7 proven ways to boost member-to-member engagement
By Jessica Capuano Mora and Michelle Lynn, Client Community Managers at iTalent Digital
While the initial goals of many online communities involve helping customers self-support to increase the productivity of their support agents, improving the customer support experience and reducing support costs, companies quickly learn that enabling users to communicate and collaborate with each other offers many other benefits, as well. Customers learn new skills, build new relationships and get recognition, which boosts their loyalty, customer lifetime value (CLV) and propensity to refer new customers. But all of this can only be achieved if the members are actively engaged— and stimulating community engagement is something that many companies struggle with.
In this article, we list seven ways you can boost online user engagement for a high-performance community.
1. Intelligent Content Syndication (ICS)
The implementation of iTalent Digital’s Intelligent Content Syndication™ (ICS) solution among our Fortune 1000 clients has been immensely helpful on many levels.
To standardize processes and documentation, iTalent’s team of community managers uses ICS to syndicate articles, videos, discussion threads and other assets across communities. For instance, for one client we have articles in the “Using the Community” section under the publicly accessible “Community Support” forum, which have been syndicated to other properties. Instead of having to copy and paste an article (a rather time-consuming endeavor given that the article needs to be available in three other communities), we are able to utilize checkboxes to syndicate the article to all relevant communities.
Once syndicated, the article just needs to be moved to the respective section of each community using the ICS Admin Dashboard. Furthermore, when changes are made to one article, they show in all syndicated articles; in other words, the syndication is bi-directional—effortless! Because ICS puts more relevant content into the hands of a broader group of users, implementing this solution has led to communities’ seeing as much as an 80% increase in page views. See ICS in action on Microsoft's Power BI Community. For more information, visit our ICS webpage.
2. Auto-translation with ICS
ICS also has the potential to be used in conjunction with auto-translation to support non-native speakers in the community. In some cases, we utilize the auto-syndication of posts with automatic translation from English into Spanish and vice versa to allow community members to seamlessly interact with English speakers from the comfort of their own dedicated Spanish-language board.
The process works as follows: User A posts in the English forum. User B sees the post in Spanish in the Spanish-language forum. User B responds in Spanish, and User A sees their response in English. The experience is seamless, and neither English nor Spanish speakers have to leave their respective properties to communicate and follow the conversation. Engagement on non-English properties has traditionally been much lower, and this functionality has been proven to significantly boost the community’s value (as measured by increased engagement and monthly active users) for non-English-speaking users. See the magic for yourself on Microsoft's Power BI Spanish community.
Galleries are a great way for users to demonstrate how they use a product. Unlike regular forum posts, gallery posts are arranged as rows of images with thumbnails that represent the displayed content, providing an easy visual overview.
Several of iTalent’s clients use galleries to encourage member-to-member engagement. Some include galleries where users can share webinars, tips for using a product, zip files, videos showing how they use a product, or samples of what they created. They have grown in popularity among community members because of the simple fact that users enjoy teaching and sharing with others. Ultimately, with the implementation of galleries, companies can expect an increase of up to 65% in the amount of quality content generated each month.
4. Contests and challenges
Contests and challenges are incredibly effective in encouraging prospective and current, as well as active and inactive, user participation. Challenges are games of chance that ask community members to engage in an activity, with winners being selected at random. One example is encouraging users to find threads that do not have a solution to a support issue yet, and solving it. Other than requiring knowledge of the product and relying on the user to mark their post as a solution, the barrier to entry for this challenge is low. Challenges are a win-win, as community members have the ability to win prizes while helping other members, which benefits the larger community, and could potentially increase MAU (monthly active users) along the way.
Contests, on the other hand, are games of skill, with winners being selected based on the quality of their entry. The only downside is that contests may require more coordination with the company’s legal department. One example for a cross-community contest that we ran was a T-shirt design contest. Community members really got into it and despite being in “competition” with each other, they left mostly positive feedback and were excited to see other members’ amazing designs.
5. Highlighting community members
Making sure your community members are heard and giving them a chance to gain acclaim is key to getting their attention. One way to do this is to highlight individual community members by sharing their photo and bio in a post or through interviews (for example, interviewing the winner of a contest). In addition to allowing the featured community members to gain prestige, other community members will see that contributions are valued, which encourages them to be more active. Recognition is a reward that everyone can work to earn.
6. Rank system and community badges
Another way to foster engagement is to have a compelling community rank system and community badges. Ranks should have names that relate to the community product and encourage participation in a variety of ways. They should also include actions that are easy to complete, such as posting or liking a post, as community members will be attracted by the ease of participation.
Regularly reviewing any rank and badge system that you have in place is essential to ensuring that it is not too easy or too hard to reach the top tiers. Making announcements around changes can also generate discussion and excitement. When sharing information around ranks, it is important to not post specific formulas, as too many details about how to unlock a rank can lead to community members gaming the system. This is especially true when ranks come with particular abilities in the communities, like being allowed to create a signature.
7. Private super user forum
Give your community superstars—your most active and helpful members—a place to discuss and network amongst themselves. Especially if you are running a user program aimed at finding solutions for the community, your community superstars should have a dedicated forum where they can introduce themselves, promote their skills and business, and solve member issues together. This can also be a place to share recordings for meetings that you have with the superstars and where you offer special community support documents. Giving your super users an “elite” status through a dedicated forum will do wonders to motivate continuous community participation.
We hope these suggestions have been helpful. If you have any community tips to share, log in to leave a comment below!
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