During my first year in online community management, I created a survey for a council of more than 1,000 members. The questions aimed to create an in-depth understanding of activity-related behavior patterns and general community utilization habits. I spent weeks on this survey, ensuring I had the perfect questions that would enable me to analyze every deterrent, motivation and decision-making factor of their interactions in the online community.
After the survey had been polished off and shipped out, I started analyzing the responses of more than 430 participants. The results to one particular question caught me off guard:
"For what reasons have you chosen not to participate in a discussion forum conversation?"
The most popular response wasn't one I offered in the list of multiple choice answers. Instead, 48% of respondents chose an "other" option and entered their own answer "lack of time". As you might expect, a close second was a preference to lurk by quietly absorbing content posted by others).
How Do You Get Online Community Members to Participate? Make it Easy
If you don't make participation easy, members won't participate in your online community.
Any barrier, including a long registration process, difficult navigation, and poor search functionality, will cause potential participants to lose patience before they find what they are ultimately hoping to gain.
There are several steps you can take to cut down the time it takes for members to get direct value from your online community.
- Work with your online community platform provider or product manager to reevaluate your community's ease of use; get feedback from community members before making any major changes.
- Reach out to specific member segments to inform them of discussion forums, blogs or other community resources that align directly with their interests; when viable, include a one-click subscribe URL.
- Educate members on your online community platform's listserv features so they can start participating via email, rather than having to login to the community. At Socious, we've found that enabling online community members to participate in discussions via both the email listserv and browser-based forums increases participation by 10%.
- Test out new marketing tactics that highlight popular content types, as indicated by community feedback and data, so community members won't feel like they have to dig.
- Introduce a larger volume of broad and low barrier-to-entry content that will apply to all member interests.
If you're having a difficult time getting your online community members to participate, talk to them directly, assess your community's usability, remove roadblocks and implement strategies that will make participation as easy as possible.
What have you tried in your online community to make participation easy?