When online communities are at their best, content is valuable, members are consistently engaged and everyone involved feels supported and fulfilled by the connection.
However, if your association has a relatively new online community building — or you have inherited an older community into which you’re trying to breathe new life — getting to that place of industry-leading engagement and value can feel like an uphill battle. And the biggest challenge of all? Getting more members to readily participate on an ongoing basis.
With so many competing online spaces, it can be especially difficult to convince your members to spend time in your specific websites. To overcome this obstacle, your private online member community needs to offer something to your members that they can’t get on other websites or social media networks — which begins with the ability to network with like-minded individuals. However, in order to create that culture of togetherness, you need members who actively participate. So, how can you make that happen?
While every online community is different and you’ll have to gauge what works best for your particular association, there are a few universal tips and strategies that can help drive engagement.
5 Advanced Tips to Increasing Participation in Your Association’s Online Community
Tip #1) Work Hard To Build A Culture Of Trust
Your members need to know that your online community is a safe place to participate, where productive conversation can thrive and kindness is a top priority.
This culture of trust might not come naturally at first, so don’t be afraid to take intentional steps toward creating it. For instance, you can and should post community standards and make sure all community members are aware of the behaviors that are and aren’t acceptable.
Community moderators may need to dedicate extra time in the beginning stages of your community to ensure standards are met by removing commentary that doesn’t align with community goals. However, over time, by enforcing a clear standard of behavior, your community members will grow more comfortable participating.
Tip #2) Prioritize Collaboration
Your members are most likely to get the greatest value from participating in your online community when they are collaborating with other members.
By providing tools that make collaboration easier, you can encourage this type of engagement. For instance, a contextual conversation tool can allow one member to post a piece of content for other members to review and comment on directly in the text. They can make line-item suggestions or link to helpful articles.
This ability to collaborate not only benefits the original poster, but the participating members are likely to feel a level of pride and networking through their responses and feedback.
Tip #3) Showcase Member Expertise
In addition to enjoying collaboration, your members are also likely to benefit from showcasing their own expertise — and other members will benefit from learning from that expertise.
A learning paths tool allows each member to upload full online courses directly in the portal. Sharing knowledge with others makes members feel good and increases the amount of valuable content in your online community.
Tip #4) Utilize Live Events
Your online community shouldn’t just be a stagnant place that sporadically receives participation. By hosting live discussions or collaboration sessions, you can encourage substantial participation all at one time. Your members are likely to get more out of these live events for two key reasons:
- The excitement of participating in a large group creates stronger connections and more productive discussions.
- By scheduling a live event, members are more likely to commit to a time block on their schedule because they won’t want to miss out. Rather than signing in to engage whenever they feel like it, they’ll have a specific time frame dedicated to participating in the community.
Tip #5) Focus on Relevance, Quality and Accessibility
In order to convince your members that they should spend time in your online community instead of any other competing online space, you need to ensure that their experience is as relevant to their jobs and lives as possible.
From the information and content provided, to the discussions and interactions, you want your members to have the best possible experience. This means carefully curating content and creating programming that speaks to their interests and priorities.
The value they receive from participating in your online community should be unlike anything else they can find online.
Finally, don’t forget to consider ease of use. Your online community should be accessible and intuitive to avoid frustration and keep your members coming back for more.
Association Online Community Participation Takeaway
Increased member participation isn’t likely to happen overnight, but by committing to these five guidelines and continuing to provide the value your members need, you will increase participation over time.
As your online community begins to thrive, you’ll notice that member participation continues to multiply and feed on itself. Eventually, the problem of how to encourage engagement will seem like a distant memory.