What tools can improve your online community building efforts? Here are 8 tips
#1 Make it invisible
The ultimate goal should be to make the technology invisible – by this I mean intuitive to use with no barriers. It’s tempting to think a multitude of features will encourage uptake, but it can also serve to confuse people. Keep the features simple, and add them when the community requests them. This also gives you an opportunity to listen and improve the community collaboratively, which will increase the sense of membership and loyalty.
#2 Spend time converting newcomers – not promoting the community!
Whilst this is more a strategy than a tool it’s worth noting because it is a common mistake for companies/organisations to spend too much time on technology and then marketing, and not good ol’ relationship building. Richard Millington of feverbee.com proposes that for every minute you spend promoting your community you should spend 2-3 minutes trying to convert newcomers to users.
#3 Less is more! Minimum forums
Launch with a minimum feature set (point 1) and minimum forums, so it is not overwhelming and you have people in one place (forum) that increases the chances of them communicating.
#4 Don’t overcomplicate the sign-up process
Don’t have a complicated registration process – keep the fields to a minimum – especially the mandatory ones. This can be a hard argument to sell up the chain, especially in a world obsessed with data, but it will significantly increase your sign-ups. Here is a great presentation on “Design for Sign Up“. Pay attention to your sign-up process, specifically where you lose people.
#5 Opt-out notifications
Of all the tools I would advocate, opt-out notifications would be very high up the list. Providing members with notifications will see a marked increase in their return to the site. Remember you are trying to build a habit for users. Most people only visit 5-7 sites every day – is yours one of them?
#6 Make use of the welcome/confirmation email
This is your first contact with your freshly minted users. Make it count! Don’t use a stock standard confirmation – inject the community personality and where possible include recent or popular posts, so the new users can get started straight away.
#7 Auto-register members
Automatically register members in your network and by-pass needing them to sign-up. If you’re an organisation or company with an existing database or membership – sign members up and send them a compelling welcome email!
#8 Invest in your Community Manager
As David Armano states in this great article “technology will only solve 1/3 of your social business problems”.
“The most common issue I see from working with large organizations is that once an enterprise social technology solution has been implemented it immediately raises questions about who will operate it, integrate it, adopt it and derive value from the investment. The dirty little secret in the technology world is that technology, even really good technology looks automated but in reality requires people to make it work,” says Armano.
Alison Michalk is chief executive officer of community management agency, Quiip