On average, only 10% of new members will participate within their first month of joining an online community. Additionally, the likelihood a new member will engage in the community, or even visit it, drops significantly over time.
However, with the implementation of a basic online community onboarding process, new members will be able to more easily perceive the value of becoming"”and staying"”a regular member.
While there are a variety of different strategies for different types of online communities that motivate engagement, there are a few key items that a community manager should always have on their to-do list.
Here are four tips for getting started:
Tip #1) Establish a Strong Value Proposition
In theory, if a new member has already endured the registration funnel, they should already have some idea of why your customer or member community could be of value them. However, consistent messaging (via email, blog articles and on-site calls-to-action) of how participating in the community will benefit them, is still paramount.
Unfortunately, most organizations have a tendency to only establish the ways a community will benefit their bottom line, versus how it will benefit their target audience.
This will reflect in the messaging used towards the community, the overall environment, and how potential community members perceive the level of value in one community versus another. Without audience buy-in, business-level objectives won't get off the ground.
There are two simple ways to understand how to convey value to your audience.
- Talk to as many members of the community as possible. Ask questions that will help community stakeholders develop knowledge on the audience's most pressing issues, how they prefer to interact with one another, and what topics relating to the community are currently most appealing.
- Develop a good understanding of your community's activity metrics. Analyze online behavior patterns to uncover data that illustrates positive peer-to-peer interactions. Data points I have openly shared with communities to convey value include forum response rates, time to first response, and total active members, to name a few.
The wealth of information you discover will define clear value propositions for community participation. Use these value propositions in some way within every form of communication to encourage repeat visits and interaction.
Tip #2) Send Out an Effective Welcome Message
It is absolutely critical to make a point of contact as soon as possible after someone becomes a new member. This could very well be the last time you have their attention.
An automatic welcome message should send out from your online commnity software platform as soon as an email address is captured, signed by the community manager(s). Your initial instinct might be load the message with every single action available to them (hey, you're illustrating those value props, right?)"”But DON'T.
To get a new member to take their first action, you need to keep it simple, quick and easy. Suggest one general discussion that is current in the community for the member to share their opinion. Be sure to update this kind of welcome message often and track the results of each suggested action so you can refine and optimize over time.
Alternately, if your community has a space specifically for new members, you can invite the member to make their first introduction, in hopes this will connect them with like-minded peers.
Tip #3) Follow-Up "“ Always!
Since you are most likely to convert a new member to a regular within their first 30 days, the welcome message is just one step in the nurturing and engagement process.
In addition to any digital marketing materials members might regularly receive, such as a newsletter, send additional targeted mailings that gradually illustrate the different ways a new member can get involved.
For example, each Monday, pull the email addresses of all new members who joined the prior week and send a personal message explaining how they can start their own forum discussion (if the number of new members is substantial or you are short on time, do a mail merge so you can still address each person by their first name).
The next week, send the same group another message offering a different activity or resource they can utilize.
The third week, try asking for feedback on their experience as a member so far.
Once you have a process down and have established effective messaging, this process should be quick. (As a bonus, this is also a great way to identify members who can become highly engaged community volunteers.)
Tip #4) Create Content That Caters to Newcomers
Finally, be sure to create low-barrier-to-entry content. This means posting forum questions, blogs or polls that aren't limiting to certain knowledge sets"”anyone could feasibly have an answer and there is no one correct answer. This will create opportunities for new members to start participating in a way that is non-intimidating (as well as create great content to test in your welcome messages!).
Additionally, new member content could include community how-to guides, instructional webinars, or even a thread dedicated to new member introductions like mentioned above.
Online Community Management Takeaway
Implementing a strong onboarding process for new community members helps increase the likelihood that the number of total regular members in your online community will increase over time.
Ensure these growth efforts are effective and properly refined over time by tracking key metrics each month, such as total logins, total active members, total active new members and percent of contributing new members (total active new members/total new members for the given month).
After some trial and error, you will be sure to find a process that maximizes the newcomer to regular member conversion process.
Happy community building!