Original post by Shannon Otto
Social communities give your organization a vital method for increasing member engagement. They empower your membership by encouraging them to take a more active role in your organization and rewarding them for doing so.
Rather than using a social community to simply push out news at an audience, encourage members to provide input on the content being shared. Make it easy for them to create their own discussions about topics that are important to your organization by allowing them access to communication tools and forums. If you find that they don’t speak up organically, create some momentum by getting involved yourself, starting discussions and making posts. By addressing your members in a social community where they can easily respond and even lead the discussion, you’ll increase their sense of participation.
One way to spur conversation is to take advantage of status updates and wall posts. As an organization leader, you should be posting status updates fairly regularly. Three times a week is a good number - it shows you’re engaged with the community yourself, but it’s not overwhelming to the point of being noise. Your members’ status updates provide you with a great opportunity to start conversations. By responding to what’s on their mind, you’re showing them that someone is listening and that increases their sense of community.
Another way to increase member engagement is by being personal. One relatively harmless way to do that is to upload some photos. Photo galleries give you a perfect opportunity as an administrator to add some personality to your profile. They show that you’re a real person, not a faceless organization, and by adding your own photos, you’ll set an example for your members, who will be eager to add photos of their own to their profiles.
This kind of sharing of information is exactly what you want to engender in your membership. The more they know about each other, the stronger the sense of community. When member profiles have an activity stream, they can easily keep up with what their peers are doing. Activity streams tell a member when one of their friends has posted new content or replied to a discussion, but their potential for viral marketing is great. For instance, if one member posts information about an upcoming event and all of their connections learn about it through that member, they’ll be more likely to check out the event themselves.
It’s also important to make content shareable. Content that is interesting or fun will be shared more widely than a bland mission statement. This applies to organizations of any size or focus. Providing a list of copy-heavy pages is not going to help reach new targets because nobody is excited to share boring content. Be creative and understand that humor, visual appeal, and brevity all increase your chances of having your content move.
A short video can convey a lot of information about an organization and its culture. By creating content with sharing in mind, you’re able to extend its reach significantly and build memorable connections between members.
Finally, you want your members to have a sense of investment in the community. One way to promote this is to allow them to organize themselves into their own interest groups. You may want to start a few of these or delegate that task to someone, but once members know that they are easily able to form their own discussion groups, they’ll jump at the opportunity.
A successful social community all comes down to building meaningful relationships. With real content, genuine intent, a little personality and the right tools, your community will build itself.