As a community manager, your primary goal is to ensure the success of your community. Okay, but that's pretty broad. What does that really mean? Well, it usually means that you're really responsible for keeping your community members engaged and participating.
This is a task that is much easier said than done. There is a lot that goes into getting your community members active in your online community. How do you make your members feel bought-in to your community? How do you make your community feel relevant to your members?
When it comes to encouraging member participation Richard Millington, founder of Feverbee, says, 'We have more tools than what we think we do.' A while back, Socious produced a webinar in conjunction with Richard, called Hacking Online Community Engagement. As part of that webinar, Richard introduced the idea of using three communication tools in order to get your community members engaged, and eventually transform them into contributors.
Here we will outline those three tools, and how you can leverage those tools to boost member engagement in your community.
Tool #1.) Notifications
One of the easiest ways to drive participation in your community is to tag or mention someone that you want to participate. When you do this, that person feels recognized and like they have something valuable to add to the community, so they are far more likely to participate.
If your community platform doesn't have a dedicated notifications feature, don't worry, you can always add the more personal touch of reaching out to that member directly. I find that this often makes the member feel even more recognized if you're taking the time to call to tell them that you would like their perspective on an idea or post.
You can use this technique to drive contributors towards a topic that you would like to kick-start in the community. Remember, you can tag or reach out to new members, or members that you feel would be an expert and have something worthwhile to contribute on that post or discussion.
Tool #2.) Single-Focus Emails
You might be wondering what single-focus means? Well, Richard pointed out that far more often than not, we are asking our community members to do too many activities at once. This is not an effective way to drive contributions. Your members will feel overwhelmed and will likely decide not to take any action at all.
On the other hand, you can try something like, 'Welcome to our community! We're glad you're here. We'd love your opinion on this discussion.' This is much more focused and gives your targeted member a clear call to action. This kind of email is far more likely to elicit the desired response from your community members.
Tool #3.) Autoresponders
Many community platforms these days have a built-in email auto response function. However, if yours is one of the platforms that doesn't have this feature, then you can use MailChip, or something similar.
There are a couple of goals when it comes to optimizing your auto responding emails. The first is that you want to avoid the spam or promotion filters that are now common on many email services. If your email ends up in either of those places, the chances of your members seeing it plummets.
The second way to optimize these emails is to deliver as much value as you can in as few words or sentences as possible. If you're not providing enough value, or your emails are too long, chances are that your members will unsubscribe, or will stop reading your messages.
There doesn't need to be any call to action here. The whole point of this first email is for the new community member to associate our emails with value.
This email is a little more complicated. In this email, try to give members a better idea of both the community and the community's unique selling point. Basically, what makes this community valuable and unique?
You can do this by explaining what you want out of the community. For instance, what kinds of discussions do we want? What kind of discussions would we not like to see? Richard suggests using the principle of the Self Categorization Theory. This theory postulates that we identify with certain groups, based upon the groups that we don't fit in with. You can leverage this by telling your members who the community isn't for.
For example: This community is not for lazy people. Or, this post is not for new community members.
In this second example, you will encourage your more senior members to contribute to that post, because they do not identify as new members.
The goal of this email is to tackle a specific problem in depth. Again, the main goal of this email, much like the first email, is to demonstrate the value that we can bring our members.
In order to find a challenge to address, create a forum for new members and ask them their biggest challenges. You can look for the ones that tend to pop-up the most and the comprehensively solve these problems in your email. Just like the first email, no clear call to action is required in this email.
This email is left a bit up to your discretion. You can choose to either add more value to your members, or continue to establish the type of culture that you desire out of your community.
According to Richard's findings, using these particular types of auto response emails generated an average open rate of about 44.18%. That's pretty amazing. He also noticed that email subject lines that were more curiosity-driven, performed better. Specifically, the subject line, 'quick question,' yielded about a 55% open rate. Just something to keep in mind as you're developing these emails.
Community Management Takeaway
When it comes to turning your community members into contributors, things can start to get very overwhelming very fast. How do you engage your members in the correct way? What do you say to them?
There are very few people out there with more experience in doing this than Richard Millington of Feverbee. You may already have been using some, or all of the communication techniques that laid out in the Hacking Online Community Engagement webinar, but that is really only half the battle. The other half of the battle, really honing and optimizing these techniques, that is what will yield the best results.