find that you end up putting in more work to keep it active.
You want to create an online space where people feel comfortable and confident enough to share their thoughts or have discussions.
Having a community moderator is a great way to do this to ensure that conversations are positive and fair.
You can also use your community moderator to answer any questions that go unanswered. There is a high chance that throughout the lifespan of your community, someone will ask a question or propose a topic idea that gets ignored by other community members. This is often par for the course. But if you want to build a community of engaged users, make sure that you are the one to continue these discussions. If community members don’t feel as though their ideas will be acknowledged within your community, they’ll simply find another community to join.
Finally, make sure you have a healthy balance between the content you put out and the content your audience puts out. Even if you’ve planned your communities growth strategy, the type of content you think will keep them engaged might not actually be what people want. So give them an opportunity to provide you with feedback that you can use to keep the rest of your community fully engaged.
In the rest of our research, we looked at the state of online communities in regards to growing your community, monetising your community, the limitations of social media and the business benefits of running an online community. To see the entirety of our report, please download here.