We asked Arianna Rehak, community engagement coordinator at Grit Marketing to give up some pro tips on initiating the conversation in an online community, and she graciously obliged. Here’s what she had to say:
Engagement within your community ebbs and flows, especially within the early growth stages. This makes your role crucial in actively stoking conversation, and in these times the ratio of staff-to-customer input will be higher than normal.
But as you know, there isn’t much value in one-sided conversations, so it’s a great idea to have some ammunition ready for these cases. Here are three strategies to bring some extra voices in when they are most needed:
1. Post Interesting & Relevant Articles
This is great to do because the combination of content and community is a really robust offering, and your users find importance in different things. Let’s take Twitter as an example. We all log on for different reasons. Some are there to find interesting articles, while others are there to connect with their online network. When you post the article, frame a discussion around it. Put a brief curation and include a question at the end. This will get your active members talking, while also giving your lurkers a little something too.
2. Ask Broad Questions
On National Author’s Day, I asked my community, “who’s your favorite author?” The question was broad enough to appeal to everyone, (we all have a favorite author, right?) and so consequently a handful of people answered that I had never seen contribute in the community before. These types of questions are valuable for a few reasons: they break the seal for lurkers, they attract people to the community (via digest if you have one) to answer who may comment in other conversations, and perhaps most interestingly, they give you a chance to learn about your users. This will be crucial for #3.
3. Tag People in Discussions
Let’s say that in the above discussion, John Doe shares that his favorite author is Isaac Asimov. You can safely deduce that he’s interested in technology, which means in subsequent conversations on the topic, you can tag him to pique his interest. If you do this, then boy will he be impressed – and might even repay you with some brand loyalty. Further, once he’s already within the community to add to the technology conversation, he’s probably going to have a look and potentially contribute to others.
The good news about all of these tactics is that you can prepare for them in advance. Consider it like scavenging for the winter. That way when conversation starts to die down, you can react quickly. For example, brainstorm a list of questions to ask ahead of time, or create a spreadsheet with helpful information on your users so you can apply them when needed. The short-term effect will be immediate engagement, and the long-term effect will be the nurturing of super users, which of course is the ultimate mark of community sustainability.
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