Have you ever been to a party, where there’s no music playing? Maybe there are a few people milling about, but the venue is pretty empty. No one is talking to each other, and there’s not really anything to do.
That’s what a community is like without engagement. Dull, uninteresting, and only a handful of people there - if that.
Community engagement is a non-negotiable when it comes to community-led growth. It’s not enough to just get people in the door, you’ve got to make sure they’re getting involved, having fun, and engaging.
Without engagement, your community is essentially useless. No one wants that, right?
For anyone new to community-led growth, or looking to improve their existing community engagement, it’s helpful to know the key things to keep in mind when engaging a community.
In this article, we’ll be discussing six top tips for community engagement, like:
- Knowing your audience
- Expanding your knowledge
- Listening to your community
- Community gamification
- Keeping track and adapting
- Introducing events
Plus, we've included a special mention - considering the location of community members.
Let’s go! 👇
Know your audience
It’s no secret that communities are designed to unite people over a shared interest, but that doesn’t mean every community member is the exact same. In fact, it’s very much the opposite.
Of course, you’ll find a lot of similarities among your community members, but their differences are the reason you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to engagement.
That’s why you’ve got to get to know your audience.
You don’t have to learn each individual's life story, don’t worry. But, you’ll benefit a lot from investigating their wants, needs, and pain points.
With this kind of information, you can get specific with your messaging and reach out to them in a way that they’ll be much more likely to respond to.
It can help turn your generic messaging into targeted because you already understand what that audience wants to hear.
There are several ways you can get to know your audience, such as:
- Doing keyword research
- Putting out surveys and interviews
- Tracking feedback
- Conducting market and competitor research
- Building user personas
Expand your knowledge
As a Community Manager, you may find yourself with a completely different background to that of your members, or just a lack of understanding of what the community focus is. It’s your job to be the manager, after all, not necessarily to do the same job as those you manage.
However, this doesn’t mean you can get away with not understanding what your community is about.
As a CM, you have to expand your own knowledge to effectively engage your community.
For example, if you’re managing a developer community, you’re not going to get too far into the conversation if you don’t have a solid knowledge of the developer experience. You’d need to research what that job role entails, what sort of software they’re commonly using and the terminology you’re likely to come across among that group of people. So, if you don't know your APIs from your SDKs - you might find it tricky to get involved.
Whatever the main focus of your community is, it’s your job as a manager to research it and learn as much as you can in order to have a meaningful part in the conversations that take place. Having your own appreciation of the dialogue taking place means you’ll be able to understand the nuances of topics covered - and this can help shape the way you interact with members and the content you share with them.
If your community members are all from the same profession, look into their job responsibilities, what the day-to-day of their roles looks like, and what their pain points would be.
If they’re all using the same product of yours, learn as much as you can about it. Check out how it works, keep an eye on what’s coming next, and be ready to answer questions about potential issues your members will face.
As we mentioned earlier, keyword research is a great way to help understand the questions people are already asking. Not only will you have an insight into the types of content your members will be eager to see, but you can get further into the mind of a community member.
Another great way to keep learning is by asking the community members themselves! If you find yourself confused about definitions, or the way processes are approached - reach out and ask. They’ll be able to help you out as you learn, and it’s a great way to spark up a conversation.
Of course, you don’t have to know everything. But knowing nothing - or not trying to learn - is not good enough.
Actively listen to your community
We all know that feeling of starting to speak and being interrupted or spoken over - maybe even flat-out ignored. That’s never a nice feeling.
Now think about that person who sees you. They’d say, “Hang on–they were speaking. Go on.”. That not-so-nice feeling is gone, you feel appreciated and you continue with your story.
As a Community Manager, it’s your job to be that person. The community’s mediator, of sorts.
When you’re running a community, you have to make it your mission to ensure no one feels like they aren’t being heard. You have to actively listen to your community.
What does this look like?
It can be as simple as reacting with an emoji to their message. Maybe saying “Thanks for sharing.”. Or even asking another question, to encourage them to talk even more!
On a larger scale, it’s about making sure you act on the feedback they provide. If there’s something that they’re not happy about, let them know you appreciate the feedback and will work on it - or pass it on to the relevant person.
You can even take it further by asking them to try new product offerings, asking if they’d like to see a change in the community and what that might be, or putting out polls to see what style of content or event they want to see next.
Continually exhibiting these kinds of behaviors shows members that you really care about their input. When they see that, they’ll feel enabled to keep engaging - knowing that it’s appreciated.
Community gamification has had a surge in popularity over recent years. It makes sense, it’s a great way to get people engaged, and keep them engaged.
But, what exactly does it mean to gamify the community experience?
As you’ll probably suspect from the name - it’s a bit like turning community engagement into a game. Essentially, you apply game-like techniques to the user experience in order to boost engagement and increase member enjoyment.
An example of this could be awarding community milestones with a badge. If a community member were to engage with 10 of your posts, you can celebrate it with a congratulatory message to say thanks, and add a badge to their profile.
So, put simply, you’re rewarding their loyalty.
When you do this, members feel the appreciation for their membership even more. This feeling encourages further engagement because they want to keep being rewarded!
Not only that, but it sends a signal to members that may not be engaging so much. They’ll see another member badge and think “Hang on… how can I get one of those?”. It’s a little nudge that encourages them to get involved too, without you needing to explicitly ask them to pitch in.
Who doesn’t like being rewarded? Only weirdos. So keep showing your members they’re valued and integrate gamification into your community.
Keep track and adapt
From the very start of your community, through to however long it exists - you’ll have access to a wealth of information on how it works best.
It’s vital that you continue tracking the behavior of your community, seeing what works and what doesn’t, so you can use this information to adapt and change as you go.
So, if you post with a GIF and it gets a bunch of reactions and engagements, then that’s something to note because you’ll want to keep factoring that type of post into your regular posting schedule. Likewise, if you post something that’s a bit long and wordy, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention, you’ll need to reduce that kind of post because it’s not what your members want to see.
REMEMBER: Engagement times will vary depending on where your members are based across the globe, and may even look very different from what you expect within your community. It’s useful to consider A/B testing to see what works for your community to make sure you’re maximizing your reach.
A great way to keep up with the way your community is behaving is through the use of an analytics tracking platform, such as Common Room. With the help of a tracking platform, you can keep track of who’s engaging, how they’re engaging, start automating messages, and more.
You can even find a lot of tracking options available within your chosen community hosting platform, so there’s always a way to get those actionable insights you need.
Don’t forget to make sure you’re also setting yourself goals for what you want the community to achieve. Setting OKRs can be a brilliant way to do this, and having those objectives outlined from the get-go is a must. This way, you can refer back to what you hoped for and keep adjusting depending on how much you are - or aren’t - achieving.
Tracking your goals doesn’t mean you have to constantly be meeting your aims, that’s why you need to be able to adjust as you go. Sometimes you’ll over-reach, and sometimes you’ll under-reach. Whatever the outcome, don’t shy away from updating your goals depending on performance - in the same way, you’ll adjust your engagement strategy depending on how members respond.
It’s great to have a community full of people connecting and interacting with one another, but don’t be afraid to take that to the next step.
When you introduce events, you offer your community members even more ways to network and learn.
These don’t have to be large-scale, they can be as much as an online webinar with a community expert presenting their knowledge, or a virtual meet-up for people to have a real, out-loud conversation.
As your community grows, you may find the room for events grows too, and you can start thinking about the in-person - real-life - events. Be it events you manage at a business level, organizing speakers and activities for members to enjoy - or events managed by your best community ambassadors, where members can see who is in the same area and connect with their people.
You’ve got endless opportunities to maximize connections, so make sure you keep these up.
Special mention: consider the location of your community members
Keep an eye out for the location of your community members.
If you’re based in the UK, while they’re largely all out in the US - it’s a good idea to work out the best engagement times for them and schedule your posts accordingly. A post at 10 am in London (GMT) may work for you, but that’s 5 am in New York (EST) - not exactly the best time to be asking for responses.
If you find that they’re global, make sure you’re finding the sweet spot, or posting a couple of times throughout the day to hit each demographic.
Like we said earlier, consider A/B testing to see what works best for your community specifically.
It’s useful also to think about the kind of language you want to use, and what will resonate with the audience you’re talking to.
A British idiom or cultural reference, for example, may not hold the same weight when shared with an American audience. So be mindful of this when addressing your community.
Likewise, when looking at events, think carefully about what will be approachable and achievable for the audience you’ve built. Are they all nearby enough to go to an in-person event, or is something virtual going to suit everyone better?
If there’s a wide variety of locations among your members, it’s useful to start thinking about segmentation. Split out your audience into granular segments, and approach each one accordingly with their particular cultures, proximities, and abilities to engage in mind.
As your community grows, you’ll learn a lot about how best to keep it going. The key to this is making sure you put the community first.
At the very least, this means listening to their needs, questions, and ideas and keeping track of how they respond.
You can maximize their experience with the help of gamification, virtual and in-person events, and doing your own research to make sure you’re keeping up with the conversation.
Don’t stop at bringing in the community members, do the work to keep them interested throughout their membership. Not only will it look good for you when you hit your targets and KPIs, but it’ll keep those customers sticking around and reduce churn. Hello ROI, nice to see you again! 👋
Want to learn more? Tune in to the Community-Led Convo podcast to get professional insights from industry leaders.