Can you relate to any of the following situations?
- Spending hours trying to think of the perfect thing to say in your community, only to receive the same few replies
- Hearing crickets or seeing the same questions in your community if you don’t create content every day
- Having a ton of member activity in your community but don’t know if this type of engagement is valuable
- Second-guessing yourself often and feeling like community engagement is random
You’re certainly not the only one.
Increasing community engagement is one of the most significant struggles of any community builder – even for larger communities.
But by concentrating on analyzing and increasing meaningful engagement only, you can beat overwhelm, keep calm, and stay focused on what matters most.
Carrie Melissa Jones, Community Consultant and Author of Building Branded Communities, gave our Circle members an incredible training workshop teaching them how to overcome community overwhelm and increase meaningful community engagement.
So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that explores the idea of community engagement further by clarifying what meaningful engagement is in a community, how to measure it, and ultimately, how to increase it.
If that’s something you’re interested in learning, just keep reading!
What is meaningful community engagement?
Meaningful engagement will look different for every community and is often something we must define and figure out for ourselves.
As you’ll learn in this guide, engagement metrics can only tell us so much about the real value we’re offering our community members and the difference we’re making in the world.
To truly understand what meaningful community engagement is, we first need to know what it’s not.
What empty engagement looks like
Empty engagement can take up so much valuable time and energy to generate but isn’t actually worth a whole lot. It’s engagement for engagement’s sake. It commands attention, sure – but not connections.
You can see the content you post only to drum up a bit of activity in your community doesn’t offer real value. The engagement that follows is often just shallow interactions.
A surefire sign that you’re about to post something that will produce empty engagement is looking online for content ideas or trying to copy others. These things are both fine, but only if you have your purpose and values behind it. (More on that later!)
What meaningful engagement looks like
Meaningful engagement is entirely different. Think about it as anything that furthers the connection between members or furthers their connection to your community’s purpose. It’s all about people and purpose.
You see, just because members are commenting on posts or liking them doesn’t mean you’re fulfilling your community purpose and giving people the value they expect and want.
Why you shouldn’t worry about vanity metrics
Measuring engagement is one of the most challenging things to do, and measuring meaningful engagement? Even more so. But some vanity metrics definitely don’t define your success when it comes to engagement, so try not to get bogged down in them.
- Community size: Even communities with 100K+ members can lack meaningful engagement.
- Page views: The amount of people looking at pages in your community is entirely irrelevant, especially if it’s private.
- Impressions: Just because thousands of people viewed your content doesn’t equate to meaningful engagement.
- Post activity: When people click or comment on your posts, that doesn’t always mean you’re fulfilling your purpose and making a difference.
If you don’t focus on your purpose, it can be easy to start comparing yourself to others and looking only at the numbers. Any time you feel like you’re doing this, gently bring yourself back to the “why” behind your community.
Metrics that help indicate meaningful engagement
To increase meaningful community engagement, you first need to understand how to measure it. Focus on these key metrics to help guide you.
- Direct messages: The number of people talking 1:1 in your community shows that members are building meaningful connections.
- Member actions: An overview of the number of actions your members take over time will help indicate their commitment to the community.
- Member connection: Asking members how connected they feel to others, the community, and its purpose on a scale of 1-5 can produce fantastic meaningful engagement insights.
- Sense of progress: Asking what progress members are making thanks to the community can create a fantastic baseline for meaningful engagement.
- Support sentiment: Whether emotional (you can do this!) or informational (here’s how I solved this problem), messages of support can heavily indicate engagement levels.
- Event retention: The number of people that show up to events and, very importantly, how the event helped them can show you how much value people are getting from the community.
Increase community engagement through purpose and values
Without a community purpose statement or community values, you can quickly feel like a traveler without a compass. Your purpose is the who, what, and why behind your community.
Your purpose is why you’re building a community in the first place and why people engage with it. Figure this out, and you’ll find measuring and increasing meaningful engagement becomes much more straightforward.
So, how can you create your purpose statement? Follow this template below to get started:
I gather ____ (The strong shared identity of your community members) to ___ (3 verb statements for how these members want to progress) so that ___ ( Why the community exists).
Empathy Map Canvas
If you’re unsure how to answer these questions, you need to learn more about the community members you’re trying to attract, what really matters to them, and the specific issues you’re solving for them.
Try to put yourself in their shoes by following this framework:
Using your purpose to increase community engagement
By first establishing your community purpose, you can use it to make informed decisions about your community, content, and processes.
Your purpose will help you define meaningful engagement, as you can always ask yourself, does __ fulfill my purpose? If it does, then you’ve created meaningful engagement.
If your purpose is to “help budding artists learn how to find their unique style and sell their work so that they can gain creative confidence,” for example, then you can focus only on metrics related to these key drivers – because they’re what matter the most.
It’s also a great way of coming up with new ideas and sense-checking them to see if what you’re about to do connects to your purpose or not.
How to define your community values
Define the values that make your community unique. If you’re not sure what we mean by community values, here are some examples:
Write down the core values that make the most sense for your unique community, and omit any values that are too contradicting to make sense for the final cut.
Knowing your values will help guide every decision you and your community members make. They can determine how people respond to those who cause conflict in the community, where you invest your budget, time, and the type of content you put out.
To measure and increase community engagement, you’ll know that if you’re fulfilling your purpose and staying true to your community values, you’re doing the right thing.
Increasing community engagement isn’t about hacks
Trying to follow the many tips, guides, and tricks to increase community engagement can feel overwhelming, especially when they don’t work.
You might think you have to post every day or create specific types of content to increase community engagement, but what works for one community may not work for you.
The best thing you can do to increase community engagement is to bring every decision back to your community’s purpose and values to create stronger connections and more meaningful engagement across the board.
Ready to start building more meaningful community engagement?
Now that you understand what meaningful engagement looks like and how to use purpose and values to increase meaningful engagement in your community, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice!
We want to thank Carrie Melissa for the expert advice she explored in her training workshop, and we can’t wait for the next one! To learn more, check out her book Building Branded Communities, or visit her website.
Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.