Understanding community engagement

How To Improve Community Engagement

5 min read

Have you ever taken a deep dive into your community metrics only to find that, despite putting in all the necessary work (attracting the right members, facilitating onboarding, managing great content, moderating comments, and more), some members never seem to participate? Is it a lack of interest? Is the community platform too overwhelming? Or have they become lost somewhere in the member journey?


As a Community Manager, these are likely the types of questions you’ll be asking yourself. To understand a lack of member engagement, it’s important to consider all the possible scenarios for why those members aren’t engaging, and what you can do to ensure you’re consistently delivering value.

Scenario one: they’re quiet, but always watching

While some members might not engage in the community, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re inactive. Some members might only participate as observers, which means they’re still active (that is, they may still be logging on to the community), and as such, still valuable to the community.


What to remember: a lack of engagement isn’t necessarily a sign of failure. Because members may still be extracting value from your community (like reading comments, taking notes, or learning from interactions), it’s important to compare your daily active user rate to your engagement rate to understand just how many people interact vs. observe, and then you can reach out to some of those observers to find out more about why.


What to consider: if you see that there is a high volume of daily active users that don’t engage, it’s important to ensure that they continue receiving the value they need, that is, that they’re able to search through the content easily, and that they’re able to access discussion threads in a logical and simplified manner. Some members may not feel comfortable participating in large, open discussions, so making private and focused discussion groups is an option that could help invite more introverted members.

Scenario two: there’s no community centralization

When a community is scattered across several platforms (multiple platforms, newsletters, social media channels, etc.), members may feel divided and may find it difficult to find the information they need. In this scenario, tracking overall community engagement can be tricky, because your users are distributed.


What to remember: members who aren’t engaging on the community platform might be engaging on your other channels. If this is the case, it’s important to look at engagement from a holistic point of view.


What to consider: if unified engagement is a priority for you, it may be time to consider a unified community platform and phasing out other channels that serve as a distraction for your main goals; or alternatively, revising your content strategy for these ‘auxiliary’ channels to ensure that all content, discussions, reminders, and events lead users back to the main community space.

Scenario three: the platforms you use to engage your community don’t put people first

In a recent blog, we explored the importance of communities choosing tools that allow them to put their members first. In other words, members have a particular reason for joining a community (they’re looking to make professional connections, looking for mentorship opportunities, or perhaps to participate in a knowledge-sharing space) and when the platform doesn’t make these opportunities easily available, they may stop engaging, use other channels to achieve these goals, or otherwise completely fall off.


What to remember: depending on the type of community you have, members may want focused discussion groups, content searching capabilities, event management, or member-matchmaking. Matchmaking, for instance, is a powerful engagement tool that adds great value to all members seeking to make meaningful connections with like-minded people. But if members are promised matchmaking but cannot figure out how to activate the matchmaking feature provided by your community, they will become less engaged, because they can’t achieve the initial goal they came to the community for.


What to consider: taking the needs and goals of your members into consideration, seek an all-in-one community platform that can deliver on what your members need; a platform that can create an authentic and meaningful experience for your members. Investigate what the best community platform is to enable you to provide the services you feel are best for your type of community.

Scenario four: the problem with inactive members

In some cases, members may have completely fallen off somewhere in the user journey, whether it was during the onboarding process, or simply due to a lack of interest. We consider these members inactive.


What to remember: some members may have fallen off at some point due to complications that could easily be solved. Inactive users are not necessarily totally lost, in many cases, there are ways of bringing them back on board.


What to consider: it’s important to housekeep your community from time to time by checking in with inactive members to see if they truly want to remain a part of your community. Not only will you ensure that the community remains focused with active and invested members, but you will also allow your data analytics to better reflect more meaningful insights.


Regardless of the reasons for the lack of community engagement, it’s important to remember that not every member’s journey is the same. While some members may not be actively engaging with content or in discussions, it’s not to say that they’re not still present or consistently extracting value from your community. As we’ve covered, it’s important to speak directly to your members to understand their less active behaviors and to continue looking at the right metrics to ensure that you’re consistently delivering value to every member no matter their chosen journey within your community.

Edwain Steenkamp Content Editor and Writer at Panion
Edwain Steenkamp
Having worked in the media industry for 10 years, Edwain has a deep love for people and communication. As a part of the Panion team, he strives to inform, connect and inspire people from different parts of the world.