This is third blog post in ComBlu’s series on Community Vibrancy. Our research on how communities are measuring up is based on studying the four primary areas of vibrancy best practices: engagement, content experience, gamification and community management, and comes from a study we conducted recently on behalf of Lithium Technologies.
Last week my colleague Colleen covered the content experience in her post titled Community Content: Primed for Improvement. Today I am going share what we learned from the study about the state of engagement and touch on community management as one aspect of engagement.
Community engagement is a crucial part of community vibrancy. It is essentially the process that is established to build ongoing permanent relationships with community members over time. It starts with recruitment and onboarding and is an important part of the member experience throughout the lifespan of the community.
A vital part of vibrant engagement is the presence of an active Community Manager (or Managers) that serves as the face of the community and develops a relationship with community members. The most effective Community Managers are named individuals that are highly visible in the community who work hard over time to come up with new ways to stimulate engagement in the community and keep members interested and involved.
Best practices in engagement include:
- Implementing activation practices to kick off the member journey, including a welcome and call to action
- Involving active VIP/Expert members who interact with members on a regular basis
- Establishing rules of engagement and recruitment requirements by Community Managers to keep them regularly involved in community posts, forums, discussions, etc.
- Utilizing return motivator strategies and tactics such as polls and regular events to keep members interested and involved over time
- Maintaining a positive overall tone and tenure of the community via active community management
- Actively addressing member concerns and criticism
One interesting finding from our study is that while the presence of Community Managers was high, ongoing engagement and the use of other engagement strategies is not nearly as strong.
On average, 70% of communities studied had Community Managers present and slightly more than half of them identified their Community Managers by name. The communities we looked at did a good job of welcoming new members and initially inviting folks to engage in the community. On average, 67% of communities welcomed new members and presented them with clear and engaging rules and 55% had a strong call to action to get members started.
Beyond that, communities seem to lose interest. After the initial welcome, members are rarely reminded of how they are expected to contribute in the community and the use of engagement tactics is spotty at best.
Communities on average scored 86% for having an overall positive tone and sentiment; however sustainability best practices such as member surveys, product and service “first looks,” and regular rituals and events were only implemented in 17% of communities.
Ongoing active recruitment and return motivators are other engagement tactics that are largely under-utilized. Recruitment was evident in only 22% of the 90 communities we studied. And, the most common return motivators – outreach newsletters and surveys/polls – were only used in 26% and 33% percent of communities, respectively.
Other return motivators (regularly occurring rituals/events, first looks/early access, and sharing community feedback) were also not well used. On average, only 20% of communities regularly employed return motivators.
Community engagement is clearly an area that can be improved. The Community Manager certainly plays a key role in the value delivered within a community, but true engagement involves so much more. It is crucial that engagement activities are robust, varied and extends far beyond the initial experience in order to attract new members, sustain interest among existing members and develop a community that grows in vibrancy over time.
Do you have a dynamic engagement strategy that has helped sustain and attract new members? Please share!