Most communities are setup to repulse newcomers. You have to complete dumb questions when you join. Then you’re asked to introduce yourself to others.
You should welcome members, but not out of obligation, but with the firm intention of ensuring they begin participating and making friends within your community. This is the role of the welcome.
With standard participation rates so low, converting a newcomer into a regular is worth the extra time. These are several steps you can take to do this:
- Drop the automated welcomes. It’s impersonal and makes a newcomer feel like an anonymous outsider. Likewise, don’t use the same welcome for every member.
- Introduce yourself. Don’t send a standard e-mail. Welcome the newcomer, ask relevant questions (do you know anyone else here? The goal here is to begin a conversation, a conversation that continues past the initial interaction. Highlight discussions they might like to participate in. Give them something to do.
- Send them a welcome pack. A welcome pack brings newcomers up to speed with the latest happenings in the community and its history.
- Introduce others to the new member. Help to place the newcomer in a group with others. Ask those with similar hobbies, of similar age or location to introduce themselves.
- Automate discussions. Have answers to your awesome profile questions appear automatically on the user boards to the member gets replies and feedback on his/her discussion.
- Have a weekly update of newcomers. Every Friday, update your newspage with a list of newcomers and some information about them. Encourage people to say hi.
The more you design these processes to be efficient, the less effective they will be. The more time you spend with newcomers when they join, the more likely they will become regular members. These regulars are the backbone of your community, they’re worth the time.