Community managers are often faced with the perplexing task of getting people to talk.
Yes, the first step in developing a thriving online community is implementing communication tools like forums and messaging capabilities. The second step is seeding your community with content and members. Members may be friends, influencers, enthusiasts or professionals looking to increase the value of their brands. If you’ve added communication tools to a blog or other publication, you may already have the seeds of community planted.
You’re off to the right start, but you can always facilitate a stronger experience for your members. In fact, some of the top community managers understand that community health is measured by engagement — not necessarily on how large your audience is.
Whether you’re trying to get more comments on your blog or ramping up community participation in forums, check out these five tips for better engagement.
Use editorial content to open the conversation
Content should have strong assertions — but opening the discussion is just as important. In general, bloggers use tactics such as identifying specific people in a post to asking a related question at the end of the content to get more comments.
Make efforts to open the conversation. When people contribute, go to great lengths to make them feel comfortable about sharing their opinion.
Run a contest
A contest doesn’t have to feature an expensive prize, but it has to be engaging. Make your contest all about user-generated content. For instance, ask members to tell a story or share a strong personal belief. Make your prize relevant to your audience. The stream of user-generated content can become a catalyst for consistent interaction.
Built In Chicago, for instance, runs a monthly competition based on three questions. The winner of the competition is named “Start-up of the Month,” and it is featured on the homepage and in the newsletter.
Launch a reputation system
Reputation systems have become a popular tactic for online communities of all shapes and sizes. They come in many forms — from iterations of the Facebook ‘like’ button to badges and awards for contributing content. Implementing a reputation system helps members of your community create their own identity. It also helps community managers identify major influencers in their audiences.
Reddit, a popular content sharing community, maintains a reputation system called ‘link karma’ that functions similar to a ‘like’ button. Badges and awards representing ‘achievements’ are the standard at LitReactor, a community for literary enthusiasts.
Keep homepage content fresh
When people visit your site, many will land on the homepage first. Give members new and immediate ways to interact by keeping homepage content fresh. By refreshing content as it’s created, you offer new ways to interact from the moment the visitors land on your website.
Notify members when they get responses
Posting a comment is one thing, but extending that comment into a valuable conversation is another. Notifications are the glue that sticks members to your community. They crave interaction and validation. To keep the conversation alive, remember to keep members engaged by notifying them when others respond to their content.
In the quest to drive more members to your community, the best measure you can take is to increase engagement. An active community represents a more enticing opportunity for potential members. But, perhaps more importantly, keeping your community active enriches the experience for current members, strengthening the bonds between them and your site.
If you want to learn more about online communities, check out my new book, “Capturing Community.”
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