People make a decision to join a community quite quickly.
They hear about the community, browse a few posts, see something they want to participate in, then register.
The moment they register, you have someone's attention. They're waiting and expecting messages from you. They're open to information from you. Every second that goes by, they become less receptive.
Don't waste these precious minutes.
- Instantly get someone participating in a self-disclosure discussion. In the confirmation/welcome e-mail, guide someone to participating in a topical, self-disclosure, discussion. Update this discussion each week. Skip the profile for now, engage them in an active discussion so they enter the notification cycle.
- Ensure interaction between members. Have volunteers to respond quickly to people who have made their first contribution in the community. Again, this is a short window. Every minute that ticks by is a minute that we're less open to responses. Ensure the response contains personal information and a further questions to prompt a response.
- Introduce to relevant members. If there are other members a newcomer should know, make the introduction. It doesn't have to be via the site. A relationship can flourish and bring future people into the group. This works especially well in sub-1000 member communities.
- Prompt to ask questions. Establish a trigger/prompt that will get people to ask questions about the topics they're struggling with. This might be a simple e-mail or a discussion thread that asks people what questions they're struggling with.
- Use your auto-responders. Link activity (or inactivity) to automated autoresponders. If a member hasn't logged in since they registered, has made 5 or more contributions, has only made one contribution, send them an e-mail with something new and relevant in the community they should participate in.
For most of the communities we work on, increasing the newcomer to regular participation ration is the single, biggest, quickest, win we can have. If you can't get someone to participate immediately, you've lost them.
We can do a much better job here.