When it comes right down to it, the function of an online community is all about giving people a place to engage, no matter their interests or industries. There are a number of cases that point to the bottom line results of having an engaged community. The American Society of Association Executives found that their members who are engaged in their online community are 30% more likely to renew. Further, they found that these engaged members are 23% more likely to recommend ASAE to their peers. It's engagement or nothing.
We've broken down engagement into three primary goals (we're seeing things in groups of three lately). For every suggestion that we receive, idea that we have, service that we offer or partner that we bring on, we make sure it passes these three tests.
Step 1: Make it easy.
A recent study by CMS Wire found that about two-thirds of online shoppers said they give up or shop elsewhere online when they encounter difficulties. Similar results are found when using mobile devices. In a recent survey Google found mobile users are five times more likely to abandon the task they are trying to complete if the site is not optimized for mobile use. So making it easier for your members and customers to engage, across multiple platforms, can have a significant impact on their level of engagement and how much value they get out of it.
Step 2: Make it often.
Provide as many opportunities for engagement as possible. Does this mean add more features to the platform, notifications and prompts to bring people back or entirely new engagement programs? The answer is all of the above. You want to make sure people can engage the way they want to engage, whether it's on mobile devices, email, smart watches or a desktop. We call this frictionless engagement.
Step 3: Make it fun.
Do you want users to have flat response such as 'It's usable' or 'It's straightforward'? The ideal reactions are more enthusiastic and detailed. The community should feel good to use and give people what they want. They should enjoy finding answers to their questions and being recognized for contributions. It's fun to be a part of a community they were searching for all along.
Better engagement means more content
If your community addresses these engagement tactics, the activity of engagement will produce great content. One of Higher Logic's clients has produced almost 150,000 pieces of content in their community over the last six years. This is all produced by the members, for the members. Not only is that an impressive amount, taken together it's a great resource, a true knowledge base for all members.
In this case, it's also open to the public and available for anyone to read, browse and download. This also brings a lot of search engine traffic to their sites, which in turn produced new members, more registrations at events and interest in new programs. It's encompassing enough to forward their mission to educate the industry and the world on what they do, and open enough to encourage organic conversations among people who simply want to connect.
Whether you want to sell something or you just want to talk with people about something you really like, you need engagement.