Are you worried about how to get your customers or members to visit, participate, and return to your private online community? Or do you have a private social network for members that more closely resembles a ghost town than a value-added benefit of doing business with your organization?
Having implemented private online communities at companies and associations for over 10 years, we know that a significant part of increasing usage of an online community is the level of insightful, exclusive content within the community. Members stay active in the community over the long-term due in part to the relationships they form across the network, but the driving force behind engagement over the first 1-2 years is access to content that can help customers or members in their workday, careers, and industries.
For organizations building an online community for the first time or for companies trying to give their existing community a second life after a slow start, the idea of content driving adoption can be abstract. When I speak about build communities at conferences and workshops, the first question out of the mouths of membership, marketing, and customer service professionals is, “What do you mean by content and how do we create it?”
What Type of Content Create Engagement in an Online Community?
Content that is valuable to your customer base or membership can come in many forms. The following are 10 types of content that even busy professionals can produce. Keep in mind that while your organization will provide a majority of the content during the initial phases of your private online community, members will eventually come to your community to both view and add content.
- Blog posts. Blogs can range from product and program information to legislative updates to tips and tricks for getting the most out of the community.
- Webinars. Schedule a webinar series, handle registration, and post related materials all in our private community. Then, archive the recorded webinar and set up an ongoing discussion to extend the life of the content.
- Guides. Produce simple how-to documents for your file libraries to help your customers and members find more success with your products or in their professions or industries.
- eBooks & White papers. Create insightful PDFs on best practices, industry data, and thought-leadership ideas.
- Discussions. Seed discussions and add thought-provoking comments on existing discussions.
- Podcasts. Have an executive record an update on a product or program, or create an interview series with innovative customers or members.
- Video. You and your community members can create short videos ranging from product explanations to ‘how-to' training to organizational updates.
- Surveys/Polls. Create quick surveys and polls on hot topics, then use the data to produce ebooks, write articles, and generate discussions.
- Email courses. Use the email engine in your online community to create opt-in drip campaigns featuring educational blog posts and videos bundled around a specific topic.
- Curated content. Pull in helpful news, articles, and videos from across the web and public social networks.
As with any social software, the value extends beyond the content itself. In your online customer community, your members or customers will have the ability to comment on and rank social media to create a meaningful dialog that adds value to your community. Examples that our customers use often are webinar series where both live webinars and recording webinar videos are linked to discussion groups where questions can be asked, ideas can be shared, and clarification can be made.
Additionally, many of the content items in your online community can be combined to keep customers or members engaged. For instance, your organization can send out weekly round-up emails through your online community that bring new files, media, and discussions to the attention of relevant groups or segments – driving them back to your community.
When It Comes To Content, Your Online Community Platform Matters
Make sure that you online community software can handle a wide variety of content. For instance, ensure that your private social community can both host and stream audio and video content. Otherwise, streaming media in your community, but having to find somewhere else to host it is inconvenient, expensive, and a security risk. Furthermore, make sure your online community's email engine is capable of complex segmentation, as well as manual, scheduled, and automated emails to keep members engaged.
Keep your online community content plan front and center when selecting online community software – whether you are launching a community for the first time or switching to a new private social networking platform.