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A few months ago, I led a small group of community leaders. While I was chatting with my fellow community builders, I realized that there is one topic we don’t talk about enough in community building: Onboarding.
Onboarding new members to your community is a critical process as you have to ensure that your members are having an engaging experience right from the beginning and they keep coming back to participate on a regular basis. In this article, we will discuss this and more.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Start small.
It’s pretty natural to get overwhelmed while choosing the right onboarding process for your community. Why? You ask.
The reason is simple - there is no one right onboarding process for all communities. Nothing like one-size-fits-all.
Depending on the kind of community you are building, the goals tied with the onboarding process keep on evolving. Also, there are certain expectations that your members might have which you have to keep in mind. When you align those expectations with the right approach and mindset, your onboarding process will become super-effective.
However, there are some characteristics of the onboarding process which is common for every community. Take out some time and think about these questions to set up a solid onboarding process:
How do you want your members to feel when they join your community?
What is the kind of experience that you want to give to your members?
Is there anything special about your community which your community members would want to know?
How can you make your onboarding process feel more personalized?
How can you make them feel special while welcoming?
Welcome your community members like you’re welcoming people to a party!
Well, parties were pretty different last year (and even these days) as we aren’t able to meet each other in-person on a regular basis. However, for community leaders who are continuously striving to do something unique, separating communities as online versus offline doesn’t quite appeal..
Genuine communities are simply a set of people who keep coming together about what they care about. It isn’t necessary to define this group of people as an online or offline thing.
Now if you’re wondering how you can relate onboarding new members to welcoming people to a party - think of it this way.
You must have organized a party or some event in the past, right? What was the first thing you did when your guest arrived? Have you left them to explore the place on their own? Of course not! Instead, you must have greeted them with a pleasant smile on your face, chatted a little, maybe showed them around to make them feel comfortable, and introduced them to other guests you think they may bond with. (or, if you’re one of my friends, you’d show me where the beer is 🍺).
This is exactly what you should do in an online space as well. An effective onboarding process is the first step to set the tone of your community - exactly the way you’d want it to be.
Keep reminding your members of the “why” of your community.
When new members join your community, your onboarding actions should prompt them to do something. Because when they start participating in the community, they become more invested in your community.
Remember, you have an advantage with new members - they are already excited.
Make them feel they are a part of something by letting them do something unique. If you motivate them to take that first step, they will be more empowered to take the next step and so on. To or do this, you can try out different things to spark that emotion within your community members:
Give your new members a guided “tour” which should cover some crucial starting points of your community like where they should reach out for help, who is the moderator, how often your members can talk with the community manager.
You can create a highly engaging welcome video to attract your members’ attention. In that video, you can explain how everything works in a community.
Use effective email sequences to onboard, notify, update and engage your members. Avoid putting in a lot of information there. Start with small chunks of relevant information, which is readable and easy to consume. This will ensure your members are not bored of these emails.
Your community onboarding process can never be constant because communities keep evolving with time. As your communities grow, your target members will change. So, your onboarding process must also incorporate these changes. And your members should feel this transition. The end goal should always be to keep evolving and improving the experience. There’s one thing you can always keep in mind though. You can always kickstart the whole process by gamifying it. Keep on motivating new members to share something unique about them, and put some reward system in place.
So yeah, that’s what I learned from my experience of building communities. It ain’t perfect, but it’s something, and I hope the specific tactics and details will help others get their community flywheel spinning. If you liked what you read, please share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter - wherever you love to spend most of your time spreading knowledge!