If you are developing an online community, it is vital that you convert as many visitors into members as possible. It is no good going to all the effort of converting visitors if you are unable to get them to stick around and contribute, though!
In this article I will describe the five best ways of showing your members that you love them! Members who feel loved are more likely to stick around, get involved and become loyal, long term enthusiasts of your community.
Tip 1 – Listen to your members
If you don’t listen to your members, why should you expect them to contribute to your community? People don’t want to raise a point and then be ignored. Think about a real-life situation when you spoke to someone and they ignored you. It hardly encouraged you to speak to them again in the future, did it?
If your members lose the inclination to speak, your community is doomed. You need to encourage all interaction; even if people are talking rubbish that you don’t agree with, you should still listen and show that you are doing so.
If your members serve up suggestions on how they think you can improve the community, show that you are listening. Even if their suggestions are ridiculous, you should always thank them for their contribution and share your thoughts on their suggestion. Make sure you are tactful if you disagree with them – you don’t want to make them feel stupid; they will then be less likely to come up with any more suggestions in the future and you make scare other members away from coming up with ideas that may be fantastic after they have seen you shoot down another member in flames!
Tip 2 – Involve your members in decisions
You should always see your community as belonging to its members. All too often, forum administrators see a community as belonging solely to them as an individual. One person does not a community make. Start seeing your community as being collectively ‘owned’ by its members. If your members aren’t happy about something, you need to take action.
It is always wise to be pro-active in this area, though and involve your members in all decisions related to the community. If you are considering a redesign, share the drafts with your members and invite feedback and suggestions. If you are considering a new feature, share your idea and perhaps run a beta version for your members to try out.
Getting your members involved in decision making gives them a sense of shared ownership of the community. They will feel valued and respected, and are far more likely to stick around for the long term.
Tip 3 – Get involved in the community
Members will hardly feel inspired to get involved in your community if you fail to do so yourself. Whether you like it or not, you are the most important influence in your community, and can help establish its personality and the behaviour of your members.
If you are welcoming to new members, it is likely that other members of your community will act just the same. If you share a quirky sense of humour, it is likely that other members of your community will adopt a similar style.
If you can’t be bothered to get involved in your community, how can you expect your members to create content for you? Getting involved not only shows members you are committed to the success of the community, it makes you more approachable, personal and human.
Remember – people like talking to people, not numbers or usernames. Show them that you are a real person – it sounds ridiculous but it is easy to forget that behind each username lies a human being.
Tip 4 – Respond to emails
Failing to respond to emails gives people the impression that you don’t care about them or any issues related to the community. This is the last impression you want to give people. You want them to see you as pro-active, enthusiastic and dedicated to your members.
It can be hard dealing with a huge number of emails, but there are ways you can reduce the number of emails you receive. If you need additional motivation to respond to emails, try installing a ticketing system such as Helpdesk Pilot.
Tip 5 – Tell your members you love them!
The best way to show the members of your community that you love them is to tell them! There is no need to gush your heart and soul out to them every day, but announcements every now and them thanking them for their contributions, feedback and suggestions really helps them feel valued.
If you have a mailing list, thank your members for any successes you are sharing with them. At Christmas, wish your members good fortune and thank them for being involved in your community. Whenever you share milestones in your site’s development, thank them for their contribution.
These were only my five tips for showing your members that you love them. Do you agree/disagree with them? Do you have any ideas that I have not mentioned? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.