4 Tips for
Turning New Community Members into Regular Members
As each day
passes, the likelihood that a new member will engage in your association’s
online community drops significantly. Here are some specific strategies for
onboarding new community members so that they become active contributors.
On average, only 10 percent of new members will participate
within their first month of joining an online community. Additionally, the
likelihood a new member will engage in the community — or even visit it — drops
significantly over time.
However, with the implementation of a basic online community
onboarding process, new members will be able to more easily perceive the value
of becoming—and staying—a regular member.
While there are a variety of different strategies for
types of online communities that motivate engagement, there are
a few key items that an association community manager should always have on
their to-do list.
Here are four tips for getting started:
Tip #1: Establish
a strong value proposition. In theory, if a new member has
endured the registration funnel, they should already have some idea of why your
member community could be of value to them. However, consistent messaging (via
email, blog articles, and calls-to-action) of how participating in the
community will benefit them is still paramount.
Unfortunately, most organizations have a tendency to only
establish the ways a community will benefit them versus how it will benefit
their audience. This will reflect in the messaging used toward the community,
the overall environment, and how potential community members perceive the level
of value in one community versus another. Without audience buy-in, your
organization’s business-level objectives won’t get off the ground.
There are two simple ways to understand how to convey value
to your audience.
- Talk to as many members of the
community as possible. Ask questions that will help
community stakeholders develop knowledge about the audience’s most pressing
issues, how they prefer to interact with one another, and which topics relating
to the community are currently most appealing.
- Develop a good understanding of your
community’s activity metrics. Analyze online behavior patterns to
uncover data that illustrates positive peer-to-peer interactions. Data points
to convey value include forum response rates, time to first response, and total
active members, to name a few.
The wealth of information you discover will define clear
value propositions for community participation. To encourage repeat visits and
interaction, use these value propositions in some way within every form of
Tip #2: Send out
an effective welcome message. It is critical to make a point of
contact as soon as possible after someone becomes a new member of your
association’s online community. This could very well be the last time you have
An automatic welcome message should send out from your
online community software program as soon as an email address is captured, and signed
by the association’s community manager. Your initial instinct might be load the
message with every single action available to them (hey, you’re illustrating
those value props, right?) — but don’t.
To get a new member to take their first action, you need to
keep it simple, quick, and easy. Suggest one general discussion that is current
in the community for the member to share their opinion. Be sure to update this
kind of welcome message often, and track the results of each suggested action
so you can refine and optimize over time.
Alternately, if your community has a space specifically for
new members, you can invite the member to make their first introduction in
hopes this will connect them with like-minded peers.
Tip #3: Follow-up
– always! Since you are most likely to convert a new member to a
regular member within their first 30 days, the welcome message is just one step
in the nurturing and engagement process.
In addition to any digital marketing materials members might
regularly receive, such as a newsletter, send additional targeted mailings that
gradually illustrate the different ways a new member can get involved.
For example, each Monday, pull the email addresses of all
new members who joined the prior week and send a personal message explaining
how they can start their own forum discussion (if the number of new members is
substantial or you are short on time, do a mail merge so you can still address
each person by their first name).
The next week, send the same group another message offering
a different activity or resource they can use. The third week, ask for feedback
on their experience as a member so far.
Once you have a process down and have established effective
messaging, this process should be quick. (As a bonus, this is also a great way
to identify members who can become highly engaged community volunteers.)
Tip #4: Create content
that caters to newcomers. Finally, be sure to create low barrier-to-entry
content. This means posting forum questions, blogs, or polls that aren’t
limited to certain knowledge sets — anyone could feasibly have an answer, and
there is no one correct answer. This will create opportunities for new members
to start participating in a way that is not intimidating (as well as create
great content to test in your welcome messages.)
Additionally, new member content could include community
how-to guides, instructional webinars, or even a thread dedicated to new member
Community Management Takeaway
Implementing a strong onboarding process for new community
members helps increase the likelihood that the number of total regular members
in your association’s online community will increase over time.
Ensure these growth efforts are effective and properly
refined by tracking key metrics each month, such as total logins, total active
members, total active new members, and percent of contributing new members
(total active new members/total new members for the given month).
After some trial and error, you will be sure to find a process
that maximizes the newcomer-to-regular-member conversion process.
Happy community building!
Katie Bapple is a senior
online community strategist at Socious.
She works with businesses and nonprofit membership organizations to develop
effective customer community strategies and implement online community management
and growth plans.