I talked to a lot of community managers recently and asked them a question "what's your main problem?"
Almost each one of them answered: engagement.
In this article, I'll explore the enigma of community engagement. Why everyone wants more of it? What's the way you can improve it? Is there a way to measure the engagement?
What's engagement anyways? I think that as community managers we assume that our community should be this vibrant, buzzy place, where people spend a lot of time and they share their resources, communicate and come back every single day. And we get very discouraged when that's not the case.
Communities are different and niches are different. Each community and niche operates on it's rhythm. It's very normal if people are communicating inside your community weekly or once every 3 days. Let's take off that pressure from ourselves.
What's the engagement?
Now that we have let ourselves breathe, let's talk about types of engagement. When we say engagement there are different things that we can mean. What kind of engagement are you expecting inside your community?
The important message I want to pass through this article is - engagement is a feeling, not a metric.
We have a lot of expectations when we start a community:
- We expect members to talk to each other.
- We expect members to create content inside your community.
- We expect members to talk to us.
- We expect members to be in our community daily/weekly.
However, there's no way to measure that activity. It's just a feeling we get that community is not working.
Let's now replace the engagement with other metrics that work for communities:
- Month-on-month (or week-on-week) growth of members,
- The churn of members,
- The lifetime value of members (in case of paid communities),
- Units of member-generated content per month (or another period).
Each one of those metrics you can measure, have a milestone, and work to make actively better. You can't measure the feeling of engagement that you have.
For convenience, I'll still refer to the group of those metrics as "engagement" throughout the article. Hereafter when you see "engagement" in the article keep in mind those 4 metrics.
Now let's talk about the ways that you can improve the engagement of your community.
As always you need to start with the mission of your community. Why you started a community in the first place?
Let's take an example:
A community for people who are looking for jobs
What you can do to improve the engagement in a community like that?
If the mission of the community is to help the members to find jobs here are the things you can implement:
- Share relevant jobs
You can survey to understand what are the skills that your community members have and find relevant jobs and share them. Also, a great way to monetize a community through a job board.
- share experiences of members who already got jobs
Ask members who found jobs through your community to give a short "ask me anything" session for your community members. This helps you to highlight the positive sides of the community. Also, good social media posts and materials can be born out of this to help you make the community discoverable.
- mentorship program
Members that already found a job can mentor other community members to do that as well. It can be a great "giving back moment" and also a way to give power to members and create small subgroups for communities.
- invite recruiters or HR's
Recruiter or HR person can give a regular session on how to stand out in 1000s resumes. How to improve the interviewing skills and also talk about their company which might be hiring.
Points of contact
Continuing on the example of job communities, each community has points of contact. In the case of jobs its: contact with peers, contact with companies who want to hire, contact of recruiters and candidates, contact of successful members.
Your job as community managers is to identify the points of contact in your specific niche and try to create small community rituals around those points.
The rituals can be events, live streams, podcasts, blogs anything that covers the ins and outs of these points of contact.
I urge anyone who's managing a community or even has a product, to add this into their process. Understanding why members are leaving the community is almost as important as why they are joining the community.
Exit interviews provide answers to 3 main questions:
- what were the member's expectations when they joined,
- which expectations were met,
- which expectations were not satisfied.
By knowing the answer to those questions, you can iterate and improve the environment of your community.
I hope this article helped you to let go of some anxiety around community engagement.
With 💛 from Armenia,
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