There is a point in the launch of many new communities (especially communities of practice/non-support communities), where the first few curious members join and you need to engage them deeper within the community.
You need to prompt a second post, engage them deeper within the conversation, and deliver some sort of value.
Two common problems emerge in this stage.
1) The community manager isn’t proactive enough. In the very early stages you usually can and should respond to every post within the community. You should also be reaching out to other members to reply too. This not only helps the community look a little busier, but encourages people to return.
2) The responses and posts aren’t authentic. Members can sniff out inauthentic attempts to simply drive activity. Look at any brand promoting a hashtag today and you get the idea. Sometimes this means the responses are too repetitive. Other times they just sound ‘off’.
In a recent client project, we worked closely with the community manager to bring the community to a critical mass of activity. This meant going through each response together at first to ensure we got the response right. I want to share some of the basic scripts here as they might be useful to others:
Response 1 – Asking a Follow-Up Questions (and being honest)
Thanks for joining us, I’m glad we can have you as one of our first members here. Are there any particular issues you’re having within [topic] at the moment that you would like to ask the community?
We’re just getting started and have a few experts here looking for some challenges to solve!
This is personalised and solicits a contribution and is honest about the community just getting started. It encourages people to take a very specific next action.
Response 2 – Helping the member identify unique contributions they can make
Great to have you here. The industry working group sounds really interesting. I would definitely be interested in inviting them here too if you think it might be a good fit.
Feel free to create posts and drop your papers into the research category we have here. We can create a custom tag for them if you like? I know other members will find them useful.
This was responding specifically to a member who mentioned they were part of an industry working group to begin with. This is both a promotional opportunity for us but also makes the member feel they can make unique, useful, contributions based upon their past experience.
Response 3 – Engaging someone with pre-existing expertise
Given your background in [xyz], I suspect you’re exactly the kind of person we want to have in this community, thanks for becoming one of our first members.
Do you feel there is [question about something they mentioned]
If you have a second, can you respond to one or two of the outstanding questions we have at the moment to get things started? I know other members would benefit from your experience.
This was a response to a member who we noted had a ‘high status’ within the field and needed to feel recognised and appreciated for their past contributions.
The DM Messages
Hi [name] just to reiterate my welcome to you to join the community. I was genuinely glad to see someone from [company] had joined us. We actually used one of your [resources] to [activity].
I’m reaching out to see if you can help two of our members who have questions about [topic].
One is about [topic], the other is about [topic].
Do you happen to have any input you can share? We’re a bit stumped at the moment.
This was a typical direct message to a member who we felt needed an extra prompt. Again we make sure it’s personal to them and highlighted how they had already helped the community (commitment effect).
Then we were honest and authentic about what we wanted from then and asked nicely.
In my experience, so many community efforts fail at this stage due to lack of authenticity.
The key lessons here are to be authentic, honest, personalised, and recognise that people want to feel valued. If you can make every member at this stage feel they can make unique, useful, contributions to the community they probably will.