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How to fix the highest barriers to engagement

This post originally appeared on Online Community Results.

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I work with clients using all types of community platforms, and I can point to five engagement-busters that affect all organizations, no matter what platform they’re using. And fortunately, three of them are things you can actually do something about. Here they are:

  1. Lack of email notifications. Stuff you can do to ensure you have sufficient email hitting your members’ inboxes…
    • Subscribe all members to a daily digest of community content by default.
    • Ensure that there’s content going up every day so that a notification is triggered daily.
    • If members unsubscribe, send them a message periodically to ask them to re-subscribe.
    • Send all members a monthly community best-of newsletter.
  2. Logging in. Stuff you can do about members’ inability to remember their password…
    • On the login screen, encourage members to use the “Remember Me” feature in their browser once they’ve logged in.
    • Remind users to use the “Remember Me” feature after their first successful login by way of a popup.
    • Encourage users to use the reply-by-email functionality in the immediate email notifications.
    • Your community vendor can configure the timeframe after which a user’s session will expire. Ask them to crank it up to 90-120 days or more if you’re comfortable with it.
  3. Empty restaurant syndrome. Almost nobody thinks an empty restaurant is an attractive place to eat. In the same way, nobody wants to post in a community where it looks like they’ll just be chatting with themselves. Stuff you can do to get figurative butts in seats (e.g. make the community look as active as possible):
    • Configure your community’s newsfeed/dashboard so that it includes as much community content as possible.
    • Avoid placing large graphics on your community home pages above the fold, as they tend to push your community content out of view.
    • Show snippets of community content on the logged out home page to show a teaser of what’s going on inside, even before someone logs in.
    • Consider removing the timestamp from all content. It sends a negative impression when it appears the most recent post was made three days ago.
    • Post snippets of your community’s content on your social media outposts, in your email newsletter, in your magazine, on the home page of your website, etc.
    • Focus your community content into a small number of highly-visible areas. Your restaurant will look busier if you seat the first customers near the windows and entrance, not scatter them throughout the restaurant.

Members will always cite the other two reasons that they aren’t participating: lack of time and lack of motivation to participate. Those are more difficult problems to solve. Start with the above, which are more easily attainable, and which will compound the positive effects you’re able to bring about on the motivation and time problems.

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