In online community building, first impressions matter.
If you are lucky enough to get a second opportunity to prove your online community's value to your customers after flopping the first impression test, then second impressions matter too, maybe even more than the first.
Think about your busy life. If you are asked to join an online community, how long will you give it for the value of community to become apparent? At a certain point after the first 60 seconds, you are making ongoing decisions about whether poking around an online community is the best use of your time and brain power.
Due to the excitement inside an organization when an online customer or member community is launched, the initial member experience can be overlooked. The perspective that the online community is new and social is cool so customers will spend time there, was disproven long ago.
Here are four steps you can take to fight the tide of lousy first and second impressions, and make your business online community a clear good use of your customers' valuable time.
Your online community software knows a ton about each member as soon as they login. It stores information about who they are, who they're connected to, and what they have done in the past.
Get creative with this information and the social features in your online community platform to create a personalized experience for each member that drives them toward information, people, and discussions which they would find valuable.
A big part of forming a positive "I will come back to this community" experience for your members or customers occurs when they take the step to start a discussion, add a comment, or post a question.
This is a test. Your customer sees some initial value and is testing the community to see if they get a response. This "test balloon" moment is a big factor in telling customers whether or not your community will help them succeed or be another online ghost town that they don't have to think about again.
The 24-Hour rule of online community growth says:
For the first 6-12 months of an online community's existence, an organization must ensure that all discussions are responded to within 24-hours of the initial posting.
Making sure that each comment, post, discussion has a response when a customer checks back into the community will help your organization pass this test and turn a positive impression into an active participant.
It is said that people come your online community for the helpful content and stay for the community. This is true. However, sometimes, customers or members come for the content and stay for the content.
Frequently pumping insightful, educational, and original blog articles, videos, documents, and discussions into your online community is one of the largest success factors for private customer or members communities. Learn how to develop an online community content plan.
Data will drive most of the large scale decisions that your community management team makes. Monitor your community very closely during the initial phases both to proactively address customer or member issues, as well as establish a firm grasp of what your data can tell you and what you should be looking for.
Consume as much analytics data from your online community as possible to make the best data-driven decisions.
The bar is set pretty high. You only have one or two chances to show new community members that visiting and participating in your organization's online community is worthwhile. Put on your customer or member hat on and walk through your private online community with the following in mind:
Answering these questions based on the four steps in this post will cover many of the bases that your organization needs to address in order to help your online community grow.