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Drawing Community Engagement with Fun Topics

Drawing Community Engagement with Fun Topics

Drawing Community
Engagement with Fun Topics

Sometimes as a community manager you need to build up activity in your forum. This could be for a variety of reasons: to hit engagement goals, to make sure the forum is welcoming, or to increase engagement and exposure of your posts on Facebook groups. 
 
While this may not help you meet any meaningful business goals, it can sometimes get lurkers to participate or even get others who aren’t active to visit and chime in. While I don’t suggest spending a lot of time focusing on those who do not want to engage, it’s encouraging to see new faces and shows other members there are new people in the group. 
 
Another way these posts help is by allowing members to have some fun in the group or forum. They get to do something off topic, share in a way they wouldn’t normally, interact with different members, and possibly make new connections. 
 
As a community manager, I use these types of posts to make conversation with new people. Since their commenting or participation shows me they are interested, I can reach out and build some trust into our relationship. I like to make sure members know they are valued, and that someone from the company wants to personally connect.
 
Threads like this have helped me at both HubSpot, Forbes, and other communities to nurture relationships that brought about some of my most dedicated evangelists. 
 

Topics for Increased Engagement

Business/Work Related Communities

  • Sharing social media profiles/links 
  • Share your business, side hustle, 
  • What goal did you reach this week?
  • Apple or Android?
  • What exciting project are you working on or did you finish recently?
  • Share a photo of… (your work area, your pet, your view)
  • Dogs or Cats?
  • Job links (if it makes sense)
  • Share a resource that helps you do your job
  • What are your favorite online tools?
  • Who is your go to expert for…. ?
  • What are some of your biggest career successes?
  • What’s your favorite app for…?
 

Gaming Communities

  • Favorite game as a kid, Go!
  • On XYZ Game, who is the best character to play?
  • Tell the truth… do you ever cheat?
  • You’ve thought about it: What kind of game would you create?
  • What’s the Best game you’ve ever played?
  • Tell us about your dream gaming set up
  • Which gaming chair/seat is perfection?
  • Online or Console gaming? 
  • Playstation, Xbox or Switch – which is best overall?
  • What’s the you’ve waited in line for a game?
  • Be real – what’s your gaming username?
  • Best streamer on Twitch?
  • Who has the best game walkthroughs?
 
Blockchain/Cryptocurrency
  • What finally got you into crypto?
  • What would you change about how crypto works?
  • How much was an XYZ worth when you started?
 
Now, I realize this metric of engagement is very much a vanity number, but let’s face it, a lot of communities are measured based on interactions by superiors who want to see activity. Activity means there has been exposure and this can be encouraging to them. 
 
This doesn’t mean you should only track engagement or that it suggests success, it just means you have some educating to do on the more important numbers you can track. In the meantime, entertain your community, get them interacting with each other, because building connections is a major reason they show up. 
 
And, please share: what topics have helped you engage more members? 
 
Remember, if you have any questions, please let me know here. I’m happy to help.
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Aligning business goals with community efforts

Aligning business goals with community efforts

Aligning Community
& Business Goals

Having a community can be a major plus for a company. But, to make it a successful effort for your company you’ll have to reach certain business goals. These goals can be quite varied and are based on the type of community and the business itself.

For example, eBay’s community for power sellers may want to run a campaign to get their power sellers using their newer promoted listings options. Uber, on the other hand, might have goals around helping drivers increase satisfaction ratings, growing the number of drivers in certain areas, or decreasing support requests.

Several departments can benefit from the community. One of the creative aspects of your job as a community manager is to help these departments understand how community involvement can help them reach important KPI’s.

It’s inevitable you will run into goals to meet in or for your community. And, it can be a struggle to align them with the community itself. To help you better understand aligning your business goals and community efforts, I’ve come up with a win-win approach. I will also include a few examples to explain how it works.

What Makes or Can Make the Community a Success for the Company?

To start, you need to know what goals your company has for the community. What will make this a win or where are they benefiting from having the community? How does your team expect this to be successful? Since the business will fund the community and all proactive efforts the business needs to see some kind of return for the investment. It won’t always be monetary, but it can often be tied back to dollars and cents. Here is a list of possible successes for your team:

  • Revenue targets
  • Decreasing churn
  • Fewer support tickets
  • Improved NPS
  • Customer education
  • Customer success
  • Feature adoption
  • Market research
  • Marketing exposure
  • Program onboarding
  • Business partnerships
  • Recruiting
  • Beta testing
  • Success stories
  • Surveys
  • Feature/Design testing
  • Understanding customer needs
  • Opportunities with influencers
  • Potential business partnerships

You can list out the potential business goals you foresee from engaging customers or a particular cohort in a community. In fact, you’ll want to consider these objectives for any campaign you run in the future.

Why Do Members Participate in Your Community?

Now, the potential participants have to be taken into consideration. What will motivate them to join and engage in your community? In many cases it comes down to self-interest. Here is a short list of the most common reasons to engage, any combination of these can motivate your members.

Learning – how to use your software, how to improve their business, personal growth, learning can address any topic.
Recognition – members are sharing their skills/talents/knowledge and like to be noticed for their contributions. Giving back falls under recognition.
Exposure – by participating in your community they get access to your followers and potential growth in their own businesses/hobbies.
Career – A lot of professional forums are frequented because they directly tie into success with a career or position at work.
Network – People want to connect with others who are just like them, your community is a hotbed for networking.

Your members’ reasons for participating must be known in order to make it successful for both sides, you have to fulfill their needs when focusing on one of your own. If you aren’t already sure why your members participate, now is a great time to run a survey and find out.

Matching Business Goals & Members Motivations

Next, you’ll take your campaign or goal and try to match it with a member benefit. The more members are motivated by that reason to participate the more likely it is you’ll be able to push your campaign and reach your goals. Let’s look at some examples of ways you can reach align goals with their participation.

eBay & Power Sellers

I worked with an e-commerce software company that had a close relationship with eBay, especially power sellers. The sellers participate in the forums in order to see how they can best use features to make more sales. And eBay wanted to get power sellers to adopt their new sponsored listings, so one way eBay encouraged this was to talk about how it would increase their sales.

Further, they discussed the drawback of losing their search rankings to sponsored listings and how they could get around this while maintaining profit margin with educational material that helped them improve results.

This is where having a forum/community to discuss these things with your members is beneficial to the business. You get to interact with the members to fine-tune your campaign, help them be successful, and get their feedback. Not only are you presenting a new feature to them but you are also working to keep their business successful and in this case their businesses feed the company.

Forbes Business Forums

In the Forbes forums where I was a Community Manager, we wanted to get more members engaging in our monthly expert panels. These were used in our promotions for getting new members to join. In order to get more members to answer the questions in the panels we posted the questions in our forums and sent them emails appealing to their hopes for additional exposure with our partners. When they did answer, they would be included on our partners’ sites outside of Forbes, and we were always adding new partners.

HubSpot’s Inbound.org Forum

A goal we had at Inbound was to increase the listings on our job board. We needed companies to post their needs for Inbound Marketers on the board in order to get people to apply for jobs. This wasn’t easy to do because the jobs weren’t on the homepage of the site and few people knew about it, so we started by reaching out to active members and asking them if they would like a free listing for their company.

To prove the effectiveness of the board we helped them find members who would apply for the positions. This appealed to the job listers because it was free and they needed to hire, and it appealed to the members who were always open to opportunities. We ended up getting 10x more posts in two months. We also increased traffic to the job board and positions started getting filled without our interference.

Conclusion
Hopefully, these stories help you see how you can align goals with member motivations so that everyone wins on any campaign you are considering for your community. With a shortlist of why your community participates, you can strategize how you’ll handle your next goal.

In order to prove how well your campaigns are working, you’ll need to be tracking a lot of metrics. These are absolutely necessary when convincing your superiors of the success of your community. In a future post, I’ll share some of the metrics I’ve used to help validate campaigns.

And, if you have any questions about aligning goals with community participation I’m glad to help, just contact me here.

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How To Move Your Community Off Facebook Groups

How To Move Your Community Off Facebook Groups

How to Move Your 
Community Off Facebook 

Facebook is perfect for testing a community approach for a business because it is easy to set up and invite just about anyone. But, as the importance of your community grows you will inevitably consider leaving Facebook groups for a proper community platform. This post will cover making the transition from Facebook groups to a platform of your choice. 

For brevity’s sake, let’s assume you’ve already chosen your replacement community platform. To begin, you want to give yourself plenty of time to make this transition. It will take weeks to months depending on how many members you have, how many you can lose, and how active they are. You’ll want to give them several opportunities to make the move to the new site and ample time to do it.

Before You Switch Community Platforms

I suggest giving yourself 3 months, but in some cases, you’ll only have a couple of weeks. Here’s how the timeline looks:

Choose your new platform – arguably this is the most difficult step because there are so many options out there. Until I create my own post on this topic here are a few options to read: Feverbee’s platform comparison tool, CMX Guide to Community Platforms, and The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Community Platforms.

Plan the transition (in detail) – You can use the following as a template for your plan.

Set up new platform – This allows you to test the new platform and the many features included, you can add content, research settings and take time to help build documentation for your members. I recommend giving yourself 2-4 weeks of the new software regularly before inviting members to join.

You’ll specifically want to understand the onboarding process the software offers, the options you have for collecting data and hooking the forum up to your CRM, as well as the various options for posting content and how these options match up with how things are being done in your live forum (AKA Facebook groups).

Add beta users to new platform – People from your team should be the first to get on the new system. When you’ve solved any problems or obstacles with the software, it’s a good idea to invite evangelists/power users to use the new forums and collect their feedback.

Stock with new content – When you eventually launch the new forum you’ll want the place to look just as full as the groups you have now. This means you’ll need to plan some events, have conversations already in progress, and regularly have a variety of members adding new content.

Initially, you’ll be able to stock the content, but as more members join, you’ll need an outreach plan that will get others posting, too. You can prepare this in advance with your team and power users by asking for volunteers. You already know who is dedicated to your forum, get their involvement and show your gratitude and they’ll be glad to help when you reach out.

Allow beta users time to test new platform – Ask these users if they came across any issues with registering, posting, commenting, fixing their profiles, finding support, getting notifications, or emails.

Deal with any issues that arise – It’s inevitable that you’ll come across a minor issue here and there. Get comfortable reading the software company’s documentation and make sure they have support available during your peak hours. The whole point of taking the time to launch a new community site is to foresee and handle any problems BEFORE you invite the masses, so take time to be active in the new forum.

Choosing A Hard or Soft Transition Off Facebook Groups

Depending on your community you’ll choose a quick or slow (hard or soft) move to your new forums. In my experience I’ve found that more dedicated communities, such as those that are required for work, can make the change quickly without losing too many active members (those members that weren’t active are likely to be lost but can always be reengaged through email/social media). 

In communities where participation is more voluntary, paid, or entertaining, a slow migration has worked better as it gives those members who do not visit regularly time to make the change. A slow migration also helps you get as many members as possible to move from the old site to the new site. 

As an example, when I worked with Forbes communities we used a soft transition to help them move off Facebook, the plan that follows in this post is based on the same steps we took to make our move to an in-house solution successful. 

Your community manager should be able to identify how a hard or soft transition will affect your community as a whole.  

Soft Transitioning Community Members

Give yourself two months to transition members – In a lot of forums only the most active members show up everyday, or even every month, so it makes sense to give a couple of months of time to members to make the switch.

Make formal announcement – In a new sticky post at the top of the Facebook group, and in email (if available), announce that you are moving to a new forum. Include a couple of reasons why this change is for their benefit, your members often won’t care if it’s just because you want more control, they care about their ease of use and what is comfortable for them.

You can mention that on the new forum they will have a much easier to skim topic section, they will be able to message each other without needing to be added as a friend (which often results in lost messages), they’ll have quicker access to moderators, and (if you are doing this) additional content just for their success.

To encourage their interest include mentions of new content, interesting discussions, a new influencer, in the new forum.

For example:

Come Join Our New Forum –

We told you a couple of weeks ago that the new forum was just about ready and now it is.

We’ve added some surprises; a discussion with (influencer name) going on right now, a new free course on (topic of importance), and conversations with our own (Name of Titles) who will answer all of your questions for the next 2 days.

You are going to love the new site, private messages will be easier, you will get faster support from us, and all of our content is much easier to navigate.

We can’t wait to see you in there – join at this link.

Give members access to new platform – There are two ways of doing this: 1) Give them access to register as soon as you announce the new forum and run 2 forums at once OR 2) Use the above announcement as just the announcement so they can get comfortable with the idea, possibly getting fewer to register in the long run.

If done correctly, with a lot of nudges to join the new forum, I suggest simply making the announcement. It’s hard enough to keep activity going in 1 forum without having to worry about losing participants in both because there is not enough engagement. I suggest making the announcement at least 1 month before the switch, 2 months if possible. If things are going well with the new forum and tests you can make the announcement much earlier than 2 months before the switch.

I would open access to the new forum 2 weeks after the initial announcement. In the new forum you’ll want to have some conversations active, it shouldn’t look dead.

Run both forums with all programs and events – With 1.5 months left before the switch you’ll have to manage the content at both sites, this will take a lot of outreach to members to participate, especially the power users you invited before. This is their moment to pitch in. You basically want to finish all events/programs promised in the initial forum and build up the engagement in the new forum.

Pushing Members To Make the Switch

Begin mentioning the transition deadline in all new posts/events/programs/communication – About a month from the time of your first announcement it’s time to get more obvious about the switch. At the end of each post, give them a link to share in the same conversation in the new forum, if you can entice them with new members, news coming just to the new forum, etc, now is the time to do that.

Continue adding more content to the new platform – In your new content, make sure you encourage your members to invite their friends to join the new forum. At this time, you’ll want to have more content in the new forum than the old one, if not, you need to do more outreach and suggest to members in the old forum to post new threads in the new forum.

Send an email and make a post on the old forum asking all members to make the transition (ask people to like it on your team to get the exposure you need on Facebook) Explain that you have been cutting back on posts over the last couple of weeks and that you’ll be referring all new posts to the new site.

Start sharing links from posts in the new forum to the old Facebook group inviting people to join. – This is a bolder move that makes it obvious the group won’t be used for much longer. At two weeks before the switch you want to be doing this.

Remind posters who make a post in the old forum to please join the new forum and share their post there. – You can accept their post on the old forum, but leave a comment that it will be closed for commenting soon and that you’d love to have them in the new forum.

Remind members that if they haven’t made new accounts they will miss out on the benefits of the forum going forward (education, events, etc) focus on the things that are most wanted/needed in the group.

Consider sending a survey to see why people have not transitioned to the new forum. – By understanding what’s keeping them from joining you can discuss how the new forum will help them.

Send email that the old forum is shutting down in 1 week – This email should include a big button or link to click through and finish registering for the forum. Again, if you have any incentives, now is the time to mention them.

Reach out personally to whoever is left – If your team can manage this, reach out and help members sign up. Some softwares will allow you to enter their email addresses and have an account set up for them with a link to set their password, this is a great option that allows you to follow up after the old forum is down.

Stop making new posts to the old forum – except the final post to say the forum is closed, where you’ll include a link to register at the new site.  

Hard Pushing Members To A New Forum

In some cases, you just can’t stay on Facebook Groups any longer and have to make the switch. This could be because the new software you have was really expensive and superiors want it to be used NOW or because Facebook discontinued your group for some reason. It could be anything.

Email all of your members and include a link to the new forum. I suggest gently explaining why this is important to do now and divulging what details you can about the quick timeline.

In my experience this kind of push risks losing a lot more members, but a follow up email and social media campaign can help over time.

Post only in the new forum. 

Add members who did not transition to a newsletter and keep them in the loop by sending out timely newsletters.

In some ways this is easier because you don’t have to keep working on two forums at a time and gently coaxing people to make a change, in other ways it is demanding to the members and somewhat disrespectful of their time and experience, so if it is a paid membership you might want to give them more consideration.

Communities tend to vary in engagement, dedication, active users, and preferences, so it’s important the community manager has a finger on the pulse of the community and can direct how these decisions will affect important metrics.

Loss of Community Members

It’s inevitable that you will lose members when switching platforms. Here are some reasons why:

  • Members don’t want to use another site
  • Members stopped using the group weeks, months, or years ago (one of the reasons you want to make this transition)
  • They don’t believe they’ll need the group any longer
  • They aren’t interested in what the new site will offer

Bottom line: it’s OK to lose community members here. With Facebook Groups you tend to have a LOT more ‘members’ than active members and this will give you a better idea, perhaps a baseline, of what your community activity is.

While the plan above was created to give members several options to move and a lot of time to make the switch, some will not. The numbers you had before were largely vanity metrics that had little bearing on your actual reach and engagement. Start from here, build a plan to grow, and keep the members who have moved happy.

Conclusion

Facebook will eventually not be able to give your members the deep community experience you want to offer. You’ll also want more data from the efforts your company is investing in your community as well as more flexibility in your member site. It will make sense to move away from the Facebook Groups that were so easy to start and tap into more opportunities. This plan should help you proactively consider steps to take while making the transition. And, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me as I’m more than happy to help.

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Is Your Community Quiet? Reactivate Members

Is Your Community Quiet? Reactivate Members

Quiet Community?
Re-engage Members 

Whether you’ve started a community and it’s been abandoned or activity is extremely low, this post should help.

Low activity happens in a lot of communities and there are many reasons why this happens. But it all comes down to members not having a reason to come back or contribute.

If your community is too quiet it’s going to take some time to get members interested again. The good news is you can start now.

Your community needs content and activity to interest your members. They need to see new content coming in on a regular basis, something they can keep coming back to see what’s new.

And activity shows them that others are participating, which is a major reason many join communities to connect with the like-minded, make new connections, build relationships and knowledge they might not have access to anywhere else.

 

Content that attracts views

To get started, find content. You can always work on creating your own content in the future, but for now get on Google or social media and look for content your potential community members will find interesting.

This is called curating content and entire businesses have been built on curating content, so if you are good at doing this, your community can thrive.

One problem that I’ve noticed is; a lot of community managers don’t curate content regularly. Like any other type of audience, yours wants to be able to depend on finding what they want when they show up. If they do, they’ll come back often. If they don’t, they’ll stop visiting.

I suggest adding 2-3 pieces of content every day if you can. This is going to depend on how often you want people to visit. If you expect them to come weekly, then 3-5 new pieces of content a week will suffice.

 

Activity from other members

Members generally expect that a community will have activity from other people, not just the owner.

Since people join communities to connect, you have to provide comments, votes, submissions from others.

When reactivating your community this is hard to provide, so I suggest you do one of the things below:

1) Reach out to the most active members of the past and ask them to support you in your reactivation of the community. If you have at least 5 total people, you have a decent start for inviting others to the site, but you’ll need them to be very active.

This will most likely require you to reach out to them often to keep them active, and you might need to offer other benefits of being your refounding members.

2) Start reaching out to every member you can. This one is a less targeted approach and it involves you getting busy in email.

Start reaching out to everyone you can and engaging them by telling them what’s on your site and asking them to participate.

Messages like:

  • Hey, Mike! I just posted an article I think you would like on XYZ Community – could you hope on and leave your thoughts?
  • Jenn, we have an awesome conversation going on in XYZ Community, I’d love to hear your thoughts, could you leave them in the comments? (include link)
  • Hi Chris, I saw you posted an article on Twitter, that would be great for the XYZ Community, can you add it to the site? I’d really appreciate it.

You’ll want to send messages like these daily until you see enough activity that isn’t coming from your outreach.

 

Keep Recruiting New Members

It takes a lot of pushing to get your community to a healthy level of activity. And one final way of revitalizing it is to constantly recruit new members.

Whenever your site looks active, you should be working on marketing your community. You can do this through social media sites for free, but you’ll need a strategy.

I recommend Instagram for a lot of communities as it is very active, easy to get followers, and easy to grow.

A healthy influx of new members will add to the engagement on your site. And slowly the snowball effect of comments, submissions, and likes will take over as the community sustains itself.

If I can help you with your community, please email me at marygreencny on gmail or message me here.

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Your Email List Is Your Community, Here’s How to Engage Readers

Your Email List Is Your Community, Here’s How to Engage Readers

Engage Your Email 
Community

Do you have a large email list? If so, that’s where your community lives and it’s time to start thinking of them as the community they are.

They are not simply people waiting to hear whatever content you push to them, they are your fans, your customers, and the foundation for your business. Even more, they are people and the more you work on building a relationship with them, the more your business will thrive for it.

However, since an email community is different than the more common places where communities live such as forums, Facebook, Twitter, etc, I wanted to give you some advice for making the most of your email list.

Here’s how to treat your email list like a community:

Write About Them. Your email list can include a shoutout area for your readers to share their struggles, ask for advice, or talk about their breakthroughs. When you give them space to share you open it up to let them build more relationships.

Hold Events. You can have a webinar, a Facebook live, a Twitter chat, or a Hangout on Google. These events can be regular, such as once a month, and can feature other readers from your email list sharing their expertise.

For example, one of my favorite coaches is Jenn Scalia, she has a phenomenal Facebook group, email list, etc, she knows several wonderful coaches who specialize in different areas and sometimes she tells her community about them, what a wonderful way for us all to learn about other coaches and possibly share our own businesses someday.

Share A Calendar of Events & News. There’s plenty of space in your newsletter to share upcoming events, allow members to submit their events (your approval is necessary) for the newsletter.

Offer A Place To Followup Online. If you don’t have a site or Facebook group you can offer a Twitter hashtag for your community to connect. When you do this, ask people to share their comments, points of view, and favorite links with the hashtag, announce this in your newsletter and follow up by sharing in future editions what people have said.

Why Have An Email Community Instead Of A List?

It’s actually really simple when you sign up for an email list and you receive newsletters all about the writer, it just isn’t as fun, engaging, or inclusive as when you join a group and actually get to connect with the owner and others they value.

Think of it this way. Would you rather be invited to join Steve Job’s personal email list or get invited to a Facebook group of his closest business confidants you can connect with? Simple choice, right?

Now offer that choice to your readers. I guarantee they are hoping to connect with you more, and build important relationships for their businesses and lives, give them the opportunity to do that with you and they’ll stick around a lot longer.

As a reminder, think of what you’d like to get out of following someone online, and when you can provide that to your followers, they’ll appreciate it, and the results will speak for themselves.

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