Why is successful onboarding important?
Onboarding is the first ingredient for assuring platform adoption and consequent member retention. If new members feel lost, abandoned, or unsure, they won’t stick around on your platform and quickly abandon the community.
Creating an onboarding experience is your opportunity to:
- Integrate new members into the community and help them create their first connections
- Excite and inspire new members to become involved and active
- Establish your organization’s relationship with members
- Help set the right expectations for new members
- Make members aware of the community guidelines and culture
- Introduce members to community activities, spaces, groups and events
- Help members familiarize themselves with the digital tools of the platform
- Show new members the value of your community and convince them to invest their time
So, how do you do this exactly? We have gathered some best practices to help you create a seamless onboarding experience for your members. This process already starts before you even invite the first members to your platform. It begins with proper planning!
Identify your Goal
The first step to a good onboarding experience is to identify your community goals. By knowing exactly what the purpose of your community is, you can find the best route to get your members aligned right from the start.
To identify your goals, you can ask the following questions:
- What are the long-term or short-term goals of the community? How can the platform support them?
- What are you hoping this community will achieve?
- Who is our audience? What are the age groups? What platforms are they used to?
- What do you expect members to get out of the community, and what do you expect them to contribute back to the community?
- What does success mean to you, and what key performance indicators can be used to measure this success?
These questions help you identify what you want to achieve with the community platform. Because if you do not know what you want to do, how will your members? These questions allow you to identify your needs and actions. Once a clear action plan is created following your goals, you can create a user flow that corresponds to it.
Create a user flow
Knowing your community goals will not only help you create a good onboarding strategy for new members, but also create a good user flow when setting up your community in the first place. You cannot create a good onboarding strategy without having a good user flow for your platform to begin with.
‘User flow’ is a term that describes the set of tasks or activities that a user must follow to complete some action, process, or platform experience. It is usually visualized as a diagram.
To create a user flow it is important to think like your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. From the registration process, through to joining their first group, posting their first piece of content, and becoming a regular member.
You can think of your user flow as something to help you structure your platform. For example: What do you include in your menu bar? These items will be the most important links inside of your platform, and the first things a new member will click on to explore your platform! Open Social luckily allows you to customize your menu navigation, and easily change your menu items to make sure your user flow is optimal.
Or what about the access and visibility settings within your community? Do you want to have a private community, or a public one? Do you want your members to be segmented into groups with each having their own stream rather than an overall community steam? Open Social also helps you change these settings easily!
You also need to think of what information you are giving new members, and how you are going to help them get to know your platform and integrate with your community. To help you think of what your onboarding user flow should be, you can take a look at the 6 strategies from CXL:
- Benefit-focused: Explains the 2–3 core benefits for members and how to achieve that benefit via the platform.
- Function-focused: Explains the 2–3 core functions of the platform and how to use them.
- Doing-focused: Walks members through the first or most common actions taken on your platform.
- Account-focused: Walks members through profile creation, including finding groups or topics to follow.
- All: For complex platforms, it may be necessary to combine the four above.
Open Social has recently launched a new extension called Engagement Automation that can help you automate your onboarding strategy, creating trigger events that guide new members through your platform depending on your chosen onboarding strategy. For example, you can trigger a notification when they log on for the first time, directing them to the user guide or to an introduction video.
Create an optimal Homepage
Before you can finalize your user flow, you need to prepare your most important pages: the Homepages.
It is best to create two different homepages, as your audience and goals for each page will be different.
The anonymous user Homepage is the page visitors will see before they have even joined your community. Whether it is a closed community or an open one, your goal of the anonymous homepage is to lure people in to register for the community.
Once members have registered, the homepage should be either interactive or trigger them to do specific actions that are in line with the user flow you created. The member homepage is the first page a registered member sees when they log into your platform.
Use your member homepage as the launchpad for the onboarding user flow. Create sections and buttons where you want members to go.
Set clear language that everybody understands and can follow. Think of your call-to-actions you use on the page. For example, if you have the Mailchimp integration, don’t use a button that says “click here” for your newsletter subscription – rather use a button that says: “sign up for the newsletter”.
You should also think of the imagery you use on your homepage. We are living in an increasingly visual and multimedia culture! Users prefer images over text. You can find a guide on image sizing for Open Social in Community Talks.
Lastly, think about whether your homepage should be informational or interactive. If you are an Open Social user, then you should pick between:
- Landing page: A landing page gives you a clean layout where you can add a long and clear community stream and showcase crucial information about your community, as well as add links and buttons. If your goal is to create an open and engaging community rather than a segmented one, a landing page would be a good fit for you. For a great example of an Open Social landing page, take a look at: Holmesglen Community.
- Dashboard: A dashboard gives you a more complex page with a lot of interactive content, allowing you to add numerous content blocks such as: Community KPIs, Polls, Events, content streams and more. These make great thematic pages for communities of practice as it allows you to showcase everything regarding a specific group or topic. For great examples of Open Social dashboard pages, take a look at: UNDP’s SparkBlue community or the Change Makers for Children community.
For more information read: 4 Secret Tips to Style Your Open Social Landing Page
User Guides are Key
No matter how intuitive you think your platform is designed, people will get confused! Creating a perfect platform, landing page or dashboard that caters to your whole audience is impossible.
What can help you bridge the gap between your platform design and different members is a clear and complete user guide & platform FAQ. Such a guide should explain:
- How to set up a profile
- How to create content
- Where to find the community guidelines
- How to interact with content
- How to join events
- How to join groups, interact with members, or follow topics
- Most common questions
- … and all other relevant features or facets of your community
Here are some great examples to take a look at:
You can use the Community Talks manuals as a guide to create your own!
Onboarding is a continuous process!
Surprise fact: onboarding is not just for new members! All other stages of the member lifecycle have onboarding elements to it. Open Social continuously adds amazing new features to the platform and releases extensions such as Real-time Chat or Video Uploads. How can you help existing members understand new features like these?
Or perhaps you restructure part of your platform? You’ll need to help members get to know the new processes, pages and features too!
At Open Social we have an onboarding process for clients to use Open Social’s software. But we also continuously help them get up-to-date with new extensions, features or changes to the platform. This is part of what the Customer Success Team does on a daily basis. We do this directly with clients, as well as through updates, events and posts on our client community called Community Talks.
How does Open Social help you onboard your new members?
Open Social helps clients create great onboarding experiences for their community members during our own client onboarding process. We have a lot of material, guides and blog posts (like this one!) to help clients create great homepages, user flows, user manuals and more.
We are also constantly working on new features and extensions, such as the Engagement Automation extension, to help clients create better member experiences.
And lastly, we also listen to your feedback. What do you need from us to create a better onboarding experience for your members? And how can we improve our own client onboarding process to help you prepare your community for new arrivals? Please let us know in the comments below.
Perhaps that is the last tip we can end with: no matter what you think is the best way to do things – listen to your members! Ask them, as part of the onboarding process, what could be improved to help other new members integrate into your community easier.