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How to Increase Online Community Participation Using Retargeting

Written by Katie Oakes on May 7, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Online Community Participation Remarketing

The most frequently asked questions in community management: How can I increase participation in my online community? Community managers are constantly thinking up new ways to get people to come back to the community and convert on various calls-to-action

Regardless of whether the goal is to encourage community members to consume more content, participate in more discussions, complete a survey, or register for a new event, the goal is always the same: engagement. That's why community managers work hard to turn participation into long-term engagement.

As an online community manager, you already have several strategies and approaches designed to increase participation. However, while the typical approaches, such as one-page calls-to-action, email marketing, or personal outreach, can be effective, new tactics are always on the horizon.

Being ahead of the curve will serve to your advantage.

For example, consider traditional marketers. With marketing technology constantly expanding, marketers are always finding new ways to connect with their target audiences.

Think back to when email marketing first broke onto the scene. Back then, open rates were astronomically successful because the fresh approach ensured that not everyone was doing it. Those marketers who were early adopters of email marketing saw the advantage of being a "first mover" on the strategy.

So, what does all this have to do with increasing participation in your online customer or member community? Staying on the cutting edge can allow you to work smarter and take advantage of a new strategy before everyone else is doing it.

Enter: retargeting.

What is Retargeting?

You may not be familiar with the term "retargeting" (also called "remarketing"), but you've definitely experienced it in your everyday life as an online consumer.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You need a new blender, so you visit a big website like WalMart.com for some online browsing. You search through a few different blender models, maybe even put one in your online shopping cart, but decide to wait and do a little more research before checking out.

The next thing you know, you'll see display ads for the exact blender you were just considering on many of the websites you frequent most, like CNN, Tickets.com, and TechCrunch. You see ads for the blender that you almost bought when you're scrolling through your Facebook feed. The ad is mixed in among the status updates from your friends.

This is retargeting or remarketing in its most basic form.

As a consumer, you indicated your interest in a product or service. Since WalMart uses retargeting campaigns, they recognized your interest and used a JavaScript code to "cookie" your browser. The cookie then worked with a retargeting platform to cause personally catered ads to appear on specific pages you visit.

Ideally, this will remind you of your interest in the blender and you'll return to WalMart's website to complete your purchase.

Why is Retargeting Effective?

  •   It's timely. Retargeting works almost immediately after a consumer leaves a site, so there's no delay in interest.
  •   It's easy to customize. Marketers can design custom retargeting campaigns for specific leads.
  •   It's cost effective. There are a few different cost models depending on which platform you use but, overall, retargeting is very reasonable and can yield a high return.

Now, let's bring this all back to how retargeting can help increase participation in your online customer or member community.

How to Use Retargeting in Your Online Community

Step One: The Initial Visit    

Everything starts with the initial visit. Let's say one of your customers logs in after a period of absence from your online community. Perhaps they visit one of the discussion forums for a product they own, but sign out without contributing.

Step Two: The "Tagging"

Since you already know that this customer uses a certain product or service (or has a specific interest) based on their previous activity in the online community, your retargeting platform can "tag" them based on these actions and set up a cookie in their browser.

Step Three: The Nudge

Then, when your customer visits another website—say, TheWashingtonPost.com or a blog they frequently read they'll see a visual display ad for your online community. It might say, "Connect with the latest product experts here," or "Join in on the latest discussion topics" followed by a list of a couple hot topics going on in your community.

While the offer in the ad (e.g. content, a discussion, or another opportunity to engage) should be relevant to the community member based on their previous behavior in the community, simply seeing that ad can also remind your customer to return to the community and participate.

Step Four: The Click

From that ad, your customer can instantly click back to a specific discussion or another page in your online community platform to follow through on the action that the ad was highlighting. With just one simple reminder, you've managed to take your calls-to-action beyond the "walls" of your community to encourage a conversion that drives members back to your community.

Step Five: The Data

As with all of the strategies you use to increase participation in your community, you can learn from the results of each retargeting campaign. You can leverage this data to optimize future retargeting campaigns to be yield better results.

Online Community Management Takeaway

Retargeting is an effective tool for increasing participation in online communities because it expands your calls to engagement outside of your online community and email campaigns, and into the specific websites that your community members visit.

Retargeting campaigns create opportunities to systematically remind community members of the various ways they can engage through relevant call-to-action that are based on actions they have already taken. It drives people back to the community by reminding them of engagement opportunities that appeal to their particular interests.

Your Turn

Retargeting is a cost effective way for online community managers to widen their reach to their target audience and drive busy community member back to the community.

Have you tried incorporating retargeting strategies into your online community management processes?

Nine low-cost member engagement strategies for associations.

Topics: Communications, Online Community Management, Engagement

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