It’s not a simple step to go from a visitor to a participant. It’s a big gulf you need people to repeatedly cross.
To get someone to participate, you have to strike an emotional chord that goes beyond interest and information-seeking. Sure, that might work for customer-service channels. But customer service channels aren’t really communities.
To participate is to expect a response. You have to care about that response. You have to make yourself a little vulnerable to that response. You want an outcome from that participation. You want people to react to the way you think.
To care about the response, you have to (usually) care about those responding. That care comes from feeling part of the group. To feel part of the group you have to know who is in the group.
Now we’re getting to the point. You only know who is in the group if the community manager (you) makes a clear effort to highlight the individuals in the group. That means individualising the community.
This means talking about names. Mentioning people by name. Interviewing members. Highlighting individual successes and milestones. Inviting people to write guest posts. Spotlighting discussions and mentioning the opinions of people who have participated in the discussion.
When you do this, not only do you increase instant familiarity, but you set the precedent for increased familiarity. You also crush the problem of social loafing (people do less when actions are attributed to a group).