You’re here because you love communities as much as we do – and that’s a lot (obviously). Communities are great for fast, on-the-pulse feedback. Where else can you speak to your customers at the drop of a hat to learn about your brand, road test new ideas or just hear about their daily lives? They really are the gift that keeps on giving.
The problem is though, they do require some thought, pre-planning and maintenance. A community isn’t something you can set up and leave to its own devices. Think of your community as a seed – if you plant it in in a dim room, a seedling might sprout slowly then wither away to nothing. What about if you pop it on a bright windowsill, tend to it each day, sing to it every now and then…you get the picture. Clearly in the latter case your seed will really flourish. You might even get some flowers if you’re really lucky.
So how can you nourish your community in the same way? The single most valuable thing to do is maintain engagement with your users – after all, they are the ones bringing insights to the table. It’s only fair that we give them something back. In this first part of our engaging communities series, we share our top tips for keeping your users truly active, and coming back for more….
1. Ask the right questions
We all want to get a lot from any research piece, and communities are no different. It’s important to remember though, that the tasks should be carefully curated to answer the objectives, while keeping your participants interested. This isn’t the place to throw a bunch of questions at your community and see what sticks – be sparing and targeted with your questioning. Everyone will benefit from that.
2. Shake things up a bit
It might sound obvious, but the question-answer format will only get you so far when it comes to engagement. Participants like variety and interactivity. Don’t just ask for feedback – you can share with them too. Tell them about something funny that happened over the weekend, or share a video of your dog rolling in the mud. Basically anything that reminds them they’re talking to an actual human will work wonders.
Equally, consistently asking the same question type won’t keep people entertained for very long. You’ll inevitably start to see disengagement, which spells bad news for churn. Make things interesting – ask topical polls or gamify questions. Even just peppering in images helps to bring things to life (just make sure they are relevant to the topic).
3. Personalise your community
Undoubtedly, when we perceive something as belonging to us, we take care of and really treasure it. The same can be said for your community – asking users to choose a name for it, or even to choose the branding will give them more ownership over that space. This in turn means the community has some personality and feels more relevant for them, so they intuitively want to open up more. From a nerdy Behavioural Science perspective, this also leverages Endowment Effect – whereby people place more value in items they own, than those they don’t.
4. Foster a community Spirit
We as humans respond far better as part of a group with some sense of shared purpose. By encouraging participants to connect and interact with each other, we’re helping them to build those relationships. That familiarity will mean they’ll want to talk about their experiences and build on each other’s ideas. Word of warning though, don’t try to force interaction too soon, or without appropriate warm up. This process needs to be managed carefully for it to work properly.
So those are our first four tips.
In a nutshell, it’s important to really think about your audiences’ wants and needs. It’s human nature to perform better when we feel valued, and this ethos should sit at the heart of any successful community. By creating a welcoming and vibrant space for your audience to contribute, they will enjoy actively participating. In turn, you’ll get so much more from the experience.
Keep an eye out for the final part in this series for more ways to engage your users! In the meantime, if you’d like us to help with your communities or just to learn more about us, get in touch here.
Maria leads on digital research and has a strange passion for online communities.