5 Ways to Encourage and Nurture New Community Members
Building a new community is exciting, but many online forums struggle with getting people involved in the new venture and those issues only compound as the community matures. Becoming integrated into an established forum can be intimidating for new members but without new support, your online community could falter. Don't let that happen! Your cause is too important.
With that in mind, we put together this list of the top ways a forum can encourage new community members and help them become integrated into the site's community.
While online communities can be a huge asset to your business or nonprofit, they are so much more than that. A forum is a place where people go to make connections without people who are involved in the same issues, who have the same struggles, who share the same concerns. As a community manager, you can encourage that type of personal interaction by setting the pace and inject a human (albeit professional) element when possible. This could mean tagging forum participants who could offer insight, hosting virtual meet-ups or just sending a welcome message to new members. This last one is called "onboarding" and it works.
Make sure that you are interacting with forum participants regularly. This works in two ways. On the one hand, you want to stop crises and arguments before they reach boiling point. This keeps your forum as friendly as possible and helps visitors to know that they can ask questions and make comments without inciting World War III. On the other hand, keep in mind that as a community manager, you are there to facilitate conversation as much as to monitor it. Empower them to start conversations and keep dialogue amongst community members flowing.
When you have a forum, you will inevitably have people in the online community who participate in order to serve themselves. The person who gives away financial advice and sells accounting services, the one offering tech support while promoting a certain piece of software, the blogger who directs everyone to another site - it happens. The trick is to make sure your community members do not feel spammed while providing an outlet for these people to self-promote. Our advice is to start a promo day. Once a week, invite forum participants to share their accomplishments and promote their work.
You might also consider encouraging progress logs. Ask your forum members to check in regularly and talk about their current efforts. Forum participants can offer support, feedback or suggestions, as the case may be. Whether you have a weight-loss forum, a parenting site or a small business development community, progress logs are a good way to get people posting weekly, if not daily.
Finally, keep in mind that starting a forum does not guarantee success. Getting members involved does, but you have to be strategic about it. You can't promote jealousy or competition amongst participants while simultaneously highlighting areas of exploration and developing a sense of helping others. It is too muddled. Instead, pick a single emotion you want to foster, such as a sense of excitement over sharing ideas or a sense of identity in your cause/focus.
Best practices can help you learn from other forum mistakes, but that only gets you halfway there. You also need the right online community software to make your forum a success. We should talk.