There many ways that your customers or members can participate in your organization's private online community—from uploading useful documents to asking and answering questions in the discussion forums.
However, it is one of the simplest actions that plays a big role the long-term value and health of your online community. Encouraging your customers or members to not just complete, but maintain regularly-updated profiles is beneficial to both them and your organization.
Since most people already keep up with several online profiles—whether through other professional online communities or their public social network accounts"”convincing your online community members to spend even more time developing their profile in your community can be a challenge.
Before we get into proven processes for motivating your customers or members to complete a profile in your private online community, let's take a closer look at the impact thorough profiles can have.
When other members of the community see a name on a particularly insightful discussion board post, resource, or product suggestion and click to the associated profile to learn more about the author, the power of the idea loses momentum if that profile doesn't even include basic background information.
Customers or members that build their personal brand through their participation in your private online community leg up in impacting their personal brand beyond your community.
Today's customers and members come with content. Private online community profiles provide a place to showcase a subset of that social media.
Members of your online community can link to their other social media accounts or relevant content they've produced to expand the community's visibility into their ideas, company, or history.
By showcasing who they are within your private online community with a well-developed profile, customers or members can also build trust and their brand outside the "walls" of your community. You would be surprised by how much business is conducted from simply discovering someone in a private social network.
Let's return to our original example of a member clicking on a profile after reading a particularly interesting discussion board post or other contribution, except this time the profile is fully completed.
Now the member is able to learn about the background and accomplishments of the contributing member. Suppose, he or she sees that they play in the same industry. They could then get in touch and grow not just their network within the private online community, but also start a conversation outside the community to learn about each other's businesses and ways that they might be able to work together.
Training customers or members to maintain their profiles in your private online community ensures that your organization will have the most updated information about that customer in your CRM or membership database without having to manually maintain customer or member records.
Not only does having updated records provide accurate social and demographic information to stay in touch with your customers and maintain your relationship, it will help your company avoid some of the costs and hours needed to manually clean your customer data.
Full and complete profiles are a characteristic of an engaged online community. If new members or customers visit your community for the first time, only to see that very few members take the time to set up their member profiles, they will be less likely to participate in and become an established member of the community.
Communities are built on bringing people together around shared values. Member profiles in your organization's online community communicate who is in the community and the values that they hold. In other words, without complete and compelling profiles, members have a harder time knowing that they are in the right place and that participation is worth their time.
Aside from being perceived as having an active community, if member profiles are well-developed, your private online community will hold more valuable for your target audience. An online community's value comes from the exclusive content, discussions, collaborative features, and connections available to members.
Having high numbers of completed profiles makes finding experts and expanding your network easier. These connections play big role in maintaining a healthy community.
Now that we've established how beneficial completed and compelling member profiles are for both your community members and your organization, let's get down to the business of getting customers or members to take action.
Here are five strategies to drive your community members to create and maintain their profiles in your private online customer or member community:
Educate and train the people within and closest to your company on the importance of completed profiles. Make sure your employees, volunteer leaders, and main customer advocates have their profiles completed. If you community members don't see well-developed profiles from the leaders in the community, they'll be far less likely to take the time to do so themselves.
Nothing motivates people like a little competition. Find a prize that your customers or members would find motivating"”whether it's a Starbucks gift card or a discounted webinar series—and hold a contest for the best community profile. Then, showcase the top five as great examples and prominently feature the winner.
Tip: If your online community has chapters, special interest groups, or product advisor councils, hold group contests to award the group with the highest percentage increase of completed profiles in a specific time frame (one week or one month). It will help people develop their profiles and the competition among groups will build a sense of community. Nothing makes an us, like a them!
When your customers or members understand how easy maintaining a completed profile is, as well as the benefits, they're more likely to put forth the effort to fully develop their profile in your community. Create a quick three-minute training video or incorporate a "How to Get the Most from Our Community" training presentation at your annual member or customer conference.
In addition to awards and contests, you could also consider featuring a "Member Profile of the Month" in your monthly email newsletter with a link to that member's profile in your online community. On the flip side, if you're featuring members for a separate acknowledgment, like winning an award from the President, make sure their profile is well-developed to set a good example.
Since maintaining their profiles is probably not something your customers or members regularly think about, don't be afraid to occasionally remind them. Set up an email campaign that goes out once a year, or even once a quarter, to people who haven't updated their profile recently.
Tip: Rather than nagging your target audience, turn your reminder into helpful and relevant content to make it as easy as possible—such as, "Six Tips for Refreshing Your Profile" Or "Why Updating Your Online Community Profile Will Boost Your Career This Year."
Fully completed and regularly updated online community profiles are an easy and risk-free way for customers, partners, employees, and members to take steps toward becoming engaged in the community. Putting processes in place to motivate and encourage your community members to build up their profiles makes for a healthier and active private online community—benefiting both your community members and your company.