There’s no doubt that an engaged, thriving advocate community is one of the most effective ways to stimulate business growth. After all, what other marketing method gives you comprehensive product feedback, authentic insights into customers’ experiences, increased brand awareness, and a powerful sales tool, all in one?
But to keep your community inspired and motivated to come back for more, it’s vital to constantly nurture your advocates and offer them relevant and rewarding activities to participate in.
Here are a few actionable strategies you can implement right away to make sure your members thrive inside the community.
1. Create a warm and welcoming online environment.
A warm, welcoming environment is key to encourage new members to participate actively in the community right from the start.
The onboarding process is therefore vital. Thank people individually for joining and send them a personalized welcome message to their inboxes that details the value proposition of your program. Let members know how their involvement will benefit both their career and your brand, and how you will make their experience unique.
Just like hosting a party, prioritize your members’ needs and reassure newcomers that they’ve made the right choice to join your community. Introducing new members to others will help make them feel at home. For example, you could create a buddy system—where you pair up newcomers with other new members, or with members who share similar interests and industry backgrounds, or with more senior and high-profile members to boost status and networking.
You may wish to reward longtime members for helping out with the onboarding process.
When communicating with new members, use your real name and email address, and include a picture of yourself to establish real, personal connections.
2. Offer relevant and engaging content.
What helps online community members stay engaged is the overall positive sentiment they gain from being part of a group with great content. Simply broadcasting generic content isn’t optimal for establishing rapport or encouraging meaningful conversations.
Instead, curate relevant and up-to-date news articles, brand-supported educational materials, and instructional videos that add real value to your members’ personal and professional lives. To spark quality conversations, ask members to contribute with a share, a like, or a reply on their social media networks of choice. This way you fuel positive interactions and get members used to participating in advocacy activities.
If you don’t know where to find engaging content ideas, pay attention to topics which get the biggest traction in the media, or take a look at what’s trending in the industry with tools such as BuzzSumo.
3. Figure out what motivates and interests your members.
Above and beyond great content, the most important community asset is engaged advocates.
Before creating your rewards strategy, you need to find out their needs, wishes, and motivations. Extrinsic, tangible rewards may appeal to some advocates but can leave others completely indifferent.
There’s no need for guesswork here. Ask your members directly how you can better support their growth objectives. You can do this through surveys, community discussions, or one-on-one interviews. Regular check-ins also enable you to stay up to date with any changes in your members’ opinions.
Follow up on member feedback with a personalized strategy so your advocates feel listened to and valued. The more open and straightforward your relationships, the more engaged your community will be, and the more success you will garner.
4. Encourage conversations that support every opinion.
When creating a community, bring together a group of people with different interests, life goals, and career aspirations. Be sure to offer a diverse set of topics that will balance out these differences and get the majority of your members to relate in a positive way.
Also, encourage a relaxed and nonjudgmental environment where members feel safe to share their opinions and pay attention to particular communication and cultural barriers you may need to overcome.
Remember the party analogy? Guests who are quietly standing alone in the corner are the ones most likely to leave early. If your members are having trouble finding their identities inside your community, they may need encouragement from you to voice their opinions and contribute positively to the conversation.
Rapport and genuine connections don’t always arise from linear, unidirectional conversations. Make it your goal to support new and contradictory viewpoints, as these can help all members to learn and grow.
5. Offer continual support.
Always have a decision-maker, a go-to person, or a community administrator to whom advocates can turn for questions, comments, and suggestions. Having such a role requires inspiring advocate participation and also making necessary adjustments and decisions related to the community platform.
Moderating your community helps to keep it safe, prevents offensive discussions and inappropriate behavior, and encourages all members to contribute in a positive manner.
6. Set a positive, fun, and conversational tone.
Promoting quality conversations within your community means being positive, friendly, and respectful. Every interaction you have on the platform will be under the spotlight, and your own input will serve as an example for others. If you want your community to interact in an easy-going and collaborative way, promote authenticity and openness; but don’t force it. Give your advocates the space and time they need so they don’t feel pressured, and always respond in ways that make them feel both heard and valued.
The more positive the vibe inside your community, the more likely your members are to come back, and the more attractive your community is to outsiders who are thinking of joining. A friendly, open, and positive tone is also essential for driving discussions around sensitive topics, setting clear community rules and guidelines, and empowering members to express their opinions freely.
Keeping your community engaged and thriving is both a science and an art. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new engagement strategies and ask your community for constant feedback and ideas to keep members invested in your mutual success.
With the right approach and well-thought-out strategies, your community will stay relevant and attractive in the eyes of your members. This will also encourage potential advocates to join and stay while enabling you to reap the multiple business benefits that come from a thriving advocate community.