The tricky task of keeping the Community Engaged

In one of my previous blogs I said that not being social (as in not participating in social media world) is not even an option, but how do you keep the community involved and coming back to the social channels your organization has decided to participate in, becomes an interesting enigma.

“If you build, they will come…”

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As a community manager, it’s easy to get excited about all the possibilities that social media tools can help create, and all the information that can be shared quickly across many channels, and your customers, partners, and prospects will just eagerly await and join in the moment it is all ready to go.  This might not be the  case, just because it is there it does not mean the  users will engage.

The harsh reality is that there are many competing communities your customers, partners and prospects want to spend time in, and they will only come if the content and ways to connect with others in the community is meaningful for them.  The balance of what you want to share with the community and what the community is looking for and shaping that behaviour is like walking a tightrope. For that reason, diversification is as important as listening to what the community users have to say.

 

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Creating training and educational materials is a logical place to start.  There is always this belief that if only our customers knew X, we would not be having the Y problem. However, if the content is not in digestible format, chances are the customers will abandon the training.  Putting the training in more desirable format, such as, videos, visuals and short knowledge articles are a good way to start, and having an awesome search engine that can get the most relevant info to the user quickly will keep them coming back.

Rewarding the community participants also can help with engagement efforts.  Different communities offer different perks in form of swag or event tickets, but what the users seem to appreciate more are the rewards of no material value such as badges, pins, leaderboards, etc.  Many community professionals advise against swag  because, by the time you send someone a hat with the company logo for the fifth time, it loses its spark.  The ability to give someone a badge in the community or some sort of recognition that is unique to that community has far more value and will keep the users coming back if just for the bragging rights.  Gratitude is very important in the community, to give and to receive, when it comes to keeping users engaged and coming back.

I recall many community users reaching out to me in regards to the leaderboard and they were very curious as to what put people at the top of the list.  The logic at the time was very simple, the people who had posted the most number of times to the community in last 30 days would appear on the homepage with their ranking and profile picture, along with other fifteen top community contributors.  People took their rankings very seriously, and even when they  went away on vacation upon their return they would work extra hard to get back to the top of the list.  There are many articles on how different forms of gamification work in communities but finding what works for your community is the key.

Extending the collaboration beyond problem-solving and training with the community can help establish a bigger bond and make community subscribers feel like they are part of something bigger and that they can drive change.  This can be accomplished by making your suggestion box virtual.  Giving the community users a place to post ideas for new products, product advancements and allowing others to chime in and vote on those ideas, can provide an organization with direction and a true indication of what their customers want.  Starbucks has done this a few years ago, and they haven’t looked back.  Knowing what your customer want makes it easier to develop new products that will likely have a higher rate of success.  It also helps build trust with customers by providing visibility as to what is in the works and how their ideas are being realized.  For more details and for one of many case studies on Starbucks Ideas check this out.

Knowing that whatever your post will not just end up in an internet black hole, and that you will receive an answer or some sort of response will motivate most to continue to come back and engage with the community.  Making each voice and post heard will encourage repeated visits and contribution to the community.

It is also important for community managers to keep trying different things.  While some may claim that there is an exact formula on how to keep the audience engage, the ever-changing social space requires that community managers are always trying new things and playing around with different media.  It can also be hard on community managers to stay motivated and push on when they are not getting the response and participation they were hoping for.  Hopefully, community managers can also turn to community professional community for support.  What are some things that have worked really well in the communities you support or participate in?

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