A portrait of Pete Heslop
25 Aug, 2023 5 min read

Community Leaders Number One Tip for Engagement

Over the course of 13 podcast conversations, we asked a range of community leaders about their best advice when it comes to engaging community members
Community Leaders Number One Tip for Engagement

As community managers, it's important that we are always striving to progress our communities in a number of ways. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to approach this progression, but what better way to get inspired then to chat to a variety of industry experts?

Throughout the Digital Community Leaders Podcast, I asked each of my 13 guests about their techniques and methods when trying to further engagement from members. Below is a list of highlights and key takeaways which should spark inspiration for anyone working in community.

Creating Value

It's no secret that providing value from your community is key to retaining members and helping them to feel inclined to engage in what you're doing. But how can you create value?

From playful initiatives to rewarding targets, the key to creating value is setting members up to feel a sense of achievement in exchange for their activity.

It's also important to keep it subtle. If you're too explicit about the fact that you at a community manager are trying to increase a metric, it can feel like a numbers game and deter some members. As always, approach them like people!

“My keyword is always "balance". What I found is that pushing engagement never works, it's really counterproductive.”

— Giulia Guizzardi, DCL Ep. 9

Tell Your Story

People are naturally drawn to stories. Following a journey and becoming part of something bigger as a community is something that people can really value.

As mentioned in a previous article, it's important that a community has a purpose. But the way you share this purpose and centralise it within a community can boost engagement massively.

This buzz can be created in so many creative ways, from short films or animations, to blog posts or videos.

“Some people are very good at sharing their story with a 10/20 minute conversation, whereas, can you grab someones attention within 10 seconds?”

— Helena Traill, DCL Ep. 8

User Research and Continuous Feedback

People need a reason to engage with the work that a community is doing, and the reason they are looking for can be ever-changing. It's important for community professionals to come back to their "why" frequently, and to keep focussed on the purpose of the community.

Checking in with members often can be a good way to keep refreshed on what the community is driven by. Through doing this, it's likely you will find that peoples' perspectives change, and therefore the strategy needs to be adjusted in order to maintain the focus on what the community is setting out to achieve.

“Sometimes things that we do don't work - and that's okay... But what would actually make your members get really excited? You can just ask them that!”

— Laura Roth, DCL Ep. 13

Types of Engagement

Despite sounding like a simple term, there is a variety of ways that people can engage. It's important to be aware of the type of engagement that you are aiming for.

Many communities are based purely online, and therefore its leaders might be pursuing digital engagements: likes, comments and shares.

Lots of communities are based around products or real-life events, and for those communities engagement would look different: product sales, tickets, physical participation.

Before jumping in with a generic method to increase engagement, it's vital that community leaders assess the type of engagement they are aiming for. This way, a suitable approach can be formulated, and results will be more effective.

“Engagement is a big term. Is it that you want more people to come to your events? Or do you want people to comment more on your posts?”

— Madeleine Milne, DCL Ep. 7

Engagement is a Journey

When trying to engage members of a community, many would agree that a stable level of engagement is more beneficial than sporadic spikes at random times. Waiting for attention spans to drop off before taking action is an easy mistake to fall into, and leads engagement levels to become volatile.

With this in mind, community leaders should look to approach engagement as a journey for each member. Creating a culture of engagement can sustain conversation and interactions.

From the moment a new member joins, CM's should be mindful of planting a seed of engagement, whether through one-to-one conversation or an onboarding process.

“Whenever we have people joining the team, from the very start we're looking after that journey.”

— Isabel Ruiz, DCL Ep. 10

Keep it Simple

People engage when it's easy to do so. It's very rare that someone will be willing to download a new app, learn new software or change their habits for the sake of a community.

Community managers will find a lot more joy with engagement if they make it easy for people to interact. The time it takes between learning about a community and then going onto join one, should be as short as possible.

Utilising online spaces which are already existing on most people's phones means that it only takes one or two clicks for someone to get involved. For example, an entry-level version of your community could use WhatsApp as a platform. From there, people are likely to get invested and more inclined to then actively get involved in some of the other things which the community offers.

“We made that transition to WhatsApp's community feature... and it just makes everything a lot easier to manage, both from our ends but also from our members' ends.”

— Madeleine Prothero, DCL Ep. 12

The first season of the Digital Community Leaders Podcast was packed with ideas to help boost your engagement from a whole host of community managers.

It's not too late to check out these episodes - all 13 episodes are available across all streaming platforms, as well as video versions on YouTube. Be sure to check them out!

Community Podcast