New members help your community become more vibrant – but you don’t have a community in the first place if you can’t keep hold of your existing members. It doesn’t matter how many posts you have – if members join, say hello and then leave, you don’t have a community. You need to keep hold of existing members whilst attracting new ones at the same time.
How to keep existing members of your online community
Members of your online community need to feel special and they need to feel valued. They need to know that you want them as a members and they need to know that you have noticed them.
Here are some ways you can lower the turnover of your online community:
1. Welcome new members.
Be personal. The auto-generated email doesn’t count – but if that’s all you can do, at least personalise it. This can scale – welcome new members publicly, and your members will follow suit. If it all becomes a bit overwhelming, you’ve already established a ‘welcome wagon’ as part of your community’s culture. Your members will now take over.
When you welcome new members, they know they have been noticed. Nobody wants to contribute to a community if they feel invisible.
2. Praise member contributions.
If members do good, tell them. Feature the best content in a prominent position on the site. When responding to a member’s post, tell them how great you think it is. Don’t forget the value of private messaging, too – you might not want to get involved in a specific discussion, but that shouldn’t stop you from dropping a member a PM to thank them for their fantastic contribution.
3. Communicate with your members.
Don’t just talk to your members. Listen, too. Get involved in the community you are managing. Get involved in discussions. When members contact you, make sure they get a response (a real one – not an auto-responder or link to the FAQs). If you forget to keep in touch with your members, they may forget to keep in touch with the community.
4. Get to know your members.
Similar to above. You can’t get to know your members if you’re not involved in the community. Don’t just reply to existing discussions. Don’t just start new discussions. Ask questions. Learn about your members and learn from your members. Figure out what makes them tick – you’ll then be in a better position to tailor the community to their needs.
5. Show interest in your members.
If you’re not a ‘people person’, you can’t be a community manager. You need to be interested in people and you need to love getting to know people. Show an interest in your members and what they do. Does a member have a blog? Go read it – and drop the occasional comment. Do they have a new website? Take a look and offer some feedback. Share a link to their site with the community.
Show an interest in your members, and they’ll continue to show an interest in your community.
6. Interview your members.
I have to admit, this is something I have only started doing recently. It works wonders, though. Initially, members wondered what the point of interviews would be – after all, they are already getting to know other members by reading their posts and getting involved in discussions. However, after the very first interview, the sceptics were won over.
Interviews allow you to really dig deep into the personality and experience of individual members. They are a great opportunity for members to open up and talk about things they wouldn’t normally share or start a discussion about. They can bring the community closer together, and the replies from other members after an interview make the interviewee feel special and valued.
Don’t just interview existing members of your online community, though – get out there and interview people you want as members, too.
7. Give members additional responsibilities.
Empowerment is a powerful tool. You don’t need to necessarily give away real powers – just assign individual members certain tasks and responsibilities. At Female Forum, one of our members is in charge of the Twitter account. Brave? Dangerous? Risky? No – it just shows the community how much I respect and trust them.
8. Give members a reason to keep coming back.
Nobody will come back to your community if there is no fresh content. You need to get members addicted. Newsletters can be used to highlight the best conversations (or the most controversial). Quiz leagues can bring out a competitive spirit.
Put yourself in the shoes of your members. Would you want to return tomorrow?
9. Know when to use power.
You have lots of power. You can edit posts, delete posts, delete members and ban members. Use these powers sparingly. Don’t oppress members. They don’t want to live in fear. The more they worry about moderator intervention, the less they’ll be inclined to post. Members will make mistakes from time to time – don’t come down on them like a tonne of bricks if they do. Be understanding. Genuine mistakes happen. Personal circumstances may result in someone acting completely out of character.
Use your power sparingly and wisely.
10. Be genuine.
You can’t fake it when it comes to being a community manager. You need to be genuinely interested in your members. You need to be genuinely passionate about the community. Members can tell when you’re faking it – if that happens, you’re in trouble.
How to attract new members to your online community
See above. If you work hard for your existing members, you’ll naturally attract new ones.