Many membership organisations are seeing the real value and insight gained from an online member community. According to the latest Digital Excellence report from MemberWise, 41% of membership organisations now have one.
Community launch is vital to initial and sustained engagement. While not overly time-consuming, best practices to getting this right will make all the difference.
Here are our top-three critical must-haves for launching an online member community successfully.
1. Content Seeding & Sprouting
The primary driver of community value is content. Your new community members need to see valuable, engaging content on their first visit, otherwise they’re less likely to return for a second one. The value of content is amplified by the community members who offer it, and reinforced by the conversations surrounding the content.
There are loads of relevant content for your members across multiple online sources – whether that’s your member magazine, main website, or newspapers – which will be interesting and worthy of conversation in your community. These are often effective seeds, with an initial discussion sprouted from seed content that confirms value and extends the opportunity to engage.
When content is created by highly respected members or senior staff from your organisation, it’s more likely to be considered as high-quality. Help these respected voices post with a bit of support and offers to help – be the social secretary befitting busy executives. Online community platforms, including Discourse, offer the opportunity to attribute these content contributions to any platform user. These tools allow community managers to seed and sprout the community with the backing of influential members who have given their permission to act on their behalf. Just don’t forget to actually get those permissions!
2. Content & Feature Modelling
Community platforms offer plenty of rich features that allow for more nuanced interactions, including emojis, @mentions, images, likes, Q&A’s, videos, and wiki articles (to name just a few). These are available to help your members communicate effectively, and generally make the whole community experience more engaging and personalised. These features should be on display within the seeded and sprouted content at launch.
Similarly, admin-managed content and engagement features such as polls should be in place for your launch to ensure low-risk initial interactions with the platform.
It’s important to note that many users are only willing to post after exploring and understanding a platform; once they know they can truly trust it. Writing a post or sharing an opinion reflects trust in the community, as well as trust in the platform itself.
A new community member will do more as their trust grows, with activity scaling such as:
- Login and browse,
- Offer a response to a poll,
- Like a post,
- Complete a profile bio,
- Upload profile photo,
- Share a file or external piece of content,
- Post an answer to a binary question in an existing topic/thread,
- Post a reply reflecting personal experiences,
- Ask a question,
- Post about an opinion, emotion, etc.
Exhibiting posts that demonstrate the latter-stage trust actions will reinforce safety and accelerate engagement. While content is definitely King, do model the social side. At launch, an ‘introduce yourself’ thread is generally successful in advancing personal sharing between your members.