Launching a new community is exciting, and overwhelming. Your online community is an incredible tool that can be used to fully embrace new members and, at the same time, increase your overall level of member engagement. It can be easy to get so caught up in the details of planning and launching your community that you forget one key component: getting people to participate when it's live.
Assuming you've fully launched your community, one of the most important next steps is to ensure any new member to the organization is properly onboarded and welcomed into that community. For most organizations, the new member will be the most likely not to renew.
Here are three "must do" tips that will help you use your online community to increase your new member retention rate:
- Welcome. Most organizations send a welcome email to every new member, which is great, but be sure the email is personalized and includes a Call-To-Action (CTA). The first part of the CTA should invite someone to complete an online profile as the first step towards learning more about the new community. Encourage them to add a photo and fill in as much detail as possible to help showcase their professional expertise. Assuming there is a simple integration to LinkedIn, encourage them to import their profile from there, versus uploading their photo, bio, job history, etc., from scratch.
This initial email should be part of an overall campaign to reach out to new members on a regular basis, until each one has completed this task. It's imperative you get them to follow through on this CTA; otherwise, you'll have missed a one-time opportunity to get the member to complete their profile. Usually, I'd recommend sending another email to those who have not completed their profiles a week after the initial one. You can showcase members who have filled out their profiles and started to engage. At the one-month mark, reach out to those still holding out and, if necessary, try to schedule a call with them to ensure they add their key profile elements (bio, photo, etc.) - you can even offer to do it for them if they're having problems or are hesitant for some other reason. Remember: you're only a new member once!
- Introduce Yourself. Once you've helped the member to complete their online profile, the next step is to get them to post their "introduction message". Typically, you'd create a new thread called "New Members - Introduce Yourself Here," or a similar title. Then create a tailored "reply" page, to which you can provide them a link. This page would essentially invite new members to introduce themselves by answering a few very short/simple questions. Typically the questions are broken down into a mixture of professional and personal. Here are some examples:
- Please provide a brief summary of your industry experience
- If there is one question you could bounce off of your industry peers, what would it be?
- Name one unusual personal thing about yourself that you think others might find fun or interesting
Be sure to set expectations with the questions. Explain that they only need to provide three or four lines for each response, and link to some other responses as examples. Go so far as to offer to proofread it for them, especially if you're sensing people are reluctant to post because they don't want to post a "wrong" answer. We often hear how the top barrier to engagement is "fear," so offering to help them post their first message will really improve engagement by getting them past that initial hurdle. Once an introductory message is posted, a new member will hopefully be welcomed by their peers, which will serve to both help them feel part of the larger community and also makes them feel good about posting. Accordng to our extensive research with over 150,000 communities, members are significantly more likely to post a message if they have already posted a message - hence the importance of helping them over this initial barrier to entry.
- Check in. At the two or three month mark after welcoming the new member to the community, send another email asking for feedback on the community itself. This could be a link to a survey or a link to a feedback form, asking members what they like or dislike about the community. Invite them to share suggestions for future features, too. In that email, also link to their primary forum and encourage them to post a work-related question to serve as a reminder the community is there to help them professionally.
Too much to manage for one person? Remember, you should not be sending all these emails manually. Most or all should be controlled by some kind of logical workflow, and the emails should be dynamically generated using automation tools. The only time you would need to interact with the new member is if/when they actually reply to your email, asking a question, etc. Of course, before you can automate, you need to come up with the standard workflow and logic associated with on boarding.
Do you have a workflow established? If so, please share.