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Use Triggers to Drive Action and Shape Behavior

Written by Molly Talbert | on November 3, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Use triggers to drive action and shape behavior in your online community

How does Facebook get over a billion users to do exactly what they want? Although they’re a social network, not an online community, they’re masters at engaging and building loyalty -- and creating an addicting, FOMO-inducing platform.

So how can you get your community members to do what you want?

This is an age-old question for community professionals. Sometimes it can be hard to redirect your members’ momentum, or energize them to take the actions you want.

There are many ways to shape your community members’ behavior to improve participation and encourage more valuable interactions, and each community has it’s own characteristics to take into account when formulating a plan.

Sometimes it’s as simple as adjusting your language to fit the community’s quirks. It’s important to be very aware of how your community talks and what phrases or words they react well to -- or strongly dislike. Choosing your words carefully can make a big difference for engagement.

Other times, changing behavior requires a data driven approach, which Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable often talks about. This requires focusing on what behaviors, exactly, you want to change, and measuring them. What information do you glean from tracking these behaviors over time? What happens to your data when you make incremental changes?

These two methods are tried and true, but here’s a Facebook-inspired approach to consider for building long lasting behavior changes: a motivation chain reaction, leading the user from one action to the other.

Chain Reaction

Facebook uses triggers to set users on a motivation chain reaction, without their users realizing what’s happening. In other words, once someone takes the bait, Facebook funnels them from one trigger to the next, starting with the simple and then increasing in complexity, turning once-hesitant users into super users.

So, what’s a trigger and how does this look on Facebook?

Triggers are cues that prompt a user to take a specific action. The most classic example is along these lines: “To learn more, click here!” It’s something that grabs the user’s attention and sets them down a path lined with more triggers. The first triggers are very simple -- “Click Here!” -- and, as they progress, they pull the user in deeper and deeper, so they start performing more complex actions.

Sound complicated? It probably does, but it’s really not as difficult as you’d think -- and, if you have a good platform, you already have the tools and know how to lay the groundwork and start engagement chain reactions that are more than just clickbait and lead users to meaningful engagement.

From Lurker to MVP

Take a look at this example from Facebook -- it’s an automated campaign reaching out to inactive members and bring them back to engagement. When someone has been inactive for a while, Facebook sends them an email, telling them how many notifications they’ve missed and encouraging them to go connect with friends. Within the email are several buttons, or calls to action, the user can take -- these are the triggers.

But don’t overlook the important aspect of those triggers -- the calls to action don’t just prompt the user to log back in. They take the user to a specific, action-oriented page to connect with people, to easily post or to join a group.

From there, the theory is that as you begin to re-engage people, giving them more prompts to click on and easy tasks to complete, the more they’ll begin engaging overall. That’s how you take a lurker into an MVP.

Set Up Your Own Chain Reactions

How are you going to implement these triggers in your community? If your platform offers them, automation rules will be your friend here.

First, come up with a map -- outline where your members are now and where you want to take them. Now fill in triggers and actions that will lead them closer to the desired behavior.

Here’s one example: You want to take a currently inactive member and turn them into an active member. Set up an automated campaign to target people who haven’t posted yet. Send them an email asking them to introduce themselves on an “Introduce Yourself” thread. Once they completed that task, if they don’t have a profile picture, their first post will trigger an email encouraging them to “put a face to the name.”

See how each step builds on the next, starting with easy steps and then progressing in complexity?

As you create engagement flows and decide on triggers, don’t forget to carefully choose your language and pick data points to measure and track. By combining behavior changing methods, you can come up with the recipe that works best for your unique community.

Start off by assessing the tools you have -- do you have automation rules or dashboards to help you segment and target your audience? Next, decide your goals -- what behaviors would you like to change, and what would that change look like? Now, create the triggers and the path to lead members towards more engagement, creating a more vibrant community.

Topics: Online Community Management, Member Engagement, Online Community

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