Fei is Head of Communities at Evolve, and is passionate about building online communities that bring colour and texture to quantitative research.
Community member engagement
There are seven key elements I believe must be considered when building an online community. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring each of them in a series of posts designed to help you build the best community possible.
Last week, I introduced the first, and possibly most important component, the platform – the place to host your online community.
It’s no coincidence this week’s post is on what I consider to be the second most important component – community member engagement.
So why is engagement so important?
Having members in an online community who are readily available to test ideas and provide feedback on initiatives means getting answers to tomorrow’s questions, today! Okay, perhaps that is exaggerating slightly, but having highly engaged members certainly enables quicker collection of responses and the opportunity to reduce fieldwork days, which in turn, means faster delivery of results to decision makers.
Now, if that doesn’t sound like a pretty nifty reason to invest in engagement, here’s two more reasons why I think engagement is important:
Organic commentary – being able to keep a pulse on topical issues, satisfaction levels, and discovering upcoming trends, all completely unprompted thanks to members’ willingness to share their musings with others within the community. This is an absolute goldmine for verbatim comments, particularly in shaping research design.
Acquisition costs – when a community welcomes its members, and members find value in the community, they are more likely to come back regularly, participate in activities, and interact with others. It may be a virtual space, but the people and conversations are real, so in essence, it is a ‘real community’, where members have a reason to stay rather than clicking the unsubscribe button. Having loyal members in a community means not having to recruit new members as often, and therefore cost savings may be achieved, depending on the sample source.
It almost goes without saying that building a highly engaged community does not happen overnight…although recently, this was pretty much the case when we built a community for a world leading retail property group! How did we achieve this? In all honesty, I believe that giving people a space to discuss what matters to them goes a long way – together with doing the following three things well:
Purpose – having a clear understanding about what is to be achieved from community members is a great place to start, as this then guides the building of the community in terms of communication, content creation, and curating of comments. In other words, what we are saying to members, the types of questions and format in which we are asking for responses, and how we are shaping the discussions that transpire within the community.
Journey map – mapping out what we want members to be doing and ensuring that there are plenty of interesting and relevant surveys available at all times is essential. Of course, a journey map is not limited to content and scheduling, it also includes what is being communicated to members. From a community member perspective, it means having and knowing there will be a variety of activities to complete each time they log in. From a community manager perspective, it enables the journey map to be modified to suit depending on member uptake of and responses to activities and correspondence. This is essentially a blueprint of everything that is happening, or will be happening, in the community.
Adaptability – an online community often comprises of a group of strangers, and much like a ‘box of chocolates’, it is often a nice surprise ‘meeting’ members for the first time and watching how they gravitate towards certain activities or reading the dialogue takes place in the community. From here, it is about being able to change things quickly, particularly the journey map, so that the happenings of the community stay on path in achieving the objectives.
All in all, engagement breathes life into a community, producing rich commentary and fast delivery of results as well as cost efficiencies. Having a clear purpose that translates into a journey map that is easily adaptable is a sure-fire way to having highly engaged members…maybe even overnight!
Part 4 – Recruitment
Next week’s post is about recruitment – managing who is being invited to join the online community.