Let’s start right off the bat—what is community engagement?
Community engagement is a set of processes that enables members of specific community groups to work collaboratively.
Businesses create communities around a product or practice, so their members can be connected under their brand. It helps them to learn, share, and collaborate, resulting in better customer relationships and advocacy, better product feedback, etc.
But which activities inspire the most engagement and, most importantly—is there a way to measure it?
Don’t worry—this is exactly what you are going to get from this article.
Keep reading to discover:
Want to know more about community engagement? Check these articles:
The benefits of building engagement across your community are endless, but the key factor is that it creates a sense of belonging and a place to discuss and exchange ideas. While nonprofit organizations use it for social justice interventions and civic engagement, businesses can use it for creating a sense of well-being for their customers. This, in return, brings them a lot of value.
After all, only when your community members feel a real connection to the company, they can move through different lifecycle stages. In fact, 88% of community professionals believe that community is critical to the company’s mission.
Once the community engagement plan is effective, some of its benefits include:
To reap these, companies use online communities that help them achieve specific goals. Depending on the company, the goals can be connected to content creation, outreach campaigns, or gaining valuable product and support insights.
To keep your community engaged and invested, you need an efficient action plan. But what does an effective community engagement tactic look like?
Let’s have a look at some of them.
What really builds a community? The answer is simple—its members. It’s best to give your members a dedicated space where they can freely express themselves and exchange ideas and experiences. It can be by any number of tools or platforms—from messaging apps like Slack or Discord to forums and GitHub repositories.
It's important to do your research ahead of time. Let's say you're building a community for lawyers. Do a survey and talk to lawyers. Ask them where they hang out or what tools they use to communicate. Because if you just generalize and decide, e.g. for Slack, you might find out that lawyers work in a tightly secure environment and don't have access to Slack. Do a bit of research and find where your ideal community hangs out. Make sure to understand the whole context of the industry and your target persona first.
At the same time, if you’re just a small group of like-minded people hanging out and the community starts growing, don’t be afraid to explore ideas on where this community should live in the long term. It’s much easier to try to move a community to a new platform/space when it’s small.
Mindaugas Petrutis, OnDeck
The more your community members’ voice is valued and heard, the stronger connections they build with each other and your brand. It’s crucial if you want to build a truly engaged audience and strong networks.
Some businesses create their communities on “shared spaces”, like social media, GitHub or external forums, whereas others create dedicated spaces with the help of community engagement software, like AhoyConnect. Dedicated platforms, like Slack, Discord, Discourse, may take community engagement action plans to the next level thanks to owning the space itself, friendly UX, and multiple member engagement features. In fact, research has shown that customers spend 19% more after joining a company’s online community in comparison to third-party sites like Facebook.
It’s great if you provide a space for your community members. However, they will feel even more valued and heard if they receive your attention.
One of the best practices of community engagement is to let your members know that your team is looking into their feedback, complaints, or product improvement suggestions. Answer their post, like their comment, send a private message. Trust us—they will feel that they actively contribute to the development of your product or service.
It’s not always possible to answer straight away, but try to be diligent about it and provide answers and reactions within 24 hours of posting. With dedicated community engagement platforms, you can set up alerts and notifications that can help you do this.
The moment of joining a new community is crucial—it showcases the activities the community is involved in and sets expectations for a new member. That’s why it cannot be the same for everyone: it depends on the organization type, structure, and goals.
Make sure all new members get simple instructions about how the community works and are properly introduced. Introduction threads, welcome videos and assigning buddies can help you achieve this.
I learned that onboarding is EVERYTHING! Especially as you start to scale. It can very easily take up a lot of your time very, very quickly. You have to put processes and tools in place soon, so you don't have to worry about the heaviest lifting things. Ensure your whole experience and funnel from the start is smooth and ensure your members have all the information available to start with. Automating as much of that as possible in the earliest stages is a huge advantage. When there are 20 people in your community, you can easily DM everybody, welcome them and say - here's a link to the resources guide or FAQ. It's much harder to do that when you have 50 new sign-ups a day. It's not a viable option to just message people one-on-one, and, what's even worse is the fact that when you get overwhelmed, the passion for what you're building disappears.
Mindaugas Petrutis, OnDeck
Keep your members invested in the platform from the very beginning: encourage new members to fulfill their profile or share their first post on a specific channel.
Your early users are your biggest fans. Make sure to involve the most active users in building up the community further, give them responsibilities. Diversify it so you can focus on other things as well.
We get it—business is business, and your community serves a specific goal. Except, it’s not only that. When you overwhelm your community with promotional content and dry, impersonal communication, you can expect low engagement rates.
Remember that your community space has to be a place your members WANT to contribute to. Making it boring (and your members bored) will not help you achieve that goal. Creating a light-hearted channel or sharing more fun content from time to time won’t hurt your reputation. Quite the opposite—it will make your content more balanced and pleasant to interact with. Remember: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!
There are some proven ways to keep your content more fun. Gamification is one of them. Try combining member challenges and competitions with rewards programs that offer badges and members’ statuses—it will activate your community.
The community space should allow the voices of its members to be heard and valued. Only then does it make sense to cultivate such a community as it grows stronger. However, every member should feel that they can contribute to the discourse. How to make it happen without introducing harsh guidelines?
The best option is to select the moderators from among the community and together craft community guidelines that will allow for safe expression. Like this, you will also show trust in your community members and leave them a lot of space for making their own rules that can evolve over time.
If you observe that the community guidelines are too loose or too strict, you can always message the moderator and introduce subtle changes. Being flexible is crucial here.
Now you know how to engage your community members. But how to measure engagement and see if you are succeeding? After all, you need to know how to measure the impact of user-generated content, quantify the value of member relations, and have a full ROI overview. Otherwise, how will you find the right opportunities to reach your targets?
This is also where a dedicated community engagement platform can help. An advanced community software, like Ahoyconnect, can connect all community apps to the same panel, mine community data and combine it with internal data sources.
Like this, it forms a unified, coherent dashboard that shows true-to-reality data sets. Based on them, the businesses can measure and analyze the most important metrics right off the bat.
Here are the most crucial community metrics for community managers to follow.
Every active community produces content. Based on your business type, you should be able to understand which content is the most successful and how this content influences your end goal.
Here are crucial metrics that will enable you to do this:
Once you’ve collected these metrics, you can scale them based on importance (for example, on a scale from 1-5) and classify which content gains the most success. It will help you realize the patterns and boost the content that has the most potential.
Community health metrics will reveal the current state of the community itself and enable you to indicate the areas of improvement so you can impact its growth rate.
Here are the metrics that will enable you to make it happen:
These metrics will identify which community actions impact larger business goals such as conversions, sales, revenue and customer support.
Which businesses succeed in creating dedicated communities? Let’s have a look and see who did the best community engagement research.
Product Board is a customer-centric management platform that helps product managers understand the needs of their customers and prioritize what’s best for their business. Their community engagement platform, Product Makers, helps them fulfill this mission.
It brings together product managers from different companies, so they can learn from each other and, naturally, see the power of the Product Makers platform. Currently, it gathers over 3.3k+ members.
Apart from the main dashboard, there are specific channels (news, products in practice, reads and listens) as well as online events timetables and “this week in the community” sidebar. Members can earn badges and activity awards, as well as refer friends–this can inspire real community engagement.
Docker is an advanced code container tool for developers. It enables them to “contanerize” the software code and make it easy to manage, isolate and modify, so it runs smoothly regardless of the external factors. This community gathers its users in real life and online, so they can continue to collaborate and push their projects forward—using the Docker software, of course.
Highly awarded members of the community can gain the “Docker Captain” membership for their commitment to sharing their expertise. The “Docker Captains” are often passionate leaders in the field from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Snyk, and Influx Data. Talk about the encouragement to network!
Miro is a visual collaboration platform for small and medium businesses. It can be used for research, wireframing, ideation, and other collaborative activities. Because it's so universal, its client base varies: from developers to business leaders, from marketers to UX researchers. You may wonder—how to gather all these people with different work experiences in one community? Well, Miro’s community engagement managers absolutely rocked it.
Miro community provides nineteen thematic groups (!) and four main dashboards for every type of user. The users can discuss on specific forums, ask for peer support and learn best practices provided by the Miro Academy section.
The platform has also an official onboarding guide with instructions and most importantly, a “Wish list” section that lets users share their dream features directly with the Miro team. On top of that, Miro offers their community members access to “Miroverse”, where they can explore, use and share proven workflows, projects, and frameworks.
That’s it! Now you should know everything about community engagement strategy and measurement. Here’s the recap of the most important info: