Effectively Drive Engagement in Your Online Community

Here are seven ways to help employees and customers share ideas, help their peers, and discuss common interests.

How do companies foster vibrant, active engagement? They establish an online community where employees and customers can share ideas, help their peers, and discuss common interests. However, building the engagement necessary to sustain a successful, valuable community requires strategy and motivation on the organization’s part.

Here are seven ways to drive engagement in your online community:

1. Establish Clear Vision and Guidelines
Communities can be used for a variety of reasons – customer support, employee onboarding, ideation, Q&A, or user feedback. The objective of the online community must be clear in order to produce a measurable return on investment. Further, guidelines must be set for community engagement. Once clarity is established on the purpose of an organization’s community and the rules that guide it, successful engagement will follow. Stakeholders will understand the roles they play and the parameters in which they can participate. Community managers can also effectively monitor engagement to ensure it aligns with the organization’s objectives.

2. Position Community as Part of the Experience
A company’s online community should be an extension of its overall value proposition. It showcases the values of an organization – transparency, communication, innovation, and user satisfaction. When signing a customer or onboarding an employee, position your community as a central feature in the new relationship. Showcase the community in marketing materials, customer communications, or internal newsletters and be proud of what it says about your brand. The more importance you place in your community, the more customers and employees will follow suit.

3. Identify and Reward Community Experts
A successful community feeds on engagement. Therefore, it is important to identify and recognize community experts who actively share their insights and drive relevant discussion with fellow members. They are the backbone of a community’s success. Reward their efforts and encourage them to continue their contributions through gamification. AnswerHub includes features such as badges, reputation points, and topic expertise status that can be awarded to community members for their engagement efforts.

4. Crowd-Source Fresh Ideas
When companies establish an environment where customers and employees can allow their voices to be heard, the results are often far more powerful. Encourage community members to solve issues, provide insights, and share ideas. For example, invite customers to give suggestions on new features when building out a product roadmap. Or, post a question asking employees for feedback on their onboarding experiences. This is an excellent way to inspire high-value engagement. Make those who join your community feel welcome, important, and valued and community engagement will surge.

5. Create an Insider Group
Engagement is dependent on authentic relationships between a company and its community. An effective way to build engagement and transparency is an insider group. These individuals are influencers and possess insight into the needs and interests of your community. At Devada, we leverage Zone Leaders to lead by example in our community.

An insider group also enables community members to have a sense of ownership. Listen to their advice and opinions to create a more beneficial experience for your community members.

6. Spread the Word
Email is one of the best ways to get the attention of users and get them coming back to your site. A newsletter is a great place to start, but you can look at a variety of ways to leverage email to get people involved in the community.

7. Implement Solid Community Tools
Engagement cannot be created in a community built upon tools that are buggy or difficult to understand. The technology behind your community must be solid. One bad user experience can result in a lost community participant, and ultimately, create a detrimental impact on engagement.