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4 Key Takeaways from Making Online Communities Work Webinar

By: Jessica Hirsch 11 Oct 2016

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We’ve talked a lot about how the world is changing for associations and what we can do to keep our members engaged, but our webinar with Christian Britto last week delved into exactly what you and your organization can do to keep up.

As technology has become a huge part of our culture and how we interact, what we need to provide our members will adapt correspondingly.  

At the bottom of the article is a recording of the webinar, but first, here are four main takeaways.

1) It's Difficult to be First 

As Christian pointed out, many current online communities suffer from Empty Restaurant Syndrome.

 “It’s a phenomenon seen in restaurants and online communities where no one wants to be the first diner or content creator. So, no one joins. When you see an empty restaurant that could be perfectly fine, you assume there’s something wrong with it and don’t go. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where your restaurant remains empty because the first person never comes.”

It's important to keep in mind that the beginning is never easy. It will take considerable time and effort to get your online community going, so don’t be discouraged by an early lack of involvement and engagement.

2) Quality Content is Key 

"Think about how frequently you visit [social media] sites vs. how often you post. The ratio is likely high. That’s because most people like to consume content but don’t like to post. This is especially true when they are relatively new users or there aren’t engaging topics to comment on.”

When your members first join your online community, they are typically coming to get information. This might be industry insights, important news, or just updates on events and happenings. No matter what they’ve come for, they usually start out by reading content rather than posting it. You need to have engaging and relevant content on the ready to keep these users coming back and inspire them to jump into the discussion.

“Having great content appeals to the lurkers and nips the empty restaurant syndrome right in the bud; there’s content already there when someone comes.”

 3) Personalization Makes a Difference

We’ve all heard that just like snowflakes, no two people are exactly the same. So why would you provide content that’s identical for all of your members?

“Each person finds different articles, posts, and people interesting or useful and what’s more their preferences can change over time - they aren’t static.”

In order to keep your members coming back, you want to filter content to meet different people’s needs.

Research shows that personalization grabs your readers’ attention, and it works.

 “Some of you as email marketers will already know the power of personalization when it comes to things like response and click-through rates - sometimes the difference can be as big as an order of magnitude.”

 4) Provide Excellent Service

 As Christian explained, your members are consumers first. They’re likely used to online communities that are high quality and user-friendly. With their busy lives, they need communities that work flawlessly immediately.

“In order for an association’s online community to fit into their daily habits, it needs to be an incredible experience. It can’t be bad; it can’t even be average. It needs to be amazing.”

To provide your members this fantastic experience, Christian suggests optimizing your community so that members can seamlessly navigate on different devices—whether on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It’s also important to choose a community platform that your members will know how to use. 

“You also want to make sure that whatever community platform you choose, the look and feel of it is simple and intuitive. You should be navigating to your community and going ‘Yes, I know how this works.’”

Since every organization is unique, how you choose your online community and tailor it to fit your members’ needs will be different. But in keeping these thoughts in mind, you can begin to create a community that engages your members at their core and keeps them coming back.

This is just a brief look into some of the topics Christian was able to address. A full recording of the webinar is available below. Please feel free to reach out to us with any additional questions or comments.

 

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