A community is nothing without engagement. In order for your communities to grow and flourish, you need active participants. A group of 300 engaged brand advocates is a much more powerful resource than a group of 30,000 passive followers.
Here are 6 proven techniques that every brand can use to encourage engagement and discussion via online communities.
1. Fresh Content
Your community is unlikely to engage if nothing ever changes on your website. Not only that, but Google’s ranking algorithm won’t think twice about kicking you while you’re down. It’s important to keep your communities informed about the latest updates and issues of interest.
Post relevant and interesting articles, news stories, and blogs regularly. Your community will come to see you as an expert resource, which means increased sharing and engagement.
2. Mixed Media
Creating and sharing different types of media is a great way to add variety to your content and produce positive engagement results. Working with multiple media types opens the door for repurposing content. A point from your last blog post might make an interesting 3-minute video tutorial. Don’t get stuck in a blogging rut – mix it up!
3. One-on-One Contact
Contacting your community members individually is a great way to build solid foundations and brand loyalty. Individual interaction shows your fans and followers that you really appreciate them. With online communities, even large brands can show their caring, mom-and-pop side.
Thank them for sharing their comments and answering calls to action. You might also want to suggest content that may interest them or direct them towards other actions in order to build long-term engagement. Remember, provide them with value and you’ll set yourself up for success.
4. Ask Away
Asking a simple question is often recognized as an effective way to spark conversation. People are more likely to respond when they are directly addressed with a question and their opinions are valued. So, try asking your community members what they thought about your latest blog post.
Dig for feedback from the entire community and truly listen to what they have to say. Remember, companies pay big dollars to get this kind of product feedback! At the same time, don’t neglect asking one-on-one questions. If you’re trying to reach out to someone new, a direct question will help hook him or her.
All of this only works if the questions you ask matter to your community and are relevant to your audience. So take the time to understand what your audience reacts to. Moms, for example, are more likely to answer questions about Kim Kardashian than Fight Club.
5. User-Generated Content
Pay extra attention to what community members themselves initiate. It’s one thing for users to respond to your content and questions, but it says even more when users come forward themselves. Identify trends in the topics they’re interested in. Do many of them want to talk about family, sports or a specific television show?
Brands lose a bit of control with online communities. This might result in some complaints and criticism, which shouldn’t be ignored. Alienating critical users may show you have something to hide. Apologize for the user’s experience and offer real solutions. Who says you can’t turn an unhappy camper into your new biggest fan?
6. Be Genuine & Promote Openness
People like to interact with people, not brands. Your fans and followers are more likely to engage when your brand seems approachable. It’s time to drop the cold, professional front and be real! Remember, you can’t fake being genuine and open – just be your loveable self.