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What Hundreds of Hours Talking to Organizations Have Taught Me About Community Management

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Communities constantly evolve and engaging your members never stops being a challenge, especially as new apps and social media platforms compete for your members’ attention. But lucky for you, as part of my job I’ve talked to hundreds of organizations with communities in different stages and of different sizes. I’ve successfully helped all kinds of organizations build their communities on Open Social and figure out what’s best for their community management strategies. And what I’ve learned can help you too. Simply read the top 5 community management tips I’ve compiled below to help you turn your members from inactive lurkers into active participants in 2021.

Table of contents

1. Listen and talk to your members

No one will be better at telling you what will engage them and keep them coming back than your community members themselves. It’s important to start a conversation, whether you’re creating a new community or managing a well-established one. You need to tap into the minds of your members and learn what interests them. Share a simple post, create a poll, send out a survey, start a discussion or even host feedback or brainstorming sessions online.

Open Social client Holmesglen Institute went as far as to create a beta-community before launching their campus-wide online platform. By inviting actual students to help them test their beta-community they were able to gather detailed member feedback and ensure that the community reflects the needs of students when it finally launched.

 

Holmesglen homepage

A platform like Open Social also enables you to leverage the Forms & Surveys and Discussions extensions to collect more valuable feedback with tailored-made features to harness community insight.

Learn more about how to gather valuable feedback in a blog post from our Customer Success Manager Jamila Kheil: The Importance of Feedback.

 

2. Bring a topic expert to your management team

As your membership grows and community discussions get started by new people, it’s important to keep the flow of information and knowledge organized and structured. Having a moderator or two spreading wisdom to the crowd and facilitating discussions can help your members unlock new knowledge and create amazing content. A moderator should be a person who is passionate about a specific topic related to your community and should be enthusiastic about spreading their knowledge.

Think about it from a member perspective: You join a great community, you look around to understand the culture and eventually you decide to share a post… but no one reacts! Would you come back? If you notice that a lot of posts in the community go without responses, you will probably abandon the platform after a while.

Having just one person, an expert, pick up questions in the community with enthusiasm and helpful information goes a long way to sparking engagement. It will lay the ground for an open and honest knowledge-sharing experience for all. I’ve seen this happen in the United Nations Development Programme’s Open Social platform SparkBlue where they have experts directly interacting with the community and initiating discussions and consultations. This way they provide expert moderation, guidance and encouragement throughout the community.

 

3. Use crowdsourcing as a tool for engagement and innovation

One of the ways that you can create massive amounts of engagement with your members is through idea crowdsourcing events. Crowdsourcing is defined, according to Oxford Languages, as the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people (typically via the internet). It is a concept that has become immensely popular with the rise of social media and smartphones, as well as online communities!

Think about creating a post with a tricky question for your community and asking members to solve it. You can create a discussion (both asynchronous and synchronous), a brainstorming session, or a video-call event for your community. You will have to initiate the discussion first, but it might just take a single post to spark a debate or brainstorming session. To stimulate engagement, you can challenge your members to focus on one specific topic, share their ideas, and collectively work to come up with feasible solutions to your question or challenge.

Open Social has helped a number of organizations really drive their engagement up with the Crowd Innovation extension. This extension is used very effectively by communities like Policy Kitchen and FoodFuture to empower members of the public to brainstorm and crowdsource possible solutions to foreign policy and sustainability questions.

Policy Kitchen Ideas

4. Join a community for community managers

As a community manager, you are not alone. No matter what questions or issues you are facing within your community, there’s someone out there who can help you out. From communities on Reddit and groups on LinkedIn to communities like FeverBee or online forums like Quora, you’re guaranteed to uncover fresh ideas and tips and tricks. Don’t hesitate to reach out and become a member of a new community. You’ll gain the knowledge of all members inside, get the opportunity to get answers you’ve been waiting for and you will have first-hand experience of what it’s like to be a member of a community yourself!

 

For Open Social clients, for example, we have Community Talks. This is a space for clients to find support, share knowledge and get more information about running their online communities.

 

5. Capitalize on new trends: prepare a gamification plan!

Listening to your members and empowering them is always important, but actively rewarding your members for their activity and contribution will let you climb much higher on the engagement ladder. Social media platforms are so successful because they are built to give automatic feedback and rewards for engagement, while platforms like Reddit are famous for their community rewards that keep members coming back.

You can start emulating these gamification practices by simply keeping track of who creates new content or who are the most active participants in your community and giving them a public shout-out in the community stream. But you can also take it to the next level with a tool like the Gamification extension available on Open Social. With such a gamification tool you can automate your platform to reward a specific amount of points for a community action of your choice. This means that members gain points when they are active and unlock rewards and a sense of achievement for completing activities.

So decide: what is the most important measure of engagement for you? Comments? Event participation? Knowledge-sharing? Group activity? Once you know this, you can start thinking of how to offer meaningful recognition or rewards for these kinds of activities.

While they seem like simple tips at first, the 5 community management tips listed above can help you a lot if you decide to invest in applying them. Whether it’s conducting a member survey or implementing a gamification plan, it’s important to focus on what matters for your community. So start small, make an effort, and you can create a next-level engagement plan for your online community that will make 2021 a success.

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