We talked previously about how to onboard and integrate new members into your community. The main focus was on making them comfortable:
- Provide a guided tour
- Drip email sequences for useful information
- Ask members what they need
- Use introductory threads/forums
And these are all useful tactics that should be employed from the minute a new member joins. But what about after? What can you do to increase retention once a new member knows their way around, has an idea how things work, and has made their introduction?
Retention does not happen by accident
There’s a pervasive belief that once a member is in, the onboarding work is complete. This is false on two counts:
- You need to be fighting constantly to give members a reason to remain members. It is extremely easy to leave an online community once you feel its value has run its course.
- Your onboarding process can always be improved! It is imperative that you measure the effectiveness of onboarding and attempt to optimize and tighten it up where possible.
And optimizing the onboarding process is the most effective way to steadily increase retention rates over time. Let’s take a look at how this can be done.
Set up staggered “catch ups” to review progress
As with most areas of your online community, the best way to review the success of your onboarding is to ask your members about it. After 30, 60, and 90 days, try to schedule a little time with then-new members and see how they’re getting on. You don’t need to talk specifically about ‘onboarding’ (they don’t think of it as an onboarding strategy, just the experience of joining and integrating into the community!) but instead ask how they’ve found the community, what it’s been like adjusting, and so on. You might learn that new members typically spend 2-3 weeks unsure how to conduct themselves on the platform, before finally figuring it all out. You can then intervene and create guidelines or a process teaching new members how to do this, and cut the delay from weeks to hours. The sooner members become entrenched, the better your retention will be.
Assess the onboarding process itself
If you’d like to follow a more technological route (as opposed to one-on-one conversations) it is possible to analyse user activity using tools like heat maps, scroll maps, and data such as log in frequency, # comments made or problems solved, and similar metrics. We’ve talked before about specific trackable metrics for monitoring the success of your community. The premise here is to establish ‘micro goals’ for new members; things like adding a bio or profile photo, logging in X times, contributing to your first thread, sharing posts and so on.
As long as you’re tracking the data, you can analyze it in countless ways after the fact. You might discover, for example, that few members add full bios or headshots. These are important because they help members “commit” to the community; it’s then your job to find the cause of the problem and address it. Use your data to see if the fix worked!
As another example, if you notice that the majority of new members don’t bother to introduce themselves (as directed during onboarding) then that process requires review.
- Are there specific reasons new members don’t introduce themselves?
- Fear or nervousness?
- Unclear instructions?
- Unclear value in making the introduction?
- Certain communications not being received?
Once the research has concluded, you can proceed with optimizing the process either to increase introductions, or perhaps discovering a better way to integrate new members entirely. The overall idea here is to optimize what comes after onboarding. All you need to do is identify the key steps you want or expect new members to take, then assess how often or well they’re happening. Then fix whatever is going wrong! It sounds incredibly simple, but it’s also highly effective at stabilizing or increasing retention among new members.
What’s your approach to member retention?