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The Most Overlooked Must-Haves (and Dos) in an Online Community

Written by Julie Dietz on September 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Save time and effort by taking advantage of these seven online community tools and processes.

Want some easy to create and implement ideas that will enhance, protect and engage your community?

We’ve been in this industry for more than a decade, so we put together a list of what we consider are seven of the most underutilized online community features and processes. By making the most of these, you can save time and cut down pressure on your staff.

7 Overlooked Features and Best Practices for Your Online Community 

1. Terms of Use

This isn’t exciting, and you’ve probably heard of it before, but community ‘Terms of Use’ are essential. They can cover anything including bullying, members selling products and services in the community, job postings, mass emails, and more. There’s so much that Terms of Use can cover that, even after 10 years in the online community business, we still see discussions from clients about the intricacies of Terms of Use and how to enforce them.

Terms of Use is a complicated subject, and deserves your attention right from the start. Depending on your member demographic, you may consider bringing your legal team into the discussion. Communities for doctors, lawyers, and other groups who may have sensitive information to discuss, will require more detailed Terms of Use that protect your organization and its members. When issues come up later, your staff and volunteer moderators will save a lot of time by already having guidelines already in place.

Expert Tip: Don’t make your community’s Terms of Use optional. Require them to agree to your community’s rules before they’re allowed to access content. The best online community software makes this easy to do.

2. Video

On a lighter note, don’t forget to engage your audience with multimedia content. Imagery, especially video, is a necessity. Videos can be embedded in your discussion posts or uploaded into your file libraries, but make sure you have a variety of valuable content for people to consume. From courses to professional tips, how-tos to behind-the-scenes tours, be creative in your approach to video. People enjoy being entertained while they’re being informed.

3. Repurposed Content

Everyone knows an online community and website need content, but you’re wasting a lot of time if you create it all from scratch. Work hard on a few great pieces of content, then reshape them into new pieces for different areas in your community and public website or social media accounts.

For example, you can turn a great video into a blog post in your community simply by transcribing the audio and cleaning it up with a good editor. Then, you can pull out key points and statistics to create a SlideShare for LinkedIn. From there, pare things down even further by highlighting the most impactful information in Twitter and Facebook posts. Include a link back to your blog in each post, and you’ll not only have quick and easy Tweets and Facebook messages, you’ll also drive traffic back to your community. Your one video has now given you a blog, SlideShare, and multiple social media posts with minimal extra effort.

4. Sharing Features

All the great content in the world won’t help you increase your reach if your members don’t have a way to share what they find valuable. Make sure sharing is frictionless with social media share buttons and is encouraged by your community manager. If content in your community is exclusive to members, you can set up this process so people need to log in or create an account before they can view resources shared via social media.

5. Social Media Content (In Your Community)

It’s essential to have a private online community so that you own your content and provide an exclusive resource for your community members, but that doesn’t mean you should cut out social media. Your community members certainly won’t.

Use social media to your advantage by tapping their feeds to help populate content in your online community or on your website. For instance, Twitter and Facebook both have easy widgets that can be embedded into your homepage so that your social streams appear prominently on your website, which encourages people to follow you. There are also options for social shares with members.

It’s smart to also allow members to populate their online community profile with information from LinkedIn. This makes it much faster and easier for your community members to complete their profiles, putting them on the path to connecting with peers in your community instead of only on social media.

6. A Community Onboarding Process

Not only do you want a formal welcome for new members, you want to give them a “map” or an “invite to action” of things to do in your community. This could be comprised of a series of welcome emails and how-to videos or something more creative, like a community scavenger hunt.

Whatever you decide, make sure you draft a comprehensive welcome campaign. Campaigns provide new members with information over time, often touching people multiple times via email the first week, and periodically checking in with new information after that. Multiple touch points allow you to spread information out over time so members aren’t overwhelmed, while also keeping you top of mind over a longer time frame.

7. Marketing Reminders

Some people will naturally use your online community every day, others may have their attention torn away by work or personal matters. Make sure your online community has marketing reminders and communication built in so you can reach out to these less engaged members periodically.

The easiest way to do this is with a “we miss you” email. Done via an automation rule, you can set this type of email up to reach out to members who have not logged in to the community in a certain time frame. You can then customize the email to suggest they view popular discussion forums or update their profile. Other marketing reminders might include event emails or daily, weekly, and monthly digests.

Use Your Online Community Software to Save Time and Effort

These are the basic needs your online community has outside of features like discussions and blogs. Some of these concepts, like Terms of Use, will take time to implement, but will also help you avoid major headaches in the long-run. Others on this list, such as incorporating social media feeds, are one-and-done solutions that keep your online community consistently up to date with no extra work from your staff.

The best online community software includes everything on this list, along with a lot of other time-saving capabilities. Look into what your platform includes and how you can take full advantage of its tools to make your members’ and your staff’s lives easier.

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Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Online Community Software

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