You’ve decided that an online community is the best way to connect with your association’s members and potential members. Great – that’s a critical first step.
Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to invite your members, to spread the message about why you’re so excited about the community and to post details and important documents that your members need to access to make the most of their membership. If not, don’t worry, you have time.
But once you have the basics in place, and you’re ready to use your community to its fullest potential, what’s next?
Whether you’ve asked this question and aren’t sure where to start, or you’re just looking for next steps, you’re moving in the right direction. Follow the tips below to craft effective messages for your community that lead to engagement, increase member interest and lead to higher retention rates in the long term.
Get to Know Your Members
You might think you know your members. You at least know about one interest they share – the interest that your association is based upon (an industry, a hobby or something else altogether). But, chances are there’s a lot more that they have in common that could be useful for keeping discussions moving in the future.
The best way to learn what these interests are? Start conversations! Ask questions. Post material and ask for feedback. Find out what they do outside of your association. You may find several connecting themes that you may have missed if you never took the time to ask.
Be a Place of Welcome
Sure, your members have joined your association to connect and to network. That’s a given. But actually doing so requires somewhat of a leap of faith, especially inside of established online communities.
You can break down this barrier by creating welcome messages to new members. Send out private messages each month to new members and welcome them publically to your community. Encourage other members to do the same. A welcome community encourages engagement. It all starts with your welcome message.
No one wants to connect with an overly-proper person who talks like a brand, not themselves. Online communities are built upon conversations that flow just like they would in person.
To make this happen, be real. Post messages that sound like they would if you were carrying on a conversation with a member at a networking event. Avoid scholarly speech and keep it real. Your members will feel more able to connect and will see you as a person, just as they should.
Sure, everyday conversation is great. It’s also an essential part of a successful online community. However, there has to be a value-add at some point. Your community must provide an incentive for members to return time and time again without feeling like just another social network.
You can take care of this by sharing information that’s relevant. Take the time to browse industry news sites, share articles that your members might find helpful. To take it one step further, break down the more complicated pieces you find. Ask questions and start discussions based on the articles you share. Highlight upcoming member events or special deals and discounts that are tailored for your membership. By providing value on a regular basis, your messaging will be more effective.
Where are you at in your online community journey? Are you ready to change your messaging in a way that effectively meets the needs of your community members while deepening engagement? Great. The time to act is now. Follow the steps above to get started. Have questions? Ask us! We’re here to provide support along the way.