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You’ve worked hard to build your online community, but engagement is both a challenge and a necessity. It helps build stronger relationships and, in turn, customer loyalty and increased revenue. But what do you do if your online community is disengaged?
A great online community is buzzing with energy, where members actively contribute and connect. It’s a scenario many aspire to, yet achieving it requires strategic efforts. In this article, we will explain what online community engagement is, its benefits, and ten ways to increase it.
Online community engagement refers to the extent of interaction and activity within your virtual community by its members. It involves purposeful efforts to engage members, draw them in, and facilitate meaningful connections among community participants. The higher the engagement, the better.
To create a successful online community engagement strategy, consider looking at these three engagement areas in your existing community:
How members interact with your brand
How members interact with each other
How members interact with your content
This can help you identify gaps and specify your goals, such as driving more interaction between members to foster deeper connections.
A branded online community with high engagement can offer various benefits to a business they may otherwise not have access to. Some of the significant benefits of online community engagement include:
Stronger relationships: Online community engagement fosters stronger connections between a brand and its customers, building a sense of community and trust.
Customer loyalty: Actively engaging with customers online enhances customer loyalty to your brand by creating a more personalized and interactive experience, and loyal customers mean repeat business and increased revenue.
Informed decision-making: With online communities, brands can gather customer insights to make informed decisions based on customer feedback and preferences.
Tackle misinformation and debunk myths: A wonderful feature of online communities is the ability to create and share your own resources, allowing you to address misinformation, correct inaccuracies, and dispel myths effectively.
Identify real issues: An online community can help a brand identify and address genuine concerns, which also allows for timely solutions through monitoring interactions.
Generate new leads: Active participation in online spaces can attract potential customers, expand the brand’s reach and generate new leads.
Increase customer retention: By maintaining a consistent and positive online presence, brands can enhance customer satisfaction, increasing retention rates.
Depending on where you’d like to increase engagement in your online community, some tactics may work better than others for specific situations. Here are ten ideas worth trying to increase online community engagement:
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the customer who understands all of the features of your product or service is more likely to use it, recommend it to others, and spend more money on your products in the future. Forbes recommends educating your customers instead of marketing to them: “The more informed and empowered customers are, the more satisfied and confident they are with their choices.” Fortunately, online communities provide an excellent space for education about your products or services, including topics related to them.
Sharing resources such as webinars, ebooks, or blog articles can offer customers a way to learn about your product or service benefits them. You can also do this by simply responding to customer questions about how to use your offerings, such as in the example below where a user in the Microsoft Community asks about which features to enable to maximize performance on their device:
Focusing on educating rather than marketing can help build trust with your community members, keeping them coming back for more information.
Your customers appreciate feeling valued, so boost your online community engagement by finding ways to reward and celebrate them. Gamification encourages customers and employees to share more frequently and passionately, increasing overall engagement with your brand. It’s also a critical step in building an online community your customers will love.
Here are a few ways you can make your community members feel special:
Implement automated gamification tactics for everyday actions, like awarding badges the first time an online community member posts, replies to a post, or gives kudos on another member’s post.
Create a new member experience to make them feel welcome right away.
Celebrate your active members and reward them for their contributions. This can be as simple as a personalized message from the community manager or something unique like the Top Helpful Author leaderboard in HP’s online community.
Customers trust user-generated content over branded content and are more likely to engage with it. Take your strategy to the next level and boost your online community engagement by creating a vibrant social hub of user-generated content.
Ask your superfans to share video testimonials about how they use your products and how your product makes their lives easier and then share this content within the community. Make sure to also reward your superusers and advocates when they create content such as short-form videos or in-depth how-to articles that provide free support.
Getting inactive users to be involved in the community is a difficult task. But there are tactics that can help these users to re-engage. It’s important to first understand your inactive audience, so you can reach out when the timing is appropriate. Utilizing branded community software can help you spot disengaged members and get more insight.
After you review inactive member metrics, the next step is to try contacting them using automation rules or re-engagement campaigns. If outreach is successful, these users will stay re-engaged more often than not.
Attempt to understand why the member doesn’t participate and then identify simple calls to action for the user. Some ideas are posting a quick poll or creating smaller discussion groups that can be less intimidating for the user.
Feedback is crucial for online community success, and there is no better source of feedback and ideas for improvement than the criticism of your customers. Online communities provide an opportunity to monitor and listen to your customers, helping you identify issues or discover what you’re doing well. Constantly asking for feedback can help foster engagement, and acting on that feedback can create a sense of community ownership.
Do this by continuously soliciting questions and comments and encouraging them to tell you what they dislike and love.
Listening also means knowing when to sit on your hands and wait to respond. When customers have negative comments, it is exponentially more powerful to have their peers to defend your brand rather than your customer service team. If you’ve followed the steps to build stronger relationships through community engagement above, your customers will become your greatest brand advocates.
As simple as this might sound, asking questions in your community unlocks community engagement. Asking your members what they think instead of always creating content to tell them what you think will prompt great conversations while providing insight for your brand.
Craft questions that provoke thought and elicit personal experiences, encouraging members to share their perspectives. For instance, in a cooking community, you might ask, “What’s your go-to comfort food, and what memories does it evoke?” This not only sparks conversation but also allows community members to bond over shared culinary experiences.
Also consider incorporating polls or surveys to gather opinions on relevant topics, making members feel their input is valued. And don’t forget to actively participate in discussions sparked by these questions. Respond to any comments with follow-up queries to strengthen individual connections and the community atmosphere.
Content creation on social media can be limited to one type of content such as only sharing short-form videos. But in an online community, you can mix it up with different forms of content such as:
All member chats
Member success stories
Challenges for members to contribute content
For example, Visa’s Developer Community features Webinars and Blogs in addition to the traditional forum-style content that most people associate with an online community.
This is a great community engagement strategy because not everyone learns in the same way. You can tap into the different interests of your community members by trying out other forms of content.
Another tactic to increase online community engagement is to create dedicated spaces within the community to cater to different interests or topics. This segmentation allows members to find and engage with content that aligns with their preferences.
You can implement discussion threads, forums, or channels that focus on niche subjects like interest or even spaces related to specific products and services. Fitbit does a great job of this, with dedicated spaces for each of their products:
Ensure these spaces are moderated to maintain a positive and inclusive environment, encouraging healthy discussions and collaboration among community members.
Integrating live streaming into your online community strategy provides real-time interaction — an instant boost in engagement. A great first step to jumping into live video is to identify your top FAQs and answer them in a weekly video series.
Host live Q&A sessions, discussions, or behind-the-scenes glimpses to make members feel more connected. Utilize platforms that support live comments, enabling immediate engagement and feedback. You can also promote live events in advance to build anticipation and attract a larger audience.
Organize virtual events your community members can join, such as workshops, webinars, content, or even scheduled “talk time”. During the events, encourage participation through polls, discussions, or group activities.
Hosting regular events not only strengthens community connections but also attracts new members looking for engaging experiences within a community. You can choose a specific discussion topic or prepare a presentation. It’s a fun and easy way to boost engagement.
Learn more about strengthening relationships with your customers with our Digital Customer Care Playbook or discover the potential value of your community with the calculator featured below.
Increasing engagement in an online community is no simple task. But an online community software with customization and automation features can help you achieve it quicker. From offering a space for customers to connect to real-time analytics, Khoros Communities helps brands efficiently monitor, moderate, and communicate with their members.
If you’re ready to transform your online community into a thriving hub of engagement, request a demo today.