How do you get people to join and return to your online community?
There are many tactics, but one of the best ways is to ensure that members enjoy themselves while they are in your community.
People see or experience something fun and they want to be part of it. Creating a fun environment increases the chances that they will return. But can an online community that focuses on a niche like "Brand or Product” actually be fun?
Of course, it can. You just need to take some time to understand what your customers and users think is fun.
Think about it in the same way you would a party or event. A good party host ensures their guests are having fun by providing interactions and activities they enjoy. Those aren’t always the same activities the host would enjoy, but they improve the event because a successful party is in the eyes of the attendee.
The same is true of online communities. You need to offer your members what they’re looking for in a way they’ll find enjoyable. But just how do you do that? How do you know if what you find fun is the same thing your users will enjoy?
To answer those questions and ensure that your online community is fun as well as useful, follow these five steps.
5 Steps to Make Your Online Community Fun
Step 1. Define Their Fun
If you love sports and predicting outcomes, an online fantasy draft is fun. If you don’t follow sports, being asked to be part of a fantasy draft might seem tortuous. Different people enjoy different things, which is why you can’t assume your online community features and content will be one-size-fits-all.
Find out what your audience enjoys by asking them through a poll or survey or analyzing their online behavioral data to see which posts are the most popular and what content users interact with. By taking the time to understand who your users are it will be easier for you to provide valuable content and activities they’ll love.
Expert Tip: You only have so much time to levy guesses as to what your customers will enjoy. If you don’t get it right quickly, they’ll tire of your community so make this one of the first things you work on.
Step 2. Allow Access to Higher Ups
For many people an online community allows them to further embrace a brand or a niche they love. They feel like they’re a part of something bigger, even a part of the company and its success.
One way to increase those feelings of connection is to ensure multiple levels of management are active in your community and that users can share their product and service ideas with them. Management’s response to ideas and feedback makes users feel valued and part of the growth of the brand they love.
Step 3. Provide Exclusivity
No one will log into your community on a regular basis if they get the exact same content on your public social media profiles.
Make your customers feel special by giving them early access to new rollouts or company news before others hear it. Creating an exclusive environment will get members excited about their inner circle knowledge along with driving sign-ups and repeat visits.
Step 4. Give Them Something Special
Some community owners give out free souvenirs that are only available to members of its mailing list. It “sells” out every year because it is wildly popular. It also serves as a thank you for being part of the community and cannot be ordered. You can use this same tactic with your customer community.
In addition to information, give your community members some sort of swag that no one else gets. It could be a special gift, like the calendar, or discounts just for them. It’s always fun to get something for free, and exclusive community perks and gifts make users feel special. They also give your new members a reason to join the community.
Step 5. Share Your Personality
Your online community shouldn’t just be a series of press releases posted the day before the world knows about them. Use the community as a way to communicate with your most loyal members or customers.
That means you have to let them in. Open the gates to your business so members can get to know your values, mission, and staff personally. That not only creates a memorable impression but gives your members sought-after information that they can share with friends and family. You’ll make them feel like an insider and create a stronger connection with them in the process.
Expert Tip: You Can’t Have Fun If You’re Being Bullied
An online community is an ideal place for members of your community to shine. However, in the quest to become a power user, some egos get the best of people and bullying or belittling occurs.
No community will be fun for its users if they’re being bullied or are watching others get bullied. Bullying causes people to withdraw, or to be afraid or hesitant to share their thoughts and impressions. It kills community.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for making your online community fun. You need to assess your users and what they’re looking for from you. Once you do, you can begin to provide solutions and opportunities that are enjoyable to them.
Your work is not done even when you have the “secret sauce” behind creating a fun, engaging an online community. You must consistently assess your offers and members needs periodically so you can ensure your features continue to meet the desires of your member as they grow and evolve.
Failing evolve and adapt is similar to assuming that, because you got your guest their first drink of the evening, they’ll never want more. If you’re inattentive to your guests, they won’t return, so make providing a valuable, enjoyable experience for your members a top priority.