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How to Use Content to Keep Customers or Members Returning to Your Online Community

Written by Christina Green | on February 4, 2016 at 8:30 AM

How to Keep Customers Returning to Your Online Community

In the end, keeping your members coming back to your community comes down to more than just making participation into a game, or training your members to login every day. Without engaging content, none of that really matters.

If you get your members to login to a community with no content, or no relevant content, it probably won't matter how easy it was for them to login, and chances are that they won't come back. Vanessa DiMauro, CEO of Leader Networks says, "Community happens when members have found each other and have a vested interest in collaborating through content and conversation.  At the end of the day, people come for content and stay for community."

In previous articles, we've offered suggestions on how you can become part of their routine as well as creating an addiction to logging in. While those techniques are feature- and activity-centered, increasing log-ins is also about content.

Features facilitate the action, but the content will keep bringing them back. Do you have any friends or acquaintances who have given up Facebook for a time? If you do, you'll know it's not the features that send them into hibernation; it's the content in their streams. Contrary to popular belief, human eyes and the brain can get tired of kitten videos, pictures of gourmet meals, and political rants.

A Content Warning

Before you create an online community content strategy to increase the amount of content that attracts community members, consider having a policy in place that makes it easy to differentiate and remove offensive content. Having a policy in place prior to the content being posted will make it less about the individual who posted objectionable content and more about maintaining agreed upon social norms that keep the community friendly, safe, and professional.

Ideally, you'll reach critical mass in your online community and your members will contribute content on their own volition with your occasional additions. Until that point you'll be able to seed the community with content that attracts others. Once the community begins contributing a larger percentage of its own content, you'll want to have already established the example of good, community-building content versus that which detracts and discourages interaction.

Online Community Content that Draws an Audience

There are basic types of content that most groups find engaging. However, these suggestions should be used for guidance only. You may find that your members respond to and engage with other types of content. Whatever works for your community is the gold standard, that's why measurement is so important. Pay attention to engagement, shares, and comments.

In an online community, when it's posted is less important than on other social media profiles because the content remains active on your site as long as you leave it there. People will see it regardless of when they log in, unlike the mainstream social media firehose (like Twitter) that ensures they only see it if they are on the site at the moment it is posted.

Throwback Pictures and Advice

Dated pictures are fun. People relive memories and old hair styles. That's why #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) on Facebook is so popular. Post pictures of annual conferences from the 70s and 80s.

In addition to pictures, advice or instructions from times long ago are equally entertaining. These can be from your group or just loosely targeted at your profession. For instance, an online community for a Parent Teacher Association could share an article of what it meant to be a good mom in the '50s. You could also post what the average person in your industry made for a living 50 years ago.

Continuing Education Units

If you're an association that requires any form of continuing education credits, house those classes, webinars, or exams in your private online community. Make sure members must log-in to register or review the materials. Once they've completed the registration or coursework, use prompts to lead them to the next course. You might also like prompts to draw them to other areas of your online community.

Expert Interviews

Quality, in-depth industry pieces (written or videos) will get people to log-in if you post them with the same regularity you would a company blog. If your customers or members know the industry, interviews and trends section will be updated bi-weekly, they will log in so that they are up-to-date with the things your industry is talking about.


There are many different types of contests, from entries based on daily log-ins to daily voting on things members have posted. Contests work extremely well when used to build interest in the annual conference or an upcoming customer event. If you can tie log-ins with increased chances to win, you should see a spike in your daily log-ins.

Live Interaction

Creating a live video chat that takes place on a consistent basis, like every Friday for instance, provides members with the incentive to connect with others in the community outside of your annual conference. You can create a weekly “lunch†session on topics that are important to your industry led by your staff or by thought leaders. You could create an online book club for your members. Whatever the topic or basis, make sure these chats are held consistently so that they become part of your community members' calendars.

A Final Thought on Engaging Content in Your Online Community

The best way to get people to log-in to see your content is to activate notices or send out summary emails to your members on a daily or weekly basis. You'll want to allow members to select the frequency with which they chose to receive these emails but make sure the default option is daily.

Don't give them a complete detailed report of what's going on in the community. Use the emails as a summary and provide a link to the content. This will drive log-ins and pique interest. Even if it doesn't encourage them to log in every day, they will see the kind of interesting conversations and content that is being shared and derive value from that.

Use this guide to evaluate, select, and plan a successful online community for your association.

Topics: Member Communities, Associations, Member Experience, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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