Dornubari Vizor September 15, 2023
20 Community Engagement Strategies That Work
A business backed by a highly engaged online community will stand out any day. Over the years, community-led growth has become a powerful approach to business growth. In that case, fostering engagement with different community engagement strategies becomes necessary.
You can’t just send out direct mail to people’s letterboxes and expect to sell. That may have worked in the past, but not anymore. You need to invest time in creating a relationship with your target audience by creating a solid community.
Community engagement is a vague term, like marketing or advertising. It can mean multiple things. It’s a process and an outcome at the same time.
The context in which the term is being used is important to note.
According to this 2018 study, community engagement means:
“A dynamic relational process that facilitates communication, interaction, involvement, and exchange between an organization and a community for a range of social and organizational outcomes.”
Notice “process” and “outcomes”.
In layperson’s terms, community engagement is how you can influence your audience through different means to achieve your primary and secondary business goals. The primary goal of businesses, for example, is revenue.
Focusing on increasing engagement with your community can help you achieve your business goals.
Here are 20 engagement strategies that will strengthen your community.
Before you can try to increase community engagement, you need to know how to measure it. How to track and predict it. This is where analytics come into play.
Analytics is the information generated from the systemic analysis of data and statistics.”
The concept can be easily confused with analysis. The difference is that analysis seeks to understand why something happened. Analytics uses that understanding of the past to predict what will happen in the future.
Analytics is important because it gives you a solid game plan based on objective data. It shows you correlations and patterns. It lets you know the best course of action to reach your goals.
Bloggers who use analytics get stronger results than those who do not.
This is invaluable to communities. This is invaluable for increasing engagement.
It’s important to note that growth and engagement go hand in hand, so tracking both with analytics is best.
Here are the primary growth/engagement metrics to track.
For more generalized traffic web data you can use Google Analytics.
It gives you various different statistics on your audience. Plus, it has different categories of analytic data you can use.
Knowing who your audience is, is extremely important for engagement. How do you expect to improve your community, if you don’t know a thing about it?
The concept here is called audience research.
Audience research is defined as any communication research that is conducted on specific audience segments to gather information about their attitudes, knowledge, interests, preferences, or behavior.”
It’s comparatively more prevalent in the sales and marketing spheres, as opposed to community building. However, still, it’s a useful strategy for community engagement.
Some general information audience research seeks to find out about communities might include:
This kind of general data is useful for segmenting your audience.
More specifically, community-related information helps give you valuable insight into the minds of your audience. When you know what’s in their heads, you can effectively attempt to engage the community.
There are a variety of different audience research methods one can use to learn about a community. Some of these methods can include:
Surveys are a great way to get to know your audience. They involve a number of questions, can be specific or general, and can be done online, in-person, or through mail.
A quiz can give great insight into the minds of your community members. A typical quiz is similar to a survey but involves a points-scoring system. This added game element can make it appear more inviting and fun.
Interviews ask a series of questions, like surveys and quizzes. What makes interviews different is that they are done between individuals and are personalized. Interviews can be done online and in person.
Q & A’s and focus groups are essentially an interview involving an audience. A good example of this type is a Reddit AMA. These can be done online or in person.
Leadquizzes allows you to create fully customizable quizzes and surveys.
There are over 75 different templates, and they comes with complete design flexibility.
Content is still king. That’s what they say, and it’s true. Businesses are spending more than ever on their content marketing budgets. It’s expected to be a 300 billion industry in 2019.
Why is content so popular? Because it works.
People are too sharp these days. They don’t like being sold. Traditional advertising doesn’t get it done like it used to.
You need to provide free value, like persuading someone in real life. You don’t go asking a stranger to do something for you. You build a friendship. Help them out. You build trust. Once that relationship is in place, it is much easier to sell them.
This is the philosophy of content marketing in a nutshell that can help you create actionable and valuable content. But what is content marketing?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is:
“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
In essence, – Consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.
This is exactly how you engage a community. Content marketing is about bringing community building to business.
According to Neil Patel, there are 9 ingredients to great content.
Writing long-form content also generally produces better results. According to Orbit Media bloggers who write long content report stronger results.
Popular forms of content include how-to guides, case studies, white papers, and eBooks.
Brian Dean of Backlinko has a highly engaged community, in large part to his top-notch content. He routinely publishes high-quality actionable marketing guides.
His practical content gets fantastic engagement from his community. Each post is littered with comments.
Here’s the thing – Content is good and consistent content is even better.
To keep your community engaged, you need to consistently put out high-quality actionable content. This is something that is an ongoing process. The minute you drop off is the minute your audience stagnates and becomes less invested.
In HubSpot’s own words:
“Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.”
Bloggers feel stronger about their content marketing results when they produce more often.
Marketing Insider Group looked at all the data available on content frequency. They wanted to find out the optimal frequency.
Here’s what they found.
“Publishing 2 – 4 times per week provides the highest results in terms of both traffic and conversions. This is the answer according to the data we have seen from multiple studies, as well as much of our own client work across more than a dozen client websites in B2B, B2C, and with companies large and small.”
Optimal Frequency: Post content 2-4 times a week.
You can use HubSpots free content calendar to help plan things out.
The calendar allows you to fill in an Excel spreadsheet with all the necessary content variables.
There is also a function for repeated types of content.
Collaborating with other online communities is a great way to build engagement within your community. It works because it simply provides more value to your audience. This is a good thing.
It’s a reciprocal relationship that benefits both parties. Good content is good content. The audience does not care where it came from. Collaboration will open new doorways, and expose new audiences.
According to Orbit Media, here are 5 ways you can collaborate on content marketing:
The guest post is the ultimate collaborative method. Either you feature someone else or they feature you. It’s a reciprocal relationship that benefits both parties.
Brian Dean of Backlinko guest posted on Buffer back in 2014.
Brian has grown dramatically since then. Buffer doesn’t look too bad having a guest post from him either.
It’s mutually beneficial.
Ask to interview someone you’d love to have featured in your community. Make sure you ask really good, insightful questions. This can be done over email.
Here is an example of an interview post.
Neil Patel’s name and reputation will only benefit the host’s community.
The expert roundup is a popular content method. It involves interviewing a bunch of experts in your industry. You ask them all the same questions. You get an awesome piece of content.
This is what it generally looks like.
Expert roundups tend to do quite well. This particular roundup did very well. It generated 4,000+ social media shares and was featured on the Buzzsumo most shared post of the week promotion.
Reach out to an authority in your industry. Ask them for a contributing quote to a post you are writing. People love to give their opinion on issues.
This method is easy. Simply quote someone else in your content. Don’t forget to also give them a backlink. External links are good for SEO.
Email marketing is the virtual equivalent to direct mail. It is private and personal. It has long been a valuable tool in the marketing and business world.
It’s also ridiculously popular too. According to Radicats 2019-2023 Email Statistics Report, over
293 billion emails will be sent in 2019.
The same report also found that over half the world’s population uses email.
Email is also an extremely effective marketing and sales strategy. A 2015 National Client Email Report from DMA found that email ROI is 3800%.
What about engagement specific data? An email message is 5x more likely to be read compared to Facebook. According to QuickSprout, email list subscribers have also been shown to comment and share content disproportionately.
Building an email list, needs to be a priority for your community engagement plan.
Buzzfeed makes some great emails. This particular email was telling its subscribers to check out new content. Notice the humorous subject title, fake image alt texts.
Or this audience research email from Matt Becker of Mom and Dad Money.
Email marketing is an effective method to engage your community. It’s not just for selling people things.
According to HubSpot there are 4 keys to follow.
The email needs to be personal. An email address is in itself personal, as is the inbox. You need to address the email specifically to them.
Images are processed by the brain faster than text. How much faster? Try 60,000 times faster. Just as it is beneficial to use images in blog posts, email is no different. Content is content.
There are so many different devices out there today. Desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. All the different brands and models. So many varying screen sizes. You need emails that have a responsive design function.
Responsive design is simply a layout that renders its size/function based on screen size.
All emails have a purpose. All emails need the right call to action. Whether that selling them something, or notifying them of the latest blog post. You must have a CTA.
You can also automate the email marketing process. The most popular SaaS platform is MailChimp.
Email analytics are built into the platform to help you track your efforts.
ConvertKit is another automation option.
Segmenting your audience can improve the engagement of your community. The concept is called audience segmentation.
Audience segmentation is a process of dividing people into homogeneous subgroups based upon defined criteria such as product usage, demographics, psychographics, communication behaviors and media use.”
It is basically a way to sub-categorize your community based on who they are.
For instance, you might want to make a group for female community members. This can allow you to funnel specific content to them, among other things.
Here’s a great image that shows you all the factors for segmenting your audience.
This is where that audience research comes in handy.
According to MailChimp, audience segmentation:
A mens fashion company Onward Reserve segmented it’s email list. They categorized individuals into three groups based on purchase history. The three groups were 3+ purchases, non-purchasers, and churning customers.
The easiest way to segment your audience is through email marketing. This involves first, getting them on your email list.
How does one do that?
Write great content, and put an email opt-in form at the bottom. Offer something free with it. Like an eBook or guide. This helps incentivize handing over the email address.
Once on the email list, you can use MailChimp to segment your audience. The platform has specific audience segmentation tools.
You can also integrate LeadQuizzes to MailChimp. This gives you even more data to better segment your audience.
Holding giveaways is a fantastic way to give back to your community and increase engagement.
Free giveaway competitions are not to be confused with a lottery or raffle draw. You have to pay a small amount to enter those types of contests.
There are many different types of free giveaway competitions. They generally vary on how much is asked of the contestants to enter the competition. Some might ask for an email address. Some might ask for social media shares/likes.
Here is a good example of a giveaway competition that improved a community.
Fragrance company JewelScent hosted a giveaway for a scented jewel candle just before Valentine’s Day. The purpose of the contest was to build the email list of the company.
The giveaway resulted in 3,431 new additions to JewelScent email list. They also nearly made $19,000 in a week. Not bad for something that cost them only $249 to do.
Here’s another one.
John Laudisio ran a sweepstakes competition for the Bruce Lee Family Company. The prize was 3 pairs of Nike basketball sneakers.
The competition allowed contestants to improve their odds by promoting the community.
The free competition giveaway was a grand success. It resulted in 23,489 new Bruce Lee Insider community members. It also generated a lot of referrals and social media hits.
You can use Viralsweep to make your giveaway competitions.
The platform lets you create 100% customizable sweepstakes competitions.
There is also analytics built it to help you find out what’s working for you.
Gamification is where you add video game elements to something, to generally increase engagement and morale. Games are seen as a leisure activity. So adding certain dynamics to real-world workplaces might improve morale.
Here’s a more concrete definition of the concept of Gamification:
“The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.”
Some of these gamification elements include:
Points are rewarded for completing specific activities. They serve as a way to measure progress. How many points accrued suggests how good someone is.
Badges are virtual milestone markers of achievement. Opposed to points, badges are more goal-oriented and specific.
A leaderboard is a competitive measure of players. They are ranked based on the performance of a specific metric/statistic.
A performance graph is similar to a leaderboard in that it measures performance, except its focuses on one individual. The individual is compared to previous performances of oneself. It helps show improvements over time.
Meaningful stories are not about performance. It is not an objective measure of performance. It is a narrative context, which is a common device in video games. An example would be thinking zombies are chasing you while going on a run.
It can be a way to make boring, mundane activities exciting. Think of it as hypothetical roleplay.
Avatars are virtual representations of individuals. They can vary from very small icons to full-body 3D animations. It allows individuals to embrace a unique identity.
Working as a team, and competing against other teams is a common gaming element. Teamwork can result in conflict, cooperation, or competition. It depends on the specific context.
We can look at 2 things to answer this question.
A 2014 literature review found that yes, gamification does work. However, contextual and individual factors do play a part.
These observations suggest that some underlying confounding factors exist. Most prominently, the studies bring forth two main aspects:
1) the role of the context being gamified
2) qualities of the users.
Entertainment company Electronic Arts (EA) implemented a gamification system for its online support community. They wanted to reward community members who help others regarding games.
Answers HQ uses an XP system. Users gain XP when they answer questions. XP goes towards leveling up.
There are 8 different level ranks.
The implementation of a gamification system increased traffic and converted lurkers to community contributors.
As of January 2018, Answers HQ has over 12 million registered users. 6.9 million (58%) are considered active.
To apply a gamification system, you will need to use a software platform. There are many options out there. The best option will depend on the nature of your community.
Badgeville is one of the most popular options.
It features complete gamification profiles with leveling, achievements, stats and badges.
Advertisements are a great way to promote and engage a community. They generally promote products, services, or events, and can build tremendous levels of traffic.
There are various different types of ads. These include
Native ads are designed to not appear as ads selling you. It blends in with your content. In fact, native advertising has a lot of similarities to content marketing. It seeks to not appear as a hard sell. Even though it is still.
Native ads can be a video or written.
There are 8 different types of native ads.
There are 2 types of ads on Facebook.
Paid ads is the platforms standard paid advertising, while boosted posts are way for you to promote an organic post. You pay to give your organic content a larger audience.
On Instagram you can feature ads on stories, photos, videos, and carousels. All ads have built-in ad features like CTAs. They look the same as normal content but are ad specific.
There are also collection ads which is the newest format. It allows you to buy straight off the Instagram ad.
Twitter ads are typically text-based. They work a little bit different compared to ads on other social media platforms. You do not pay until an action occurs. What type of action depends on what you choose for the ad.
There are 5 main goals for your ad you can choose.
You can also promote your Twitter account. This functions similar to Facebook boosted posts in that your organic content (tweets) will be enhanced.
There are 7 different types of ads on YouTube.
Like Twitter, you only pay when someone interacts with your ad.
PPC stands for pay per click. It is an online advertising model that incurs a fee every time someone clicks. The most popular PPC ad platform is Google Ads.
Google Ads combines the PPC model with Google’s search engine. The ads are placed above the organic search results, in priority SERP position. SERP stands for search engine results page.
Google Ads look different than regular organic search results. You can notice the small box that says Ad next to the URL.
What about ad case studies?
The ads were placed on YouTube videos. Specifically as bumper ads.
Use Google Ads for PPC campaigns. Don’t bother with other search engines. Google gets the bulk of search engine traffic.
For social media automation, there are many SaaS platforms available. Buffer is one such popular choice.
It has analytics built into the platform to help you find out what’s working and what isn’t.
Video content is an extremely powerful community engagement tool. A 3-minute video can engage an audience more than a 10,000-word guide. Video is really that powerful.
It’s no wonder video marketing usage is up 24% from 2017.
It is the future of content marketing.
There are 12 different types of video content according to HubSpot.
1. Demo Videos
Also known as product videos. Showcases how something (usually a product) works. This can be something in real life, to a desktop capture recording of software being used.
2. Brand Videos
Brand videos are marketing-heavy and usually part of a larger campaign. These types of videos are used to increase awareness and attract an audience.
3. Event Videos
Usually a highlight reel of an event taking place. Not live. A recap.
4. Expert Interviews
An interview of an authority figure in your industry/niche. Can be a video recording of a podcast like the Joe Rogan Experience.
5. How-To Videos
Used to teach your audience how to do something. The videos are highly actionable and can be filmed in real life, or animation.
6. Explainer Videos
A video that explains something specific relating to your product/service. This is not the same as a how-to video. This is not as actionable.
7. Animated Videos
Animated videos can be used for a variety of different uses. They make understanding easier with the use of lots of visuals.
8. Case Study & Customer Testimonial Videos
Videos that show specific case studies and testimonials of customers/individuals. These are commonplace and increase social proof.
9. Live Videos
Videos that are live and uncut. Usually an event of some sort. Live videos generally have higher engagement rates.
10. Virtual Reality Videos
VR videos allow users to navigate a virtual environment. 360-degree videos are the best example of VR video content.
11. Augmented Reality Videos
AR videos add a digital layer to the existing environment. IKEA uses AR to help customers visualize furniture in spaces.
12. Personalized Messages
Conversation or response to someone, via email or text. It is a personalized video that can help create a connection.
Real Estate Australia sought to boost its brand. They wanted to drive awareness and generate more leads for property listings. They decided to make video content for Facebook.
The best place to produce video content is undoubtedly YouTube.
After all, it is the 2nd most popular website in the world.
For explainer videos, animations, presentations you can use Biteable.
Live events are a unique type of content that brings in immense community engagement and influence. The fact that it is live and forces users to be present at the moment. No other type of content can do this.
Research shows that people really like live content. They watch live content 8x longer than on-demand content.
A New York Magazine survey about live video had some interesting findings:
It is quite clear how powerful live content can be for community engagement.
Types of live events include:
Live podcasts have become a thing in recent years. Originally podcasts were valued for its on-demand media elements. The scheduled medium has become less relevant with the ability to watch what you want when you want.
What has remained is the value of live events. Social media makes it a trending issue, a live discussion.
A webinar is short for a web seminar. It is a method of live video streaming between a large number of individuals. It is a great way to teach/educate your digital audience, simulating a real-life classroom.
The Facebook Live feature was added in 2016 and has sparked a new wave of content on the social media platform. Brands can Livestream and respond to comments.
When Instagram Live and Stories came to the platform in 2016, it changed the game. It gave another way for brands to communicate and market with communities.
Snapchat started the short video content craze for social media platforms. It burst onto the scene in 2012 and got big because it was fun. It cornered a niche of social media.
It has fallen off due to Instagram adding stories. It is still around though, unlike other similar platforms like Vine.
Here’s a good Facebook Live case study.
A Vietnamese spa chain, SeoulSpa.vn, wanted to increase its presence in the industry.
They decided to use a Facebook marketing plan, involving live video.
To create podcasts easily, you can use Anchor.
Anchor makes creating podcasts extremely easy. There is also built in analytics to track your podcast performance.
For webinars, you can use Zoom.
Let’s be real, everyone loves a freebie! We are sure you must have felt great when you got a free expert SEO guide after providing your email.
Just like that, you can offer a lighter version of your digital products or provide any new upcoming learning resource to your community members. Offering a freebie can boost leads by 34%.
Offering freebies is a great way to boost engagement in your online community. Your community members feel more valued. Consider offering freebies as a reward for loyal members.
It can create a positive brand image among your members. Customers/members feel more associated with the brand and ultimately add more value by staying more active in the community.
Plus, they feel more obligated to invest more time and money in your business in the future. This is known as the reciprocity principle.
Offering freebies also get you free promotion from your customers through the power of positive word of mouth. Your delighted customers will definitely mention you or promote you in some ways due to the positive brand image.
When offering freebies, keep the following in mind:
It’s just like putting someone on the spot but positively! Does that ring any bell? Let us explain.
First, let’s find out what member spotlight actually means.
Member spotlight in a thread or a special feature for a specific community member and it is based on predetermined criteria.
This strategy is focused on acknowledging the achievements of your community members. Plus, it can be used to show gratitude.
You can also spotlight your members through a special blog post, short video, website feature, or with a newsletter.
People love recognition and that applies to community members too. Those of your community members who like to stand out and make their own personal brand or following would love to get featured in the member spotlight.
Ultimately, they will put their best foot forward and will participate in community activities and events. Plus, it’s a great way to identify your potential brand advocates out of your community members.
It also puts your brand and yourself in a positive spotlight as you celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of your community members.
All you need to do is work out a spotlight criteria. You can root for top discussion contributors, responsive members, or your most engaged community members. Next, you need a quick template for your member spotlight.
You have a member spotlight once a week or a month. However, you need to be consistent. That motivates other community members to come forward and compete actively to get a member spotlight.
Pro Tip: As a plus, you can add a reward for the featured community member to boost motivation among your members.
Please note that this strategy requires close monitoring of community activities and members. It will take some extra effort and time at your part but it would be worth it.
Now, we have yet another effective strategy that keeps your community alive and thriving. We are talking about offering a referral program.
You can utilize your existing community members to bring new leads. For that, you can offer them rewards, discounts, and benefits. This is also known as referral marketing. Around 87% of the professionals believe that their sales and marketing efforts are worth it with referral programs.
You can also offer a referral program as an ambassador program or harness the influence of your brand advocates from your existing online community.
Your brand advocates can bring new members on board that can add value to your community engagement in many ways.
Why not go for an old-school yet effective strategy? A community-exclusive merch can create a solid sense of community.
Cool promotional brand merchandise can never go out of fashion. In fact, it remains a vital medium for building a sense of belonging and appreciation for your members.
But, it’s more than that! Here are some stats that speak volumes about the effectiveness of promotional brand merchandise.
Honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Offering brand merchandise can provide a range of benefits.
Please note that it’s a bit costly option. However, the cost depends on the nature of the products offered as merch.
There are no hard and fast rules on what products you can turn into your brand merch. It’s good to start small and test different products. Some examples include water bottles, stickers, mugs, USBs, etc.
Pro Tip: You can incorporate your brand merch into your rewards and gamification system. Members can win brand merch or they can use their reward points to buy the merch. That would be a big boost to your community engagement.
This is one of the most sustainable ways to keep your community members engaged for a specific period of time. You can hold online challenges for your community members related to your niche.
For example, you are an online dieting coach. You can run a 14-day fat loss challenge for your community members.
Such challenges will enable you to tap into the motivations of your community members. You can set up a challenge and have your brand advocates promote it within the community. Plus, you can have an open call for members to join the challenge.
You can ask to share your progress with your community and ask participants to share their progress on a daily basis. This will keep your community engaged.
Don’t forget to add rewards or any incentives to attract more participants.
Now, we have a strategy that is quite beneficial for boosting engagement in online learning communities. You can offer drip course content to your community members.
It refers to the content that is released in parts based on a pre-defined schedule over a period of time. It’s the opposite to on-demand content that is released all at once.
For example, different modules in an online course are made available at set dates after completing the previous module.
Now, what makes offering drip content so beneficial?
First, it keeps the learners/members engaged for a specific time. This prevents them from being overwhelmed by all the coursework at once and gives them a reason to come back. That means they will be interacting with related posts and responding to questions.
Next, it enables them to process information slowly and effectively at their own pace. This enhances the overall impact of the course as well.
Having an online community is all about connecting with your valued customers/members. In that case, holding one-to-one sessions with your members is one of the best ways to connect.
One-to-one sessions are vital for boosting engagement. According to a Gallup Study, one-to-one sessions can boost engagement by 3 times.
This strategy is quite flexible.
You can offer one-to-one coaching or consultation sessions for free and incorporate them into your reward system. Plus, you can offer a one-to-one session as a freebie or on a first come first serve basis. The choice is yours!
Set aside a few hours for one-to-one sessions and set up a signup form to streamline the process.
Lastly, we have an idea that involves putting your community members in-charge. You can assign different and unique roles to your community members.
Let us give you a few ideas such as “Moderator of the day”, “Storyteller of the day”, etc. You can also assign weekly duties for a few hours too. However, do not assign roles that require a lot of time and effort as they can overwhelm the members.
Make sure you have a clearly defined role chart for all members at all levels. You can share it at the start of the month with your community members. Before assigning a certain role to a member, ask them if they are comfortable with it and does it align well with their availability.
This strategy will fully involve your community members. They will feel more valued and at home. Plus, it will help instill a sense of belonging and responsibility among your members. That will ultimately improve their leadership qualities.
The community is the backbone of a business. In a time where nobody likes to be sold, building authentic relationships built on trust is most important. Helping people is how you build a relationship like that. This is what community is.
Many communities appear big on the outside, but just how engaged are they? What good does having an audience, if they do not contribute? Empty seats.
This is why engagement is so important.Put these 20 actionable steps into motion, and you will get more out of your community.