People stick around in an online community for one of two reasons.
The first is simple, they have more questions to ask.
If their first contribution gets a good and quick response, they will visit the community again if they have a second question (and a third, fourth etc..).
You can influence this by developing a system that pings your top members (or staff) when a newcomer asks their first question and ensure it gets a rapid response. Reach out to them later and check if their issues have been resolved etc..
But your influence extends only as far as members have more questions to ask. It doesn’t matter how well you answered the last question if members don’t have another. There is a law of diminishing returns here too. Once you’re answering the majority of questions within a couple of hours, more speed doesn’t have much of an impact.
Which brings us to the second reason, an emotional commitment.
There are many types of emotional commitment, but they typically fall into one of three categories.
1) An opportunity to be seen and respected by peers.
2) An attachment to other members or to the company.
3) A passion for the topic and a belief in the vision for the community.
Your job is to spark emotional commitments towards the community.
This means a lot of one to one interactions with members and making each feel like they have a special impact and influence upon you or the organisation you work for.
It means providing a plethora of opportunities for members to lead and feel appreciated. There are hundreds of unique roles members can assume within the community.
And it means selling the vision of what the community will be a few months and a few years from now (in fact, get members involved in the process of developing).
For sure, only a small percentage of members will be interested in any of the above, but even a small percentage in retention rates has a big impact on overall participation. Your challenge is to identify members who could form an emotional connection and guide them down the journey without irritating others who just want answers to problems.