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How to Increase Online Community Engagement with Better Calls-to-Action

Written by Joshua Paul | on August 14, 2014 at 8:30 AM

How to Increase Online Community Engagement with Better Calls-to-Action

The foundation of your online customer community is value. It is the value of the information, discussions, and connections that turn an initial visit to the community into a habit. It is things that are important to your community members and worth their time that motivates them to visit, click, and contribute.

To that end, your community management team works tirelessly to support your online community's value proposition and provide engagement opportunities ranging from social participation to live events to learning about how they can expand their relationship with your organization through additional products and services.

The problem is that your members don't always know where to find the value in your online customer community.

The Difference Between How You and Your Target Audience See Your Online Community

You know your community better than anyone, so from your perspective your calls-to-action are probably as clear as can be. However your customers or members are often busy and distracted when they visit your online community, making them less likely to notice an opportunity to engage. They might not understand what you want them to do and how they can get the most out of their participation in the community.

In order to catch their attention, you need to make deliberate and purposeful calls-to-action (CTAs) that make the conversion process as clear as possible. This is certainly easier said than done, but before we get into how you can improve your CTAs, let's back up a bit.

What is a CTA? (and what do we mean by "convert"?)

A call-to-action or CTA is simply any deliberate action you want your members to take, usually designated by a button, graphic, or link that brings them to a landing page.

There are two common types of CTAs in online customer or member communities:

  • First, there are engagement opportunities. These offers encourage members to take some level of engagement action, whether it's responding to a discussion, checking out a new forum, reading a blog post, or signing up for a webinar series.

    The purpose of engagement CTAs is to get members more involved in the community so you can later leverage that engagement to achieve certain goals, such as increasing customer satisfaction, higher attendance at events, or establishing more customer advocates.

  • Next, there are direct conversions. This refers to any CTA that is linked to your revenue-generating products, programs, or services. You might want members to sign up for a training class, attend a customer conference, download information about a new product or service (think upsell lead generation), or renew their membership (i.e. use groups or association).

CTAs can be text or graphical, but their goal is always to get the viewer to convert on an action. In this case, converting simply means saying, "yes" to the offer and completing the desired action.

Six Tips for Increasing Engagement By Creating More Effective CTAs

As with any designated marketing in your online community, you want to find what tactics deliver the best results. While this might involve some trial and error, here are six tips to get you started.

Tip #1) Select the Right Location

For some engagement opportunities, the call-to-action should be above the fold (visible without any scrolling), while others require readers to have more context to build motivation to click and convert (example: the CTA at the bottom of a blog post - scroll down on this post).

Commonly, the rule of thumb in private online communities is not to bury the CTA below the fold or in the middle of a cluttered page. However, there is good research to support placing CTAs in several locations.

For CTAs, location does matter. However, you won't know where you will get the best results until you test a variety of CTA placements and analyze the data.

Tip #2) Make CTAs Visually Contrasting

One of the most common reasons members aren't responding to your CTA is likely that they haven't even noticed it. Particularly if your community space is busy, a small graphic is easy to visually gloss over.

To avoid this problem, make your CTAs visually contrasting. Use varying colors to make them stand out from the rest of your webpage. If you're worried they're still going unnoticed, try adding more white space around the call-to-action and make it a little bigger.

Tip #3) Use Actionable Language

If you want your community members to do something, you need to use language that makes the action clear. Include what your members need to do and the timeline of when they need to do it. Phrases like "Download Now!" and "Join in the Discussion Today!" make the action you want your customers to take clear and add a sense of urgency to the offer.

Tip #4) Highlight the Value

When you're asking your customer or members to do something, you shouldn't be surprised if their first reaction is but what's in it for me? Your calls-to-action will be more successful if they can highlight the value proposition that your community members will receive once they complete the action.

For instance, if you want them to download your online community's latest guide or ebook, include the title so they'll know what type of information they'll be receiving. Make it as specific as possible without using too much explanatory text"”you'll be able to go into more detail on your landing page to complete the conversion; the CTA just needs to get them there.

Tip #5) Make Buttons That Look Like Buttons

It might sound silly, but your members might not be clicking on your CTAs because they didn't recognize them as buttons or links. To clear up this confusion, make your online community's calls-to-action physically look like buttons so your members will know they are clickable. Use graphics that have a two-dimensional element, like shadows, so they appear to "pop" off the page.

Tip #6) Track and Test

As you experiment with the types of CTAs work best for your community, make sure you keep track of your data to establish your online community's best practices. Test a few different strategies and see how they play out with your customer community's target audiences. Other factors, like page placement and size, can be big determinants, so use data to inform your decisions.

Increasing Online Community Member Engagement Takeaway

Not only do CTAs help guide your members to value opportunities within your community, but the conversions on those offers help your business or association leverage the value in your community to achieve specific business outcomes. However, none of this is possible without clear and recognizable calls-to-action that help your members know what action to take.

If you're seeing low numbers for your CTA click-throughs, consider how you can help your community members to better understand the value behind each offer. But remember - the tips we've offered might not be the gold standard for every online community. If the data you collect suggests a different approach gets better results, test those CTA ideas to identify the language, design, and placement that work best for your community.

Use this guide to evaluate, select, and plan a successful online community for your association.

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Online Community

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