Online communities take time and energy at all levels to ensure their success.
The community manager must nurture the community, while the marketing team needs to actively promote the community to drive recruitment, and at a corporate level suggestions and ideas have to be taken on board and acted on where possible.
The following are tips that I like to follow, to ensure that I have a healthy community!
- Listen – Golden rule number for engaging your community – you have to listen. Don’t ignore the important things your members have to say to you.
- Respond – Don’t ignore your members, especially when they care enough to take the time and energy to tell you what they think. This needs to be done in a timely manner as well.
- Follow up – When a member asks you a question or leaves a fantastic comment, don’t just leave them hanging. Tell them that you’ll get back to them shortly – and then do. If your members get no response from you or the rest of the community, then why would they come back?
- Update content – When people first arrive at your site, they want to see that the community is active and that the content is fresh. If you haven’t updated your content since January 09, it makes the community feel abandoned and unlived in.
- Nurture your advocates and top contributors – One of the most important rules of creating an engaged online community is to ensure that you nurture and reward the top contributors on your site. You need to know these people by name, and these are the select few in your community who will welcome new members, answer your questions before you can get to it, and defend your brand. These are biggest advocates and need to be treated as such.
- Show action – You should be regularly reporting back to the community with updates on what’s happening, which of their suggestions have been acted on, which ideas are the most popular etc. Why give their ideas and thoughts if nothing’s going to happen with them.
- Become personable – The editor of the community should be a person, not a corporate front. That means no corporate talk and no responses written by legal. A community is a two-way street – to expect your members to give information, you have to as well. By relating to your members, with personal experiences, members will feel more comfortable to do the same.
- Re-engage – It’s very common for members to become busy, forget to visit your community, and become disengaged. By sending out a monthly newsletter or an email, you can let members know what’s happening on the site and is a great way to gently remind people that you’re still there!
- Engage other social networking sites – If you’re running a branded community, a great way to recruit and engage is by having a presence on other popular networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Depending on your member base, it’s likely that they regularly visit sites such as these, and shouldn’t be ignored or expected that people will always remember to come to you.
- Be open and authentic – Customers understand when they’ve made an unreasonable request, and by openly explaining why you are unable to act on some ideas builds respect and loyalty among your member base. If there is a problem, or a reason why your member is upset – be honest. Apologise for your mistake, offer to listen to their grievances. Never delete negative comments from your community (unless they are rude or defamatory) – the conversation has to be authentic, including the good the bad and the ugly.
What tips do you have for engaging your customers or community members?