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Our take on managing successful online communities

Matt
 

7 ways to nurture new members and encourage more participation

There are many different reasons to build a community. It might be based on your business or a hobby. It may be to talk about your favourite sports team. Whatever the content, the key to success is to engage your community.

We've been helping successful communities for over 15 years. During that time, we've picked up a handful of tips that we are going to share with you today.

Pick one to try this week and let us know how you get on.

Welcome every single member
A great way to make members feel welcome at your community is to post a daily or weekly topic welcoming your new members. Post a short message asking them to introduce themselves and tag new members.

This will encourage them to start a discussion that others can get involved with. It won't be long before friends are made and what may have been a passing member will be part of your core community.

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Host a "lurker week"
Every few months, host a "Lurker week" where you encourage non-posting members to join in. You can explain the benefits of the community and encourage them to say hello. It's a great way to get people to introduce themselves.

Suzi Nelson pioneered this over at Digital Marketer. She created a lurker themed week and was able to activate 44% of her previously inactive members in only five days!

Spotlight members you want others to model
Often you will see a member do something amazing in the community. Maybe they posted a really good question or perhaps they have been very active and helped many other members.

Create a topic about it. Highlight how and why they are an asset they are to the community. This sends a positive message to other members that these kinds of actions will be celebrated.

You can even turn this into a weekly or monthly ritual where you celebrate the member of the week or month.

Educate about notifications
The notifications system in Invision Community is the best way to get return visits.

Why not put up a pinned topic in a visible area reminding your members how to get the best from the notification system, and asking them to enable them and follow any interesting forums or topics.

This way they won't miss out of any discussion while they're away and as a bonus, they're more likely to return to catch up.

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Regular Interaction
This is a very simple but often overlooked tip. As the community manager your purpose is to facilitate discussion. Make sure you show up regularly and create new discussions as well as reply to existing ones.

People are more likely to post if they feel they will get a reply. Often your reply will send off a cascade of more interaction as different facets of the conversions come out.

Ask for feedback
Members love to be involved in brainstorms and to share their thoughts. Asking for feedback works on two levels. You get great ideas on how to improve your community. It is also a great tactic to get discussion going.

Taking action on feedback makes that person feel more invested in your community and will champion it to others.

Try and be specific when asking for feedback. Try "How can I increase the level of activity" or "Do you need any articles or topics written on specific subjects". The more specific, the easier it will be for your members to narrow down their thoughts.

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Be persistent
These tips might give your community a short burst of engagement. To build a long lasting and highly engaged community, you have to be persistent and keep at it.

The key to building a community is simple: put in the work and care about your members. If your members see how much you care and that you are showing up every day, they are more likely to show up too.

Which of these tips are you going to try this week?

Edited by Matt


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Thanks for the article Matt, all are very good ideas to increase participation, especially the "lurker week" sounds very interesting.

Activation rate of 44% in 5 days sounds amazing. Will try this out as soon as I convert my forum to IPB. 

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The lurker week looks interesting, I will have to read more about it. 

But asking for feedback can be a double edged sword. It makes the members feel like their opinions are appreciated, that their opinion matters and they are actually part of building the community. Unfortunately more often then not their ideas are not achievable easily, or lets be blunt, are stupid. And when you refuse to make the change, they feel bitter and sometimes can even leave the community. This has happened to me - a user proposed entirely new forum structure, I said no, he said "You are not listening to us, so I am leaving".

Then there is a risk that you may promise something and when you don't do it, it will be constantly bumped. I am sure IPS can relate to this when seeing all those feedback topics tagged with "Internal review" and "will be done" that are bumped from two years ago...

Another risk is when you ask for an opinion and you get 50/50 split replies. This creates division in the community. I had it a few times, for example when planning our get togethers. We made a poll which day is most convenient for people, the result was 50/50 split. So a day was picked by me, which obviously disappointed half of the people that felt I am giving not deserved advantage to the other half.

At least for me, actively pursuing feedback seems to bring more negatives and can create needless camps within the community. Not that I discourage it, I do have a feedback section, but I rarely actively ask for a feedback and it is usually for harmless things - logo, header, etc.  

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1 hour ago, silenceheaven said:

I'm pretty sure bribery would work but I can't afford it.

Haha, I like this. Is it too late to make it 8 ways?

44 minutes ago, Ramsesx said:

Thanks for the article Matt, all are very good ideas to increase participation, especially the "lurker week" sounds very interesting.

Activation rate of 44% in 5 days sounds amazing. Will try this out as soon as I convert my forum to IPB. 

I was really impressed by the article too. Well worth a read.

32 minutes ago, jair101 said:

The lurker week looks interesting, I will have to read more about it. 

But asking for feedback can be a double edged sword. It makes the members feel like their opinions are appreciated, that their opinion matters and they are actually part of building the community. Unfortunately more often then not their ideas are not achievable easily, or lets be blunt, are stupid. And when you refuse to make the change, they feel bitter and sometimes can even leave the community. This has happened to me - a user proposed entirely new forum structure, I said no, he said "You are not listening to us, so I am leaving".

Then there is a risk that you may promise something and when you don't do it, it will be constantly bumped. I am sure IPS can relate to this when seeing all those feedback topics tagged with "Internal review" and "will be done" that are bumped from two years ago...

Another risk is when you ask for an opinion and you get 50/50 split replies. This creates division in the community. I had it a few times, for example when planning our get togethers. We made a poll which day is most convenient for people, the result was 50/50 split. So a day was picked by me, which obviously disappointed half of the people that felt I am giving not deserved advantage to the other half.

At least for me, actively pursuing feedback seems to bring more negatives and can create needless camps within the community. Not that I discourage it, I do have a feedback section, but I rarely actively ask for a feedback and it is usually for harmless things - logo, header, etc.  

It's about creating an honest dialog. It's something we're improving on ourselves. You're right, keeping people in the dark doesn't make them feel valued and we've done this in the past unintentionally. I would start with asking for feedback on something small and focused to begin with to test the waters.

Keep the topic open and if you love the idea but can't do it just now, tell them but remember to thank them for their thoughts and time.

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2 hours ago, silenceheaven said:

I'm pretty sure bribery would work but I can't afford it.

Contests are actually a very affordable way to bribe people. I do this on my personal community. A calendar, a shirt, whatever it is can be cheap and gets them in the door/posting. People love a chance to win free stuff! Just need to ensure once you have your audience in you capitalize.

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My strategy is usually hiding ads while signed in. Guests can only see the ads, as a benefit of being signed in, no more ads are displayed. Unfortunately there isn't any impressions and clicks from the members themselves. But nothing subscription manager can't do to suffice that. Perhaps when 4.3 comes out I'll utilize the new tools.

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Oh my goodness the article about Lurker Week is AMAZING.  Even if you don't host Lurker Week, she has some clever ideas on engaging her existing community.   

  1. I'm already brainstorming Lurker Week on my own site and coming up with my own unique 'twist' on the lingo.
  2. She really set the stage, built buzz, and involved the existing community beforehand to enlist their help in lurker week.  I think that's critical and I'm glad she talked about her prepwork.  She created buzz around the term lurker itself.  (Brilliant!  Why even host Lurker Week when you can talk about planning for Lurker Week and un-lurk everyone in advance!).  
  3. She has cute little designs, memes, and trendy hashtags. Ugh she shames as an admin.      
  4. This article also reminded me the importance of statistics and metrics and the ACP Stats.  I had no idea until I looked that IPS provided "Member Visits" on a rolling monthly basis as a report.  I'm hoping IPS will consider better distribution of reports such as email, since I visit my stats since ... never.  

In general, I really needed this article.  Really reminded me about going back to the basics of community management.  I already do #1 3 6 in my weekly community spotlight article where I give a shout-out to new registered users, spotlight the most interesting content from the week, and ask for ongoing feedback -- but this article has prompted me to consider other approaches to these initiatives.   

None of these 7 tips are hard to do, but it's about the steady progression and engagement that really adds up over time.  

Also, I highly recommend Auto Welcome by @Mike John in the IPS Marketplace.  

Edited by Joel R

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Yeah, the lurker week is epic. I had the same idea before, but after reading this article I am ashamed how shallow and basic my concept was.

Some very good points there, although to be fair I am sure if she posted the stats from month later they won't look as impressive. Still, even if you convert just few of the members from lurkers to posters it is worth it. 

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On 2/23/2018 at 4:28 PM, Jim M said:

Contests are actually a very affordable way to bribe people. I do this on my personal community. A calendar, a shirt, whatever it is can be cheap and gets them in the door/posting. People love a chance to win free stuff! Just need to ensure once you have your audience in you capitalize.

In what frequency / scale do you usually do this? Do you brand the items/do they have your logo or are they just random items?

Edited by MeMaBlue

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2 minutes ago, MeMaBlue said:

In what frequency / scale do you usually do this? Do you brand the items/do they have your logo or are they just random items?

For the t-shirts, we have our own. We have 2 different versions so we've given away 1 of each and have done that twice in the last year or so that we've had them. 

The calendar is ours as well. It's a user-driven contest as well which generates it's own traffic. It's a pain and a lot of validating to ensure the photos are fit and legal to print but is worth it. Depending on sales of the calendar itself we will give a couple away in the new year. We have been doing this for quite some time and they love it.

Finally, we have vendors on our community that will contribute with free items. A t-shirt here, a coffee mug there or we'll get a free/discounted product to give away. These aren't branded for us but we'll throw in a "thank you" note with the item.

Overall, maybe 2-4 contests like this per year depending on what product we have and how things are going. Try not to over saturate it and keep the excitement.

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Two features should InvisionPower team consider

1- Newsletter recurring auto email

2- Birthday recurring auto greeting email

I hope InvisionPower team take the above features seriously and please don't refer me to the marketplace products because I want it to be embedded in the community product.

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@hameedacpathe birthday auto greeting email is something vbulletin had for years, i didnt even know this wasnt an option at invision!  . members like it (at least those who enter their real birthday). We had many thank you emails for those greetings. 

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On 09/03/2018 at 12:40 AM, MeMaBlue said:

had many thank you emails for those greetings

Can you explain how to make automated birthday greeting email for the members ?

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15 hours ago, MeMaBlue said:

I dont have a way, with invision,  i just meant that i had that option,  when using other forum software (vbulletin) in the past !;-)

Me too and it was very effective at this time

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