6 Community Engagement Strategies You Can Implement Now
Community engagement is an ongoing process and maybe the most important task of a community manager. While some organizations hope that members will engage with each other once they've been giving an initial push, this rarely happens. That's why you need community engagement strategies, as well as the commitment to implement them.
But if it takes ongoing effort to uphold community engagement, why would you make the effort?
The benefits of community engagement
The number one benefit of prioritizing engagement is that it helps build a community around your brand. This, in turn, creates a sense of belonging among members and strengthens brand loyalty.
Engaged community members are much easier to move through your customer acquisition funnel, and much easier to reach when you're launching a new product or want feedback on a new service.
Even when you're not running a commercial brand, engagement is key. Whether you're building a social movement around a common cause, creating a support group around a certain topic, or simply bringing people with the same interests together; there's very little you can achieve with your community when it's not active.
The guiding principles of community engagement
For people to engage in your community, they need to feel comfortable. So before you start creating your engagement plan, it's important that your community adheres to some general principles or prerequisites for community engagement:
- Make members feel that every individual voice is valued and they're invited to express themselves.
- Have clear community guidelines and moderators to sensibly enforce them
- Define your core values and stick to them when you engage with the community.
Be responsive. Answer questions and reply to concerns when they pop up so members know you're there to support them.
6 successful online community engagement strategies
While your guiding principles are there to create the optimal conditions for community engagement, the purpose of community engagement strategies is to create a participatory culture in which members are happy to interact with one another.
This, in turn, allows them to build strong connections and helps increase their sense of belonging within a group of like-minded people.
The purpose of community engagement strategies are to encourage a participatory culture and to create meaningful new bonds driven by shared values or goals.
Below you can find some examples of effective community engagement strategies, but keep in mind that every community is different. Use these as inspiration and test what works best for you.
1. Gamify community engagement
Many people are, at the very least, a little competitive in nature. Just look at successful fitness apps, which let friends share how fast and far their last runs were.
You can create the same kind of gamification by giving people points for answering questions or based on their posting activity. Members could then move from one level to the next, earning activity-specific badges for things like "x photos shared" or "x posts published" as they go.
You could even have a leaderboard where the most active member earns a spot at the top. This doesn't just stimulate engagement. It also makes it easy for you to see who your most active members are so you can give them a shoutout, give them beta access to new products, or even let them help with community management.
2. Run competitions
Everyone loves free stuff, which is why competitions work so well to boost engagement. When done right, they can even generate quite a bit of user-generated content.
You could ask community members to use your product and share photos, both within the community and on social media, make a little video describing your service in the most original way, or submit some feedback.
When you announce the winner, do it inside your community. This offers another chance for people to engage by congratulating the winner. Additionally, it proves that you're actually handing out a prize, making it more likely for people to participate in your next contest.
3. Fill-in-the-blank questions
It's a simple format but it works: fill-in-the-blank questions. What's great about these is that they can be used for any type of community. Here are a few examples for very different niches:
- "My next trip will be to___"
- "If I had to choose one vegetarian dinner for life, it would be ___"
- "My favorite content marketing tool is ___ because ___"
You can use this format to ask people about their dreams, their struggles, their opinions, and more.
4. This or that posts
Similar to fill-in-the-blank questions are "this or that" posts. In this case, you ask your members whether they'd choose option A or B.
When applying this tactic, you'll notice that sometimes, members don't just choose an option, but also want to explain why they're choosing that particular option. This in itself can be a great engagement driver, as people start to discuss why one option is better than the other.
One thing to look out for when posting "this or that" questions is that, depending on your niche and the options you offer, the debate could get a little heated and therefore you'll want to monitor responses closely. Some smart moderation might be needed in certain cases.
5. Host a challenge
A challenge is a great way to create longer-term engagement within your community, and create a sense of companionship as members are trying to complete the challenge together and help each other out while doing so.
If you run a fitness community for beginners, for example, you could run a 30-day ab challenge. You share a new ab exercise every day, and ask members to share a photo of their sweaty face once they've done the exercise.
If you run a community for bloggers, you could set a week-long challenge during which you show people how to set up an email sequence one step/day at a time. Each time you share a new step of the process, people are bound to comment with questions or things they struggled with.
6. Ask for feedback
Your community is a great place to ask for any type of feedback.
Have a new product idea? Ask for your community's opinion.
Want to improve your customer service? Ask for your community's opinion.
Not sure what type of content to create next? Ask for your community's opinion.
Be mindful though, you can't just ask for feedback and then ignore it. Work with what your members have shared and you'll build trust and loyalty. If you get defensive or ignore comments, you're likely to lose some people.
Community engagement strategies during COVID
Because of COVID, online communities have become more important than ever. Local communities that previously met at parks or cafes now meet online and people who used to go to meetups to discuss interests with like-minded people, now need to rely on online groups.
Pay extra attention to make these people feel welcome and they might just stick around as active members when offline social life normalizes again.
Overall, managers have a duty to understand the importance of community engagement strategies, and how they can be best implemented. It isn’t just about reaching community engagement targets, continued engagement in your online network will help develop a sense of purpose for members in the community. If members aren’t connected with you, your community, and your shared goals, they may become less engaged and search for another community. Members that care about the community will want to join you in pushing it forward and scaling it towards sustained success.