Fostering an Online Engagement Strategy: 9 Tactics to Align with Your Goals

This content was provided by Chris Detzel. This originally appeared at Chris’ website.

In a recent article covering this discussion, we dove into how to create an engagement strategy. The steps include:

  • Deciding on an acquisition strategy. That is, how you will bring individuals into your online community. You may choose SEO, social media, and others.
  • Coming up with ways to make your users feel wanted. This goes hand in hand with realizing exactly who your audience is, and understanding the different ways each user may wish to engage.
  • Creating unique experiences to encourage each individual user to engage within the online community.
  • Realizing exactly what problems your engagement strategy needs to solve (like increasing time to value for the community’s main product).

The end goal is to establish trust between the community and the users. To accomplish all of this and build trust, you need to understand that Engagement is a timeline, not an event. Use the steps above to determine your engagement strategy timeline, and plug in different tactics along this timeline.

What tactics can you use to encourage online engagement? Here are over 9 useful engagement  ideas that you can implement.

1. Shorten Your Response Rate

No one wants to go to a party that no one is at. So, you need to figure out a way to have some kind of quick response from smart employees, customers, or partners when it comes to answering questions. Reltio’s Online Community has a response rate of around twenty hours. Our goal is forty-eight hours. Companies like Reltio usually have cases, created by their customers and partners, with a turn around time of ten to thirteen days. Obviously, less than two days is much more optimal, especially when dealing with troubleshooting issues and easy to answer questions  for unhappy customers.

2. Rewards and Recognition: Most Active Contributor of the Month

Rewards and recognition is one of the most common ways to promote engagement in an online community. There are many ways to go about it. One idea is to build a program that will determine a “contributor of the month”. Whatever program you put in place, focusing on keeping that main pool of users coming back. This will form your online community’s base foundation.

3. Rewards and Recognition: Leaderboard

Another way to do rewards and recognition is using a leaderboard. Creating a leaderboard is one of my favorite ways to set this up. A leaderboard is visible on the front page of Reltio’s online community. It’s frequently updated, showing the avatar and stats of our most active users. I’ve even created a point system, where users can earn points to climb the board. This adds a tangible, visible element to the tactic. But, there’s a downside. Your less active users- the users who wish to engage in quieter ways- will not be tempted to reach for the top of the leaderboard.

That’s why it’s important to have multiple tactics in line with your strategy. This way, you can reach all users, and not just your out-going users.

4. Webinar Program

A webinar program can reach all different kinds of users in a wide range of ways. For instance, I try to get all kinds of experts to present Reltio webinars. The presenters may be very active users themselves, or people that are more in the background. Either way, they are brought to the forefront of the community as they present.

Active and in-active users alike RSVP to the webinars, where they can engage in whatever way they are most comfortable. Some people speak directly to the presenter during a Q& A section. Others may type questions to the moderator. Other users may just listen. Regardless of what they do, this is all engagement. It continues to build that foundation, making users feel more comfortable, and more apt to engage in other ways. Check out more for a deeper dive into how and why you should build a webinar program for your online community here.

5. Unanswered Questions

This tactic speaks to your “alpha” users, whether they are already active or lurking in the background. With it, I present a challenge, like:

  • “I challenge you smart folks to answer…”
  • “You know the answer to…”

From your group of lurkers, one will pop. Then, you can nurture that person into the next stage of your engagement strategy.

6. Personalized Emails

Another way to drive engagement is to utilize your email marketing. Use individual user’s stats to drive the content of your emails. For example, look at what they are liking, what they read, and what they spend time on. Then, send an email that drives them further, using language like:

  • “It looks like you’ve been looking at this! If you have any questions, ask!”
  • “You’re doing [this]… you might really like [this]!

In this way, you can encourage a quieter user to engage more deeply in something personal to them. Try to get responses to your email, too, which is another form of engagement.

7. Newsletters

Newsletters are another way to bring in those less engaged users. Send out a newsletter to your users who have taken the initial step from lurking to sharing. Encourage these users to send the newsletters to other users, who are still at that consuming only phase. This, and other email tactics, take the community to them.

8. Create an App for the Community

An app is another way to drive engagement, but it’s a big step that could change your engagement strategy entirely. If you decide to go this route, make sure that it’s a well developed app that works really well.. Many community apps are just a wrapper for the main website, so in order to achieve your purposes, consider a native community app build to help drive it. There are third parties that can come in and do this, but you will have to decide if that expense is within your budget goals.

If you do design a community app, try to eliminate as many points of friction as possible (the biggest one being the essential download). Once developed, the app can drive engagement through in-app emails and notifications.

9. Use Mobile Features

Especially if the majority of your users come from mobile, you will want to consider using mobile features to drive engagement. One such way is to encourage users to use their phone camera. You might ask them to share a photo of a broken part, and seek out help that way. Or, it might be as simple as asking them to add a picture of themselves to their profile. How you use it will depend on your product.

Place Tactics Along Your Engagement Strategy Timeline

We could go on and on about different engagement tactics. But, the key is to plug them in along a big-picture engagement strategy. What might this look like? First, just get someone to like a post. You want to get the basics down first. Then, check the user’s searches, and note how many items they look at. Encourage users to view products, and read reviews. Similar to the digital sphere, these micro conversions drive the bigger conversations.

Keep track of users’ behaviors by checking behavior metrics and watching activity rates. You want them to maintain their activity rate, or grow it. If the rate goes down, it’s up to you to change that behavior.  Use tactics to pull users along your engagement strategy timeline.

At the end of the day, this will look different in every online community. So, spend time in research and strategizing with your team. Then, use this strategy as you grow your successful online community.

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