Engaging with members

by Martin Reed on 3 March 2007 in Articles

It is extremely important when building a community website to ensure you engage with your members. This means welcoming them to your community, answering any questions they have promptly and correctly and making them feel valued.

You should always ensure your users feel valued within the forum environment. Welcoming new members is particularly important – but don’t stop there.

I have seen many forums where a new member introduces themselves, and the simple response from the admin or mods of the forum is something along the lines of, ‘Hi … Welcome to our forum’.

This should be taken further – if the user has posted information about themselves in their profile or if they have made posts on your forum about a specific subject you should incorporate this into your welcome message to make it more personalised and encourage further interaction.

For example a better welcome message would be something like, ‘Hi Amy, welcome to the forum! I see you have an interest in Dalmatians… do you have any experience in keeping them.’

Similarly, if you have a blog and users are commenting on your posts, take time to read them and respond to any questions that may be asked. If you don’t, users will wonder what the point is in making a comment in the first place – not the best way to start a successful community!

If you do not value each and every member in your community, they will find one that does. This is not restricted to saying hello to new members on a forum or blog. This includes answering every single email promptly and accurately.

At Just Chat, we began to get a reputation for not responding to emails. This was due to the large number I was receiving, combined with the fact that the community was by this time well established. I found that this meant there was less motivation for me to respond to each and every email.

This was a mistake – users soon felt less valued and started to think that their thoughts / questions / opinions were not valued. To combat this, we installed a ticketing system from HelpDesk Pilot. As I am the only person who responds to emailed messages, I could plump for the free version.

Using this ensures I respond to each and every message I am sent by a user as each response is labelled as ‘Open’ until I respond and ‘Close’ the message. There is now far more motivation to ensure each message is responded to as I do not like to see unanswered messages pile up. I know that if I delete a message in the ticketing system, then the user will know I simply couldn’t be bothered to respond (as each message is issued with a tracking ID) compared to if I just delete the email in Outlook as a user may assume the message was not received.

I have come across many promising forums and blogs where no additional effort is made after the initial welcome post. Building online communities is hard work, and each and every member needs to feel valued and respected if they are to return and make themselves at home on your website.

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Alberghi October 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm

I was receiving, combined with the fact that the community was by this time well established. I found that this meant there was less motivation for me to respond to each and every email.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Alberghi – You may want to consider installing a helpdesk ticketing system; since I installed one at Just Chat I find that I reply to each and every email in a timely manner. I use Helpdeskpilot, and they offer a free version.

Michelle from the Coulee Region October 25, 2007 at 2:28 pm

I’ve been reading articles on here since I saw a link to this blog on Sitepoint yesterday. I’m impressed with how you respond to everyone’s comments. Too many blogs out there have a string of comments with no response from the author.

I had to laugh at this one, though. Alberghi’s comment is just a bit of text taken out of your post! And still you took the time to respond. :)

I also love that there’s a box to check to subscibe to this post. I often forget where I’ve left comments and forget to check back for responses.


PS: Something is wrong with your captcha… It’s telling me my answer is wrong when it’s not.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 26, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Michelle – Thanks for your kind comment. I think it is really important to engage with your members, and that is exactly how I see all my readers – as members. Not only that, but I actually enjoy reading the thoughts and opinions of those that take the time to read my articles.

Yeah, Alberghi’s comments are not always the most constructive but it’s still important to respond to everyone, in my opinion!

What problems were you having with the captcha? I have it set so that the answer is always ’3′ and the question will only ever ask for the sum of two plus one. Did you type the number using letters rather than the digit itself?

Michelle from the Coulee Region October 26, 2007 at 8:03 pm

No letters. Just the number 3. I tried several times and it wouldn’t go. I finally ended up refreshing the page and trying again and then it went. It just happened to me again on the comment I just posted, too. Maybe it’s an Opera issue?


abbigliamento October 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I think everyone when build a site first of ll he think about the content of his site. 99% of cases the content is engageable with users who wants to visit the site. Further adjustments must be done on website on users requests i think.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 9:39 pm

Michelle – Your browser shouldn’t affect the anti-spam protection as the answer is checked based on browser-independent code. I am really confused as to why this is happening. Perhaps I will try a different piece of software to ensure you are able to comment without trouble.

abbigliamento – In this article I was talking about how to engage with members through conversation and interaction as opposed to solely with your content, although I agree that this is also another way of engaging with your members.

Daniel February 23, 2008 at 10:59 pm

You bring up a very good point about engaging the members. It’s sort of a prompt for participation.

Martin Reed - Blog Author February 27, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Daniel – Exactly right! By engaging with your members you are encouraging further interaction which is essential for any online community.

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