Make your community irresistible with CORE content
Updated: Apr 6, 2021
By Eric Stieg, iTalent Digital Enterprise Collaboration Practice
Have you ever wondered what makes a successful online community engaging? The key to attracting people to your community and stimulating engagement is no mystery. It all boils down to content. While the phrase “Content is King” was first coined in 1996 by Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, it is every bit as true today as it ever was. The quality, relevancy and timeliness of your content is what attracts visitors to your online community, converts them to members, and keeps them engaged.
The most effective content for making your online forum irresistible is what I like to refer to as CORE content. CORE content is Current, Open, Relevant and Exclusive.
(1) Current – When your content is constantly being updated, search engines will index it much more often than it will a more static site. This helps your search rankings and makes your site easier to find. You need to have community admins actively managing the content and discussions, as well as making sure the content is dynamic and interactive. If someone comes to your community and sees that no one has posted in a week, they’re less likely to visit frequently.
When users visit a web property, they need to see (a) signs of life, (b) recency (i.e., something new) and (c) calls to action. These three elements work synergistically to leverage visitors’ FOMO (fear of missing out), which motivates them to keep coming back.
(2) Open (vs. private) – Let new, unauthenticated visitors see your best content. You only have one chance to make a first impression. With this in mind, create a unique flow for visitors to ensure their first impression showcases the value of becoming a member. Don’t keep your best content under lock and key and only available to certain customers. How will they know what they are missing if they can’t see it (FOMO again)? Also, an “open community” provides you with significantly more opportunities to collaborate, convert, escalate and increase NPS (net promotor score).
As an example, a high-tech B2B company I consulted with was disappointed with the lackluster engagement on its online community. It lacked recency with a paucity of new posts, little to no responses on its discussion threads, and hardly any user-generated content. As a result, no one visited the site and new registrations were non-existent. The solution rate for threads was miserable, the community didn’t contribute to case deflection, the voice of the customer was neither expressed nor heard, and the search results on Google were dismal. In this example, there was zero return on their community investment. This was entirely due to the site being “closed” – visitors wouldn’t bother joining because they couldn’t see the content (and therefore the value) in the community. The solution? We revamped the entire site and opened up 100% of the content to all visitors (including unauthenticated users) to view. As a result, 60% of the 3,000-strong customer base joined the community within a few months. This naturally led to a huge jump in total posts, responses, NPS and overall enthusiasm. The company’s efforts were recognized later that year with an industry award for the most creative community.
(3) Relevant – The content in your community must not only be relevant to the users, but the content must be applicable to the customer’s journey. Make the effort to understand your users and what they want, and build customer journey maps from the onset – from registration to LTV (lifetime value). Then ensure you have content that addresses each phase of the journey. It will pay dividends in the long run!
I had been working with a client as the community and social media manager at a time when IPv4 web addresses were being replaced by IPv6 addresses (IPv6 is the next-generation protocol on which the future of the internet is based). We knew IPv6 was of interest to our users, so we decided to craft a series of blogs highlighting the change, when it would happen, and what it meant for businesses. As the story grew to national headlines, our blog posts and social media were picked up by national TV carriers including MSNBC, CNN, and others. We were viewed as an expert in the space because we had been covering the story for so long. The relevancy of the content we had published on the blog, along with social hashtags, drove over a million views to our content in under a month.
(4) Exclusive – Content that is exclusive to your community requires people to come to the community to consume it. Create and maintain an editorial calendar with unique activities, events and CTAs (calls to action) only available on the community – like a “meet the CEO.” Build a library of intellectual capital that’s only available on the community, and get product teams and an executive sponsor involved to obtain the necessary internal support for this content.
A few years ago, I consulted a company that developed an exclusive annual cybersecurity threat assessment report that was made available as a download from its community site. In order to download the file, rather than having the user fill out a form with an email address, the decision was made to require users to create a community account to access the downloadable file. We offered a “sneak peek” as a reward for people who created an account prior to the full report being published, which caused a spike in new account registrations the day the sneak peek was launched. Once the full report was published, we again saw a tremendous jump in new account creations, as well as backlinks to the report from partner, customer and news organizations, all of which increased awareness of the report beyond what the company could have accomplished by itself.
To make your online community irresistible, members need to feel compelled to stay engaged. The way to deliver value is through content, and the most effective content for driving community value and engagement is CORE content: content that is Current, Open, Relevant and Exclusive. Do this and watch the activity in your community snowball!