We can’t stress it enough: your brand needs an online community. Having people who believe in and advocate on behalf of your brand gives you an edge over competitors and can undoubtedly be a driver in its success.
When it comes to a brand community, however, here’s where so many people get it wrong: it isn’t about the number. Sure, more people means more exposure—but not everyone is going to become an invested member.
So, how do you cultivate something that is more than a mere list of people who have come into contact with your brand? It’s all about community engagement.
Quality over quantity
There are so many benefits to community building—both tangible and intangible—that you just can’t gain with any other marketing method. Sure, you could pour thousands of dollars into Facebook or Google Ads every month to drive enough leads. But when you consider the fact that attracting new customers can cost five times as much as retaining your existing ones, the value of an active and involved community becomes crystal clear.
The 80-20 rule
Most marketers and community managers are well-aware of the Pareto principle in business. In essence, 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results. But did you know that you can apply the very same principle to marketing and community building?
- 80% of sales are the result of 20% of advertising
- 80% of content marketing leads are driven by 20% of content assets
- 80% of social shares are from 20% of social content
While this may not be a hard and fast rule, the same principle applies –the majority of the results you’re looking for are caused by a disproportionately small amount of effort.
Applying the Pareto principle to community development
What does the 80-20 rule mean for brands? It’s simple. Investing in your supporters is crucial, but it doesn’t stop at the numbers. Community engagement is an important part of the equation, and that’s because 20% of your exceptionally engaged customers—(yes, just one in five!)—are going to be the ones bringing 80% of the profits back to you, whether by staying a customer, bringing in new community members, or upsizing and spending more.
Our top 10 community engagement strategies
Business owners, community managers, and other customer-centric decision-makers know how important it is to build a tight-knit community of people who support the brand. When you’re starting from scratch, the process can seem daunting and the progress equally discouraging. But given that the average community return on investment (ROI) grows to as much as 5,315% over a decade, it’s clear that time and patience are part of the equation.
We’re here to share our expertise on the top 10 tactics to implement in your community engagement strategy, condensed into three main categories: creating better material, curating the space to only contain value-adding material, and cultivating your overall strategy to guide growth.
By creating better material
1 - Entertain with well-rounded content
Promotional content here and there can help nudge customers further down the sales funnel, but communities are primarily about providing value in a fun, authentic way. When creating content for the community, be sure to consider what they want and need.
What pain point led them to take interest in your product or service? How can you help them better address it? Are there resources you can provide or solutions you can suggest?
It’s a great idea to bring in team members from other parts of the company to offer a well-rounded perspective. Product teams, engineering teams, and even the CEO may offer a new, fresh take on an existing topic while shedding light on the people behind the brand.
Another thing to consider when creating content is the delivery. In 2022, community members are looking for brands that are authentic and relatable. That means that aside from the information itself, you have to consider how to communicate in a fun, coherent way that keeps members engaged.
2 - Set the stage for user-generated content
There's a reason that user-generated content (UGC) is a key component of all community engagement strategies. Your brand might be the common denominator in bringing a group of people together, but a successful community is not about you—it’s almost entirely about them!
Instead of clogging up the entire feed with brand updates, bolster community engagement by handing the microphone over to your members. Make it easy for them to not only share their stories but also be heard. The more they feel they have a voice, the more likely they are to remain an engaged member of your community. This, in turn, bolsters retention and gains you a loyal advocate.
3 - Conduct events and activities
It should go without saying that an engaged community needs opportunities to mingle and interact. That’s why it’s your job as a community manager to plan events and activities for members whether it’s their first day or third year with you.
The type of activities you can run depends on your members, but it’s always a good idea to plan both passive and active events that members can participate in. Examples of community activities include exclusive webinars, influencer live streams, monthly competitions, and polls.
4 - Keep inclusivity in mind
In 2022 and beyond, your brand should be putting renewed effort into inclusivity. As the internet broadens our reach throughout the world, making a variety of people feel welcome is a must. This is particularly true in community building, where your goal is to instill a sense of belonging in your members.
Diversity is often what gets the attention of people in the first place. Representation gives them a voice. Inclusion is the final puzzle piece that ushers them in through the doorway and tells them that they are seen.
When creating content that supports your brand values, keep inclusivity at the forefront of your mind. Remember that your community should be represented by people from a variety of backgrounds, ranging in ages, ethnicities, genders, sexuality, appearance, and more. Doing so helps you reach a wider range of potential clients while building loyalty, boosting community engagement, and even driving sales!
By circulating the most enriching content
5 - Perform activities appropriate for each stage of the lifecycle
When brands create online communities, they kick off a lifecycle that consists of four stages: (1) inception, (2) establishment, (3) maturity, and (4) mitosis. What you do to maintain the community at each stage is quite different, and being able to identify which phase you’re currently in is crucial to building a developed community.
Here’s a quick rundown of the four online community life cycle stages and what managing it will look like at each one:
In the inception stage, your community engagement strategy will be centered on encouraging those in the target audience to buy in and become active members. Your focus should be on inviting like-minded people who are likely to participate.
As you build a community platform, you’ll be initiating most of the contact. Look for opportunities to create relationships and encourage members to get to know each other. As they bond and make your community a part of their lives, they will become the foundation on which the growth commences.
The activities for established communities are similar to that of those in the inception stage. You’re still inviting relevant people, starting conversations, prompting responses, and building relationships. This phase can take up to 9 months and requires some patience.
As your community grows, your tasks will slowly shift to impact small groups of people rather than one at a time. Ultimately, an established community will begin to stand on its own without too much prompting from its hosts.
You’ll know a community has reached the maturity stage when over 90% of the activity/growth is generated by its members. There is a relatively strong sense of community, but the activity level might begin to plateau. Despite this, mature communities are recognized within their industry.
At this point, managers are mostly tasked with overseeing the action and filling missing gaps. They do not initiate as many discussions or prompt action because community members will typically engage on their own. However, they still need to focus on the bigger picture and sustain healthy rates of activity for as long as possible.
Not all communities reach the mitosis stage, especially when they are limited by the size of their potential audience. When they do, though, they require careful management to succeed.
The mitosis stage occurs when the community is practically able to run on its own with little-to-no intervention. At this stage, the group of members is so large that they often break off into smaller, more specific sub-groups with the same shared values.
Upon reaching mitosis, community managers have to carefully facilitate the move to smaller sub-groups without losing the overall sense of belonging and reason for being that existed in the first place. This typically means a renewed interest in prompting conversation, giving sub-groups more exposure, and hosting focused events and activities.
When you can recognize the stage of the lifecycle you're in, it’s much easier to focus on activities that spur growth and community engagement.
6 - Incentivize member participation
As we discussed at the beginning of this article, not all community members are the same. Some will only visit once or twice before disappearing, whereas others will become highly engaged regulars who come and create content or interact on a daily basis. The value each individual provides differs, and you have to deal with them accordingly.
Segmenting your members into different cohorts and incentivizing them appropriately is one of the key community engagement strategies. Your most active members should be rewarded for their brand loyalty, while those less engaged might be inclined to interact more upon seeing what your involved members get.
Offering access to exclusive content, surprise promotions, and even special badges can be a great way to encourage participation and show your loyal followers that you appreciate them.
7 - Moderate sensibly
Community members should have some degree of freedom to express themselves. However, it’s your duty as a community manager to make the space feel comfortable and safe. You and your team must carefully moderate interactions to eliminate any disrespectful language or inappropriate behavior.
It only takes one offensive comment to ruin the community experience of another. Curating content and placing limitations on those who fail to comply with the rules boost motivation levels and make members feel like you value their experience.
Moderation can be a tricky part of community engagement, particularly in large groups hosted on third-party platforms. Fortunately, there are many excellent tools you can use when moderating your own online community. When you use Amity social SDKs, moderation features are built-in so you can easily assign roles, set permissions, and monitor interactions on chat and social channels.
By cultivating growth
8 - Nudge members to take action
Especially in a younger community, prompting action reminds new members that there is something valuable waiting for them. Notifications play a crucial role in both newly created and mature groups because they improve retention and community engagement by bringing people back whenever there is something fresh and relevant to see.
In-app communities can benefit from setting up push notifications so users don’t miss interactions and events. This type of notification is delivered straight to a member’s mobile device, prompting them to visit the community and read a new post, respond to a comment, or view a reaction.
9 - Gather feedback
If you're looking for ways to improve community engagement, start by asking members what they need. No matter how detail-oriented you might be as a community manager, your experience as a host will be worlds apart. Members will be able to spot pain points that you won’t. Fortunately, if given the means, they will often happily give you their thoughts.
Let’s say, for example, that community members begin giving feedback about customer service and saying that they’ve been able to get faster responses from other members posting in a forum than they have through a company agent. While this means that your community is providing value, it also shows that there’s a pain point to be solved.
Your customers may also begin suggesting better customer service options, such as in-app live chat. This could solve their pain point by letting users reach out and have their issues resolved immediately. A built-in live chat experience builds trust and loyalty, potentially turning a negative experience into a positive one. And without having taken member feedback into consideration, you could be missing out on that opportunity!
10 - Walk the talk
Feedback is invaluable. But it doesn’t mean much if you don't take action on it. After you’ve gathered information and concluded that a particular product can be profitable or a certain feature can benefit users, make sure you start taking steps towards it—and showing your users that movement.
You can’t just say you want to serve customers well and fail to consider their needs. By walking the talk, you demonstrate that you value a quality experience and earn your community’s trust. In return, they’ll stick around and maybe even spread the good word!
Watch your community grow with Amity’s Social SDKs
There’s no doubt that community building is hard work. It starts slowly and takes time to see results. You can, however, ramp up the momentum by using tools like Amity Social Cloud.
Our SDKs are created to make implementing social features a breeze. When you combine the right resources with effective community engagement strategies, you’ll see steady progress towards greater audience involvement and brand advocacy. Get started today!