Community Engagement: The Real Work Starts Now!
While onboarding might give new members a good first impression of your community, what matters next is to direct them towards meaningful conversations that they can be a part of.
Hey there community folks! 👋
I’ve been all about SaaS this month and am planning to stay in this absolutely SaaSy mood for a while!
As a SaaS founder, you need to do the impossible. You build on something that doesn’t physically exist, with a team that needs to be constantly motivated, while multitasking and learning new skills, making a few mistakes along the way, and then bouncing back with stronger strategies that make up for the errors. All of this, before you realise you’re running out of funds and motivation. It’s like the fear of the unknown — you are lost and you have very little idea where you're headed.
But what if through this entire journey, you had a golden egg and a map of it?
Yes, I’m referring to “community”.
In our previous editions, I had already spoken about the importance of communities for SaaS and how to create the perfect onboarding experience.
So finding this golden egg is great, but the real work begins after that.
Creating a community and onboarding members is the first step. The more difficult one is to ensure members get what they are looking for, and to create a strategy that gets them hooked to your community for the long run.
Building a community is a process with multiple steps. At times, building a community means having more questions than there are answers to. And that’s what I’m here to help you with!
Any community manager who has tried to create a community knows that it's vital to keep members interested and engaged. But understanding how to create a more interactive and energizing experience for your community members is the real deal.
This is why you probably need a good community plan for your community. Imagine if you could ignite a spark in your online community, an environment where members came online to interact with one another and not just with you. An ideal space where people feel empowered and want to engage with others as they belong to the community.
Learning how to empower community members eventually leads to lesser work for you, more interaction between your members, and more growth for your brand.
In this post, I’m going to make you understand why a good community plan is crucial for your new community and what the different strategies you need to get your new members to interact and make the most of your community are.
Strategy 1: Use self-sustaining tactics in your engagement plan
Community engagement refers to motivating members to stay loyal to the community and increasing participation among each other. An engaged community promotes stronger relationships and member loyalty. While the members share a common interest, each community is unique because of its specific experiences, objectives, goals, and expected results. This means that a community engagement strategy will be different for each community and there is no “one-size-fits-all” strategy.
The biggest question you need to ask yourself as a community manager is, Why should my users return or stay longer?
A lot of effort goes into acquiring each new user. But the same effort, if not more energy needs to go into building sustainable community engagement tactics.
A user may come to your online community for many reasons, and return or stay for different reasons. This will always be a probability game but you want to provide them with enough opportunities for them to continuously engage. Their longevity always signals value for your other users which directly reflects on the growth of your community
You need to think about engagement tactics that are self-sustaining that increase the user's longitivtiy in your community, like these:
1. Identify and encourage mentors.
They are the users that build a reputation by sharing their knowledge and expertise, which will benefit other members and the community as a whole.
2. Create feedback posts
Create more opportunities for user feedback and that does not include feedback forms via email or surveys. Create channels and threads within the forum and have discussions around the same. Insights from such discussions are always more valuable.
3. Understand the user journey
Observe how would interact with your community. Create categories and topics based on their preferences. You don’t want them to get lost through a pile of posts to get to a single topic of interest. That can cause quick attrition.
4. Engage your community around topics
Build conversations based on members’ interests, and even the actions they wish to take. Personalize the experience for members this increases consistent participation from members.
5. Conduct programs on your online community
Events, workshops and product ideations. This not only increases participation but lets members to ideate and engage with others. These programs will be perceived as a great value add to them, hence increased return and retention.
Strategy 2: Encourage user-generated content
Content for community engagement includes discussion threads, blogs, comments, re-shares, white papers, educational videos and more.
Many community managers struggle with writing relevant content that can cater to all the unique personas in the community. Sometimes content can often look very simple. But as the saying goes– the simpler, the better. Members like content that is simple, understandable and to the point. It is important to humanise the content as much as possible, that’s when members can relate to what you have to say.
When planning your content, think of the following:
What questions do you get asked the most in your community? Collect these questions and try to create content that answers those questions.
Talk about your product and its latest updates. It’s a great content idea. To get feedback about your product and include features that are recommended by your users.
Speak about everything that’s happening in your community. This can include posts and videos about upcoming events, trending discussions or weekly group meetings.
Create content that is most likely to drive engagement based on data you gather from the performance of various posts in the community. For example, content from certain topics can lead to better engagement compared to others.
Check out the content formats like videos that are more engaging than traditional formats like text and images. For example, you can create online video sessions as icebreaker events.
As your community grows, there will be more user-generated content in it.
UGC (User Generated Content) is created by community members. UGC is a great boost for your community. People are empowered to have a voice of their own. Once they are loyal to the community, they engage on a regular basis by expressing their thoughts and sharing knowledge. They become a voice for the brand, helping promote and market the product. This also promotes acquisition as people often tend to take the words of other members over the brand itself.
According to a study by TurnTo and Ipsos, 90% of shoppers have said that other people’s reviews — ratings, posts, comments, videos, etc, influence their purchases. Almost half of the respondents consider UGC to be more influential than search engines or email advertisements. So the survey implies that, if a person sees a lot of good user-generated content, it’s more likely that they will buy the product.
Strategy 3: Nurture ambassadors and advocates for your community
As you grow your community, you will have users who are super active, I personally call them the superheroes of the community! I mean, I'm not just saying this because I'm a Marvel or DC fan, but that’s precisely what they do. They protect and promote your community. They represent the core of your community and are usually the top contributors with content and participation. These people are the ones members turn to for advice and suggestions about the community. Your key task is to take care of such superheroes as it's crucial to retain and support the existing ones for better community engagement.
They don’t ask for anything in return, they just like ownership and take pride in just helping others in the community. They take on the role of a mentor, a spokesperson and a marketer for your community, so ensure you do whatever it takes to help them feel comfortable and happy to be in the community.
Make sure they are roped in with your internal team, and keep them updated on the latest product and community.
Example: Amex Brand Ambassadors. The American Express payment system has its own brand ambassador program. In this program, people post photos on Instagram depicting the ways they can use American Express services with the #AmexAmbassadorhashtag. e.g. their travel photos. Exclusive event passes and travel upgrades are among the rewards.
Strategy 4: Gamify the community
Gamification, in communities, is about motivating member activity and improving interaction and communication between them. The goal of the activity is to highlight influential and active participants within the community, as well as create groups among members based on their mutual preferences.
At its core lies a reward or recognition system that acts as an incentive to participate. Commonly used tools in online communities include leaderboards based on activity points and titles awarded as recognition. Competition badges also create a sense of community, as they represent a user’s belonging to a specific group.
Participants can receive rewards for various contributions e.g. writing the first post, receiving the highest no of likes and/or comments, answering a question, having the greatest number of shares, etc. In such a way they are motivated to become a more active community participant and thus contribute to the overall success of your brand.
Example: In the Spotify Community Rockstar Program, contributing members are awarded for answering questions, writing blog posts, participating in the Music Room, etc. They can get premium accounts and even audio equipment such as headphones and speakers as a reward.
Strategy 5: Celebrate success
It is important to celebrate the success stories of your members. It can be milestones that they have achieved, their personal success stories or even the virtual leader of the week — through leaderboards and gamification. Celebrate the small successes with the entire community. This creates a stronger sense of belonging among the members. You can also delight your members by appreciating their participation and contribution to improving the overall community experience. For example, a simple thank you letter along with a small gift card for the most active or valuable participants would be a real motivator.
Example: Monument to Game Players by CCP Games. In 2014, CCP Games, a game development studio based in Iceland, built a monument with the names of all active players of their EVE Online game. At the bottom of the monument, they also buried a time capsule containing a laptop with messages from the players and game developers. The capsule will be opened in 2039.
Thriving communities create value through sustained engagement – users joining, engaging, and returning. But always remember when you’re starting out, or you’re working your way up from good to great, it’s tough to know if you have an online community engagement strategy that will create this habit in your users.
Top articles that help with a great community strategy:
Snippets of the week:
A Shout out to Dani Weinstein, Director, Community Strategy at SAP who was our speaker for our recent workshop about “Community Building 101 for every SaaS Business”.
Thank you, Dani, for such an insightful workshop on community building for the B2B space. It was great having you onboard with us!
The deck below contains the entire summary of the workshop that was presented by Dani, along with some valuable insights and interesting resources.
Stay tuned, as we will be sharing the recording of the workshop in the upcoming edition.
Hope you guys have a great week ahead. See you all in our next edition until then think community!
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