Building a strong online community is no easy task for any website admin, social media expert or business owner. These days, your virtual presence should be a lot more about engaging your existing and potential clients, than simply recording page views or clicks. This means both, giving site visitors tools to interact and getting involved in the discussion yourself. Read on to learn how to boost community engagement on your website with a couple of key steps.
A community with no interaction between its members and you is no community at all. The first step to make it thrive is to provide people with a virtual social space, like a forum, a social chat or a comments section, and then give them reasons to talk.
There is also the question of what is community engagement, that is, what would you like your audience to do? Would you like people to comment upon an industry news story? Share the information about a new product on their social networks? Or maybe provide you with feedback regarding your services, that you can use to improve the overall experience?
Let us now examine a number of ways, that can help you boost community egagement on your website, regardless of what your line of business is.
Content is king
Like I said earlier, you need to give people reasons to talk. Obviously, having an amazing product solves a lot of issues, but what if your endeavour is not based on selling stuff? Well, not to worry. Content is king, and it comes in various forms.
Make sure you devote time to tailoring great, diversified content, especially for your home page. It may seem trivial, but it is as true as it gets. Think about the pages you frequent the most. What do you find interesting? What form does it take? Why do you keep coming back? Now think about how you can create similar content to boost community engagement among your target audience by trying to ask the same questions for them.
Facilitate the discussion
Now that you have provided the subject matter, it is time to start talking. Make the community engagement process as smooth as possible. Do not discourage your audience by forcing them to go through a tedious registration process.
Integrating your comments section with the most popular social networks like Facebook or Twitter not only facilitates the discussion, but also helps to keep things cleaner, since people have to back their statements with their names or handles. This may temporarily decrease the volume of community engagement, but it will definitely increase the quality of discussion.
Observe and react. Do not play the role of a deity overlooking its minions, but become a party in the discussion. If someone will make a direct remark regarding your product or some of the points you made in the article, address it.
To boost community engagement, answer questions, provide extra tips and build the position of an accessible leader in your industry. Note: do not try to sweep all negative or critical comments under the rug by deleting them. People are sensitive to this kind of actions, and it may cause more damage than good.
Engage audience by running a contest
Run a contest. People love the opportunity to release their creativity and have a little fun. A simple “Caption this photo” on Facebook works wonders, as has been a proven practice for boosting community engagement on numerous occasions. The prize does not have to be very expensive. It just has to hold value for your community and be somehow related to your business, for instance, a book with healthy recipes if you are running a fitness page.
Another thing you can do in terms of gratifying your most active users is reaching out directly to them to say thank you, send them a small gift, or include their comments in some of your posts, which may turn them into your informal brand or product ambassadors.
Boost community engagement using live social chat
And last, but certainly not least, how about implementing a tool that allows you to interact with your audience on yet another level? What I mean here is installing a live social chat that equips you with an array of options to engage your online community, which I am going to present below.
Make the first impression count
First impression online matters as much as in the real world. Oftentimes you will not get a second chance to gain a follower or a client. Why not make the best out of it by installing live social chat, which can serve as a point of immediate contact for unsure or confused users? You can set up a custom welcoming message or have a live person, kind of like a sales clerk at a retail store, who is knowledgable about your line of business, providing clarification and information faster than an FAQ section or e-mail?
Another thing you can use live chat for is collecting information from your audience in order to better adjust your product or services. They may be more willing to provide feedback when asked for by a live person, than when sent an automatic survey, because they will feel they are being heard.
Organize a live online meetup
An interesting option that live social chat provides you with is the opportunity to increase community engagement by running a live meetup for site memebers. What will you do during such meeting is up to you and limited only by your imagination.
You can give your audience a chance to vote on some changes you would like to introduce, collect their opinions, let them know each other, welcome new members, run a Q&A session with an important figure, allow them to share media and files in real time, etc.
Forget about email
Live chat can also be an excellent substitute for regular e-mail, because it is more personal and direct, and your client does not have to wait for a response a potentially unspecified amount of time. It is also a great way to engage first-time visitors and make them stick around by being helpful and informative.
Community engagement online is as important as ever. The virtual world becomes ever more personal and business owners need to find ways to connect with their audiences on more intimate levels, and treat them as partners and friends, rather than just one-time business opportunities.
In the long run, building relationships is about delivering a comprehensive experience for clients to make them come back, and in the meantime, do some of your marketing for you by telling their family and friends about how well and on how many levels were they serviced.
By no means this is an exhaustive article, it is only intended to give you some basic ideas regarding boosting community engagement, so if you have anything to add, I would love to hear about it in the comments. The post does, however, give you a hint as to what you can do to improve your online community engagement instantly, and that is install live chat, along with its multitude of applications.