How do you engage members who don’t sit in front of a computer all day?
If your community members typically sit at a desk most days, an online community fits more easily into their routine. Not to mention, it’s usually easier to upload materials, reply to discussions and just check in when you’re at a desktop.
But not everyone has a desk job and many professional communities come across this question. Whether it’s a community for mechanics, doctors or real estate agents, there are many reasons why your members don’t sit in front of their computers all day. In the end, your job as a community builder is to find some way of engaging them - on terms that work for them.
Here are three ideas to help spur on-the-go engagement:
1. Time your posts
When your members are constantly on the go and away from a computer, timing is everything. When do you think your members are most likely to log into the community or check their email? For most people, no matter the industry or job, it’s probably sometime in the morning, at lunch, and in the afternoon or evening.
With this hypothesis in mind, you can begin timing your posts to maximize the number of people who will see them. Post in the late afternoon so people will either see it in the evening or in the daily digest they receive in the morning. This tactic allows you to target members both in the evening and the morning. If you’re unsure about timing, put the power in the members’ hands - encourage them to change their email preferences to work best for them.
2. Allow “reply by email”
Even if a member doesn’t work from their desk, chances are they use email, either on a desktop or their phone. That’s why allowing members to engage through email is imperative. Don’t just stop at giving members that option - consider making “reply by email” the primary option for your community.
Email makes the community more accessible. Every member has different needs and tools - like large font or text to speech - so they usually use an email platform that works best for them. Allowing members to interact through email lets them connect with the community in whatever way works best for them.
3. Mobile friendly is a must
Don’t assume that email engagement is the best or only way to engage with members on the go. In this day and age, when so many people’s lives center around their phones, all communities need to be mobile friendly. But this is especially true if your members don’t work at a desk from 9am to 5pm.
There are three ways you can take your community mobile.
- First, create a bootstrapped website with responsive design. This means that your community can be read on any screen size, from a TV to a smartphone.
- Second, build a mobile app.
- Third, have both options (why choose?)
In a nutshell, responsive design gives your members a smooth experience, no matter the device. Plus, search engines like Google give preference to responsive websites. A mobile app takes the sense of ease one step further - instead of going through a browser, the app lets members have a uniquely mobile experience catered to their specific phone. Plus, you can send them push notifications to increase mobile engagement.
Download the 2015 Benchmarking Report to learn more about mobile engagement.
Find what works for your members
All communities are different, so experiment to see what works with your particular group of members. Every industry has it’s own quirks and schedules, so tailor your timing to their needs (and definitely create a community editorial calendar to help you keep track). Perhaps they love engaging through email, and a mobile app doesn’t seem necessary. But the complete opposite could also be true - maybe nobody uses email in that industry. If that’s the case, a bootstrapped site or a mobile app will be key.