The best practices for engaging your online community

The best practices for engaging your online community
Table of Contents

Community engagement is the essential part of an active community; the contributions of the members. In online communities, this refers to interactions with content and personal content creation. Whether initiating a conversation, liking, reacting, or commenting, the contributions to each other’s content is the ideal goal of an active community. Offline, this engagement can refer to contributions to dialogue, participation in collaboration, or even speaking on a panel or event. Like any organization or group, the goal is for each member to have a say in what goes on.

The conversations can range from problem-solving to discussing the common circumstances or interest of the community. Involving each member doesn’t only serve to boost morale, but is also effective because solutions often are better when they are conversations, with different perspectives being shared. And when the goal isn’t a solution, but rather connection, successful engagement is formed by and forms real relationships amongst community members.

When communities have a high engagement rate, members are more likely to be committed to the projects and greater goals. The more people feel involved in the community, the more dedicated they will be to the cause.

Similarly, experience with problem-solving allows members to learn about the issues and have first-hand knowledge of solution building.

This also allows for practice of decision-making skills, communication, out-of-the-box thinking, and ability to look at situations from various perspectives. Another benefit to community engagement is the quality of the solutions and conversations.

When there are enough people involved from a diverse group, it becomes easier to arrive at a resolution that is discussed, thought-out, and hopefully successful. The goal of the community becomes more attainable when members are all personally dedicated to achieving it. The community is strengthened and members are bonded when people collaborate and thus the process perpetuates itself positively. 

Best Practices For Community Engagement

Share the Value of the Community and The Importance of Engagement

In any attempts to persuade people to act in a specific manner or follow a set of norms, it is imperative they understand the value of said act. So too with community engagement. If we want members to be active in the community, our best bet is to tell them why they should be so invested. We can do this through a proper onboarding process, which not only gives community management to explain the purpose of the community but also allows veteran members, or community ambassadors, to tell new members why the community is so valuable. Even the more veteran members can benefit from reminders of the community’s value and the importance of engagement. These reinforcements help members understand the worth of their individual contribution; an understanding that is the starting point in participating in a community.

Incentivize Members

Once your members are on the same page about what the community offers them, it is time to give them a reason, incentivize their participation. This can be accomplished by offering rewards for interaction with the community. In an online community, this can mean rewarding content creation, comments, reposts, tags, and more. One key feature to highlight is consistent active participation, often seen online. The reason this is so successful is because it encourages members to make engagement a daily habit. When members are encouraged to go from upvoting a post once a week to visiting the community every day, they will likely begin to create their own content and increase activity in the community. If a member is rewarded for having the longest streak of visiting the forum, the members will be eager to compete for the longest streak and therefore engage more regularly.

Serve as a Role Model

Another foundation of widespread engagement within the community, is community members and managers who lead with not just their words, but with action. When the community manager initiates discussion, allows people to share, uploads content and is visibly active and interactive with others’ thoughts and content, other people in the community know what ideal engagement looks like. When the manager contributes to a problem-solving discussion, members take note of their involvement. Your members might be trying to get a sense of the community norms beyond what is written in the rules and they look to community managers and more veteran members to exemplify the expectations. This can also be on a practical level, as demonstration is key for those who might have struggled previously. For example, when it comes to creating a profile, there may be members who need to see it to understand how to do it.

Be Responsive and Give Feedback

It is crucial to be reactive to what is going on in your community. Not merely out of understanding the results it yields practically, but also because it shows members you are interested, you are noticing, and you care.

Sometimes it may be a conversation you have had that inspired a contribution they make to a collaborative conversation or an a post, and they will certainly care that you have noticed it.

Or if you have an idea to take their concept further, sharing it in the right way can foster meaningful connections within your community.

Being responsive to ideas not only demonstrates your community ideals, and serves as an example of engagement, but it also carries the powerful message to your members that you care. Your feedback serves as positive reinforcement and is a key to exponential growth in community engagement.

Guide Members’ and Create Real Relationships

In this vein, when those in the community have questions, be sure to guide them as fitting. Treat each request, each clarification, each question as important.

Whether the question is technical or theoretical, whether you have already explained it to the group or even to them individually, be sure to welcome anyone who turns to you. This allows for significant and genuine relationships with community members.

Similarly, encouraging connections amongst all community members, both veteran and new members benefit from discussions amongst themselves and each other. There are always new ideas to be heard, thoughts to discuss, and feedback to give, and creating an environment where these relationships are encouraged, means that these conversations will be welcome.

A community with true relationships amongst its members is the best foundation for organic community engagement. Taking a look at any social media platform, it is apparent that people engage more with their friends’ and family’s content than anyone else’s.  When your members view each other as friends, they too, will be more likely to engage with others’ content. When the atmosphere in your community fosters camaraderie and companionship, the results speak for themselves.

When considering the foundations for successful community engagement, we must start from the bottom up.

Initially our goal is to help members understand the value of the community, and how to practically take part. Next, once they see the purpose, we want to encourage them to implement what they know and believe, the ideal of community engagement.

When members have incentives, they are far more likely to be active. It is important to remember that you, as someone trying to promote the participation of the community, are continuously serving as a model for engagement, both in the unspoken rules of content and by being responsive. Together with veteran members, strive to create relationships amongst your community and to foster an atmosphere that builds friendships. Ultimately, when members become genuine friends, community engagement will soar.

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