Terminology
Community Engagement

How to Ensure Positive Online Community Engagement

Online community manager

How community engagement can make or break an online community

An online community without community engagement is the digital equivalent of an empty room. And while launching a community is half the battle, getting engaged users who contribute to your community in a positive way is just as essential.
There are several foundations you’ll need if you want to establish healthy and positive community engagement — and a few tips to help you along the way.

What is community engagement?

So, to start off, what qualifies as community engagement? The definition isn’t as easy to nail down as you might think. While some may view any sort of action on behalf of the community as engagement, a broader definition is more widely accepted.
You can think of online community engagement as your goal. It represents sustainable, long-term engagement that involves:
  • building lasting relationships
  • maintaining constructive discourse
  • effective decision making
  • implementation of ideas
  • generally successful outcomes

The three pillars of online community engagement

Successful online community engagement requires three main things — strategy, people, and technology. These are the three pillars of online community engagement.

Strategy: have a plan

Creating an online community simply isn’t enough to generate community engagement. You need to establish a clear strategy that you know will work.
To do that, start by sharing your strategy with your team. Receive feedback, discuss what works, remove what doesn’t, and ensure every step is approved. Communicate early and frequently to ensure everyone is on the same page — and that you have the best possible plan.
When developing a strategy for online community engagement, be sure to:
  • establish concise, actionable metrics
  • secure resources from every angle (technical, strategic, user needs, etc.)
  • hold team members accountable for their unique responsibilities
  • establish a committed community budget
As you develop your strategy, you’ll need to consider your community’s needs, such as what makes them want to join and stick around.
Creating an online community simply isn’t enough to generate community engagement. You need to establish a clear strategy that you know will work.

People: community members and community managers

In addition to always considering your community’s needs when you form a strategy, you need to consider your needs when it comes to a community manager.
Proper community management boosts engagement, while poor management can actually hurt it.
Active management is essential for a successful community, and it’s important to know what to look for in an online community manager. The time spent managing a community can be minimal — as long as the manager is experienced and knowledgeable.
So, know that you need someone who can:
  • calmly and gracefully handle conflict
  • navigate and initiate change
  • make meaningful connections, not just small talk
  • engage professionally and appropriately
  • tell stories with relevant data analysis
Finding someone with this unique skill set will ensure great community engagement.
Constant feedback from members

Technology: find the right platform for you

There are tons of platforms out there for you to create your online community, and it’s important to take the time to consider which sites or software are right for your company.
Take the time to do your research, and ask:
  • Will this platform support your goals?
  • Does it have the necessary functionality you need?
  • Are there specific tools for engagement that will help you?
  • Do they offer any services that appeal to you?
  • What insights into engagement analytics do they offer?

How to create great online community engagement

Now that you know the pillars you need to establish an online community destined for greatness, you’ll need some advice
As with anything, sustainable practices will help fuel your success without committing ongoing up-front costs, whether they be financial, time, or energy-consuming tasks. Here are some tips for creating a sustainable online community that encourages positive engagement.

Identify champions

Champions are members of your community who shine, similar to an influencer. However, they are almost always an expert in their field who is more than willing to share information and advice with the community.
Knowing who these members are and encouraging them to continue doing what they do will help you create an atmosphere that promotes engagement.

Make asking for feedback natural

Consider adding new ways of crowdsourcing feedback that are more natural than an email or survey. Plus, they can be faster and easier, too. Post in your community and listen to your members’ opinions.

Know the user experience

Operating an online community is a lot different than being a part of that community. So always check in on what it’s like for users to join, give feedback, post, search, and build connections in your community. This can help you identify your pitfalls and your strengths — and keep your users coming back.

Keep it organized

No one likes rummaging around in a messy space, whether it’s tangible or digital. Organize your community around topics, ideas, and groups, and make sure that’s it’s easy to navigate.

Reduce noise and add personalization

Avoid overwhelming users by streamlining your online community interface and personalizing what they see to what they want to see. This will help promote positive online community engagement by reducing noise and community churn.

Conclusion: promote community engagement

If you want your online community to thrive, you need to make intentional decisions to boost engagement, such as:
  • creating a solid strategy
  • hiring the right people to manage your community
  • choosing the best technology for your needs
  • promoting expert community members who contribute
  • thinking like a user
  • asking for feedback
  • personalizing your community experience

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