There is a big problem with online communities. Members think of them online communities as places they go. Not something they are in their daily lives.
This is a shame. This relegates your online community to an afterthought. Everything that happens in your community has a lesser significance solely because it’s online. It’s not IRL (in real life).
You need to work hard to merge the two. The key to this is to have tangible real-life objects and activities. Here are 8 ideas
- Membership cards. Send membership cards to those who have been active in the community for three months. By far the simplest thing you can do.
- Text messages. Send text messages about upcoming events and activities your online community can do. Invite them to reply back with any questions.
- Phone calls. Phone members up. Have chats with your top members. Ask them for their thoughts and ideas. Plan things in the community together.
- Regular meetings. No brainer, meet up with members as often as possible. Book the venue and host the event. It’s incredibly simple.
- Yearbooks. Send our end-of-year yearbooks to top members. Don’t go for the cheap pdf option. Members can pay of them or you can sell advertising in them.
- Trophies/certificates. Send out trophies and certificates for members that have achieved something remarkable (either in the online community itself or in the broader subject area).
- Open a sales channel. Create a forum, page, or even a Twitter stream feed (use a hashtag) where members can sell relevant products to each other.
- Monthly newsletter. For some reason, seeing something in print. Something you can touch and hold just feels more worldly than any internet exposure.
The more you blend the two, the more important your community becomes to your members. The stronger the bonds, the more frequently members visit, the more active members become and it becomes far easier to sustain your efforts.