10 Questions Every Online Community Manager Should Ask Themselves About Engagement

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As a community manager at KL Communications, a big part of my job is continuously hunting for ways to engage our online research community members. We make engagement (and increasing engagement!) a focus every day, from re-evaluating member communications, incorporating new gamification elements, creating picture and video posts, to developing easy and convenient mobile apps, etc.

This seemingly never-ending search for new methods recently prompted me to join a LinkedIn group called Online Community Management Best Practices. I was so excited to be part of a group of like-minded individuals, and immediately became engrossed in an article entitled “10 Things Every Online Community Manager should be Testing to Increase Engagement”. Longest title ever? Absolutely! But helpful nonetheless, since actually measuring the effectiveness of engagement strategies can be difficult to do.

The article says the below 10 areas should be looked at periodically (this is not a one-time deal!) in order to measure member engagement and to determine which tactics are working. Some of these are things I’ve learned through my experiences in online market research, and others are from the article itself.

  1. Marketing and Login Pages – Are the benefits of membership clear and encouraging people to register/log in? What sources are getting people in (if it’s an open registration)?
  2. Registration Process – Is the process clear? Is the registration form (or survey) too long? Too boring?
  3. Onboarding Process – Do new members understand what’s expected? Are they excited?
  4. Main Community Page and Other Landing Pages – As the first thing people see, is it drawing people in? Are you mixing it up enough (pictures, content, etc.) so that people stay interested?
  5. Automated and Manual Email Messages – What are your click-through rates, and how can they be improved? Are you articulating calls to action from beginning (subject lines) to end?
  6. Videos and Documents – What are members enjoying most and where are they clicking most frequently for information/fun?
  7. Blog Content – What’s working and what’s not working? What do members want to see more often?
  8. Forum Titles – Are your forum titles encouraging people to participate?
  9. CTAs and CTA placement – Are you measuring how your calls-to-action are doing?
  10. Navigation and Navigation Order – Are you trying out different arrangements or organizational styles?

So how do you get started? First, get some real numbers surrounding these areas (click-through rates, log in rates, number of views vs. number of posts/comments, number of e-mail views vs. number of e-mail opens, participation by activity, etc.). Then, pick a spot and start testing different ways to “shake it up” for members, and see if it has any effect. As you make some changes, it’s important to remember that one of the best sources for finding out what is going well and what isn’t is by asking members themselves! In addition to just having a Suggestion Box, be sure to touch base with them frequently on what they like and dislike, what’s confusing them, and what they are enjoying the heck out of. They are your best sources for inspiration.

The article describes this all as an “engagement journey.” You and your members are going through a journey together, and there are going to be ebbs and flows as new people come in and other people go. But it’s important to remember that’s all part of the process, and it’s exciting if you really think about it!

Haley Rice is a specialist in public relations tactics and online community management for KL Communications, which provides online communities for co-creation.

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