How to Use Meta Content to Drive Online Community Engagement

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How to Use Meta Content to Drive Online Community EngagementIn online communities, I use the term “meta content” to refer to information about the community itself. Meta content can build stronger ties among community members. And, it can direct us to conversations and content (in the community) that we otherwise would have missed.

Each time we receive a Notification on Twitter or a Like on Facebook, our brain generates a small burst of dopamine. It’s these continued rewards (and dopamine hits) that keep us engaged and active on social media. Meta content helps spur dopamine hits to your community members.

Community Manager Appreciation Day Panel

I had the pleasure of participating in a Community Manager Appreciation Day hangout, “Communities Around Content.” We covered a number of topics, one of which was meta content.

Meta content is an untapped opportunity for many online communities. Let’s consider five ways you can incorporate meta content into your online community.

1. Most Active Contributors

First, define “active.” I like to look for a combination of active and influential. “Active” can be measured by the number of posts or comments. “Influential” can be measured by the number of posts that receive likes or up-votes.

When listing contributors, be sure to hyperlink to their profile page (within the community). Users who are recognized as “Most Active” will feel that dopamine hit. This keeps them further vested in the community. And other users who see the “Most Active” list will say to themselves, “I want to make that list next time.”

2. Most Popular Discussions

Think about Twitter: you go offline for two hours and might miss 10+ interesting tweets. The same goes for content and conversations in online communities. As a community manager, think of yourself as a curator.

“Most Popular” doesn’t have to be the post with the most views or likes. It could be a combination of popular post and interesting topic, as determined by you. In other words, use an “ICYMI filter” (In Case You Missed It).

3. Unanswered Questions or Discussions

A new member needs help, so she posts a question to the community. A few days go by. A few weeks go by. The question sits unanswered. How will that member feel about the community? Make her feel good by drawing attention to her question.

Publish a list of unanswered questions. Reach out (individually) to members that you know have the answers (e.g. send them emails, send them a Direct Message on Twitter, etc.). Encourage them to share their knowledge.

4. Member of the Month

Each month, designate a Member of the Month and feature that member in a blog post. Find out about their background and interview them on what makes their community participation enjoyable. Give them ways to share their designation outside of the community (e.g. on Twitter, in their email signature, etc.).

5. A Thank You Board

It’s user-generated content that makes a community tick. Create a board (or discussion area) that enables members to provide thanks to others. As members see the “thanks” start to pour in, they’ll be more motivated to help others. In addition, they’ll use the thank you board when they receive help themselves.

Amplify Your Meta Content

Now, let’s consider ways in which you can augment or amplify some of the “community meta content” you’re creating.

1. Email Newsletters

An opt-in email newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your community. We all go a few days without logging in to online communities. But we never go more than a few hours without checking our email. An email newsletter is a fabulous place to promote your active contributors, your popular discussions and your Member of the Month. Believe me, it will drive significant traffic to your community.

2. Web Meetings or Online Hangouts

Ever hear of #CMGRHangout? It’s a weekly online meeting (on Friday’s) on community management topics, organized by They use Google Hangouts, which is a great tool for real-time, multi-user video chat (and it’s free).

If you’re more comfortable with a conference call or a web meeting platform, that’s fine. The key thing is to have a regularly scheduled gathering for your community. It’s at these gatherings that you can amplify your meta content.

3. Regional Meetups

That’s right: online community members can be well served by meeting face-to-face from time to time. I’ve experienced this firsthand myself: relationships that develop online can become more substantial and meaningful after a single face-to-face meet-up. Spending just five minutes with someone (in person) gives you a stronger appreciation of who they are and what they’re about.


Online communities are centered around a shared interest or passion. Content about those interests and passions is the fuel for sustained engagement. Content about the community (meta content) serves as booster fuel. I hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can create further engagement within your own community.

Editor’s Note: Dennis Shiao was a panelist for this year’s Community Manager Appreciation Day panel on Communities Around Content.

Dennis Shiao

Director of Product Marketing at DNN
Dennis is Director of Product Marketing at DNN (@DNNCorp), where he’s focused on product and content marketing. Dennis is a contributing author to the book “42 Rules of Product Marketing” and is a frequent contributor to the DNN blog. Feel free to reach out to Dennis via email, or find him on Twitter, @dshiao.
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