This paper reflects what I’ve been saying for years.
Once a newcomer joins a community you have a short window to influence whether they become a one-time visitor, a lurker (learner), or an engaged member.
This is decided by a few things:
1) How you guide their first contribution. Members who initiate a discussion or reply to a welcome discussion stick around for longer than those who don’t. Newcomers who share their emotions and self-disclose about themselves stick around longer than those who don’t.
2) The speed of response to their first contribution. Our data showed members who receive a response within 24 hours are 27% more likely to participate again than those who didn’t.
3) The quality of response to their contributions. Responses that include self-disclosure, empathy, and ask further questions encourage repeat visits.
4) The quantity of responses to their contributions. Surprisingly one of the biggest ones. The quantity of responses has a big impact on the length of time a newcomer sticks around for.
You need to design a system for newcomers to ensure they are guided to participate the right way, get a quick response to their first few contributions, have responses that reveal information about the responders.
Some platforms make this easy. Discourse, for example, reveals when someone is making their first contribution in the community. Others need to catch up.