Cultivating strong, meaningful, and sustainable community engagement is something that even the most successful and large communities struggle with.
If you find it difficult to measure community engagement, increase it long-term, or keep trying out different approaches with no luck, this guide is for you!
Community Consultant and Teachable Community Builder
Neole Flowers gave our Circle members a stimulating expert workshop on “Engagement, but better” to help them increase community engagement using a unique approach – and our members loved it!
So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that shows you how to look at community engagement in a new light, focus on what matters in your engagement strategy, and implement 5 key engagement tactics to build a thriving community.
A new way to approach engagement.
Community engagement: but not as you know it! From our experience working with countless community builders, community engagement can be somewhat of a mystery – and no one strategy will work for everyone.
Engagement means different things to different communities, so by taking this new approach, you’ll have a better understanding of what engagement means in your community. Once you know what valuable engagement looks like, you can then go about increasing it over time!
Focus on quality over quantity
While there’s certainly a level of activity every community needs to engage their members, having a loud, active community with lots of discussions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re generating quality engagement.
If there are a lot of conversations happening, but they’re irrelevant, not related to your community purpose, or don’t offer genuine value, then they may as well just be background noise.
It’s not how many people are talking in your community. Valuable engagement is about what people are talking about and the impact it has on the community.
Community is about connection. And if your members are only chiming in for quick chats, they’re not as likely to form strong bonds and engage in your community long-term.
Understand your community purpose
When thinking about your strategy for increasing engagement, it’s vital to first understand the “why” behind your goals.
You might set a goal of having “100 interactions a day,” but you need to focus on why you want that many interactions.
Maybe having that many interactions a day will provide an influx of high-quality content that you can recycle for blogs, webinars, and use to get more conversations going in your community.
You’re not looking for engagement for engagement’s sake. You want a certain result to help fulfill your community purpose.
Prioritize values over guidelines
Pretty much every community will have a set of community guidelines in place that outline a list of do’s, don’ts, and general community etiquette. You might tell your members not to spam, self-promote, or post support questions in the general community space.
But what about your community values? Your community values have a much greater impact on producing high-quality content among members because before any member writes a post or responds in the comments, they’re thinking, “am I aligning with our community values here?”
Maybe your community values could be to “give as much as you take,” “share your vulnerability,” or “never leave someone hanging.”
By focusing on your community values, you can help members share a sense of responsibility to uphold them through their behaviors – all helping to increase quality engagement.
Know what a quality contribution looks like
Think about the types of content people post in your community. What does a quality contribution look like vs. a poor quality contribution? Usually engagement that aligns with your community purpose and community values is what you should search for.
If your purpose is to help other coaches grow their businesses, for example, maybe you rate interactions where members share their professional insights and career journeys more than quick questions about using a certain coaching tool, for example.
To increase community engagement, you first must gain clarity on the type of engagement, interactions, and contributions that matter the most.
Trigger better quality contributions
When people aren’t engaging with a new space you’ve created, it can definitely be worrying. But by leading by example, and posting content that mirrors what you’d like to see in that space, other members will generally follow suit.
By asking the right kind of questions that fire up an active discussion, helping members connect with one another by tagging them in the comments, and becoming a “model contributor” yourself, your members will find it easier to participate themselves!
Redirect or remove irrelevant content
Don’t be afraid to remove content or redirect a conversation elsewhere if it doesn’t fulfill your purpose or align with your community values.
If you see a post that falls outside your defined parameters for “good quality contributions,” you can even comment on them asking a follow-up question that brings your members back to your main focus.
If you’re finding irrelevant contributions are happening often (maybe people are talking about politics when your community is about gardening), kindly redirect them back to the community purpose or even create a special space for off-topic conversations.
Your framework for meaningful engagement
Now that you understand what engagement means to you and what quality, valuable contributions look like, you’re ready to design more meaningful engagement strategies.
Using this unique framework below, you’ll be able to stay focused on increasing only the engagement that actually matters in your community.
Understand your “Engagement Ladder”
Your engagement ladder depicts the different levels that people engage in your community. Maybe some people read all of the posts but never interact, post only once a month, or are those “super members” we all know and love that post and engage every day!
The thing is; even though some people may not appear to be actively engaging in your community (those who “lurk” but don’t interact), that doesn’t mean they’re not getting value from your community.
Some of these “lurkers” may even desire to take a more active role in the community, but they can’t go from 0-100. They need some steps in between to climb up the engagement ladder and become a more active user.
Design your own engagement ladder, creating personas for every level to better understand who interacts in your community, how often, and why.
Design engagement opportunities for everyone
With such a broad spectrum of engagement, you need to create opportunities for everyone, not just your super members to contribute- no matter where they fall on the engagement ladder.
Making it easy for members of all engagement levels to interact in your community will help keep overall engagement rates high and move people into the next engagement stage (if they wish to be there.)
Creating content for lurkers, for example, might mean posting content or polls they can quickly interact with that doesn’t take much effort.
Creating content for super members might be more about thought leadership pieces, expert workshops, or master classes that take much more effort to engage with.
Design engagement opportunities that vary
Think about the type of content you offer to your community. What is the ratio of webinars, long-form content, surveys, small workshops, 1:1s, etc.?
Do you have enough or too much of a particular type of content? Are you posting enough content that newcomers or “lurkers” can easily engage with?
The more you understand your barriers to engagement for each member’s engagement “persona,” the quicker you can remove them and make engagement feel more natural and easy for every member of your community.
Search for engagement opportunity gaps
When you plan your community content, plan intentionally. Proactively think about every engagement level and member persona in your community and how a certain type of content might offer them an engagement opportunity.
Look for places where the steps on your engagement ladder are too far apart by conducting a full audit of your engagement opportunities.
Not every piece of content or activity type will suit everyone. The idea here is to plan content with enough variance to appeal to a wide range of your members.
Test your engagement hypothesis
How do you truly understand where your members fall on the engagement ladder? Take a random sampling of your members every so often and look closely at their activity. What personas can you pull out? What type of content do they engage with?
Now, create opportunities for them to climb upwards, implement your content plan, and see what results it brings.
Bite-sized engagement strategies to try today
Below are some “mini engagement strategies” you can test in your community that has been shown to help increase community engagement. Tweak these to make sense for your own community and see its impact!
1. Create community rituals
Community rituals are recurring anticipated things that happen in your community. Rituals can be anything from weekly goals to Friday digests.
They give your members a reason to open and engage in your community, because they know what to expect.
Using community rituals for things that take more effort (like sharing their best strategy for X) is a fantastic way to get members actively contributing and remove barriers to engagement.
Once your members become familiar with the weekly/ monthly ritual and see others put in the effort, many of them will too!
2. Switch up your CTAs
When creating a post, instead of asking a generic question like “comment your thoughts below,” try switching up your CTA to something that will provoke more engagement.
Maybe ask members to create a post sharing their best landing page design or ask them to add an upcoming event to their calendar. These kinds of questions will spur more long-term engagement and create a snowball effect.
It’s also a good idea to play around with the different post format options Circle has, like our feed, card, and post layouts, to strategically encourage people to post long-form content or jump on a quick post.
3. Design an engagement flywheel
All engagement strategies are an opportunity to know who your members are and invite them to engage on a higher level. Let’s say you ask people to share their best homepage, for example.
Maybe one person will simply post a link to the homepage they’re most proud of, another will add information about how they optimized it for SEO, and someone else will describe their approach to testimonials.
You can also outsource engagement to other members, by asking them directly to elaborate on a specific comment using their expertise (if they are comfortable doing so!)
Once other members see them contributing with insightful content, they’ll feel more confident doing the same – creating an engagement flywheel effect.
4. Create exclusive engagement opportunities
Creating exclusive opportunities for engagement like connecting with members 1:1 or scheduling long-form webinars, events, and workshops will help your community members connect with others in a more special space.
After they’ve met each other “virtually,” they’re more likely to continue the conversation after their live interaction. They will come for the content but stay for the lively discussions and connections they make afterward – increasing more valuable engagement in your community.
5. Schedule community reminders
Whether it’s through weekly digests, automated email campaigns, or your onboarding sequences, look at ways you can bring people back into your community from another channel.
Not everyone will be checking your community every day, so by reminding them what’s coming up and sharing quality content based on the conversations that are happening, they might feel like they’re missing out and engage once again in your community.
Ready to approach community engagement differently?
From understanding where your members fall on the engagement ladder to proven engagement strategies you can implement today, we hope you feel more confident creating your own meaningful community engagement strategy!
We’d like to thank Neole for the thought-provoking ideas she explored in her expert workshop and can’t wait for the next one!
If you’d like to build an engagement strategy of your own, why not try out Neole’s Engagement Ladder Template to help you better understand your member’s engagement levels and get them climbing to the top?
Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.