These are people that believe in online communities as being a central part of smart business strategies. These are also professionals who believe that data and social science can drive most online community management decisions.
I am assuming that many of you won't be able to make it to the Virtual Community Summit. Not to worry! While nothing can replace being in the room for these exceptional speakers, we do have insight from two of the headliners.
In an interview with FeverBee's Richard Millington, we discuss the role of analytics in managing and growing private online communities. Here's your number one tip from that conversation.
Promote the things that are going on inside your online community. Highlight the discussions, content, and media that are relevant to your target audiences. Use your existing marketing channel, including email and public social networks, to tease your audience with the goodies inside your community and drive them to join the community to access the full value.
This approach to growing your online community takes time and consistent effort. However, coupling promotion of community activity with the ways that your online community solves your customers' problems and the ease of access to the community is proven to grow your community and increase engagement.
In an interview about Paul's book, Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design, he uncovers ways to encourage contributions and engagement in your online community using research from a wide range of sources, including offline communities.
Here are a few of the biggest tips from Paul.
By bringing people into your online community in "cohorts" or small groups of similar members your company or membership organization can increase new member engagement. Start with smaller mini-communities where customers or members can build connections on a more comfortable scale.
Have community members do something challenging or active, such as finding a question to answer or a discussion topic to respond to. Taking an action in the community allows new members to see the path to becoming established member of the community. Your community also benefits from the content that the new member has contributed.
In Paul's book, Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design, he advises using the "uniqueness principle" when asking people to get involved in your private online community. To use the "uniqueness principle" when asking customers, members, partners, or employees to contribute to your online community, you should use language that focuses on why that the specific individual is the only one who can provide that information, has that expertise, or can answer that question.
Rather than send a mass email to your community's membership, ask a small number of people for their expertise on a given topic. The more people who receive "the ask," the less likely people are to respond. In the language of the actual request, don't forget to highlight why the community member you are reaching out to is being asked to make a specific contribution. Bring up their expertise, experience, or past content that they have produced.
While these videos are no substitute for the live Virtual Community Summit, they do provide research-based advice for increasing engagement in your online customer or member community. You can follow the event on Twitter using hashtag #Vircomm14.
Keep your eye on the Virtual Community Summit. Maybe, you can even plan to attend next year. It is going through a resurgence and it's poised to once again become one of the premier online community management events in the world.