The reality is that if you’re a young community, it’s the community manager’s job to start most of the discussions—and it’s often a thankless and surprisingly tough one.
In this post we’ve put together some tips, tricks, and insights which will help you trigger widespread and engaging discussion within your community.
Quickfire content tips
To get us warmed up, here are some pointers that you and fellow members might follow for creating engaging community content. These are all tested principles which have been shown to help boost engagement, specifically within a community setting:
- Keep it domain-specific. It can be tempting to use your community to pick brains on widespread and unrelated topics. For best engagement, don’t fall into that temptation!*
- Lead with a question or bold statement, then elaborate below. This is a classic sales and persuasion technique—the reader answers the question in their head, then scrolls down to see how it’s answered!
- Try to highlight any benefit(s) to the community of answering the question/responding to the statement.
- Relate to a current trend, opinion, or movement if relevant. Astute observations on the world around us often lead to high-value discussions.
- Disclose your motivation(s) for asking (i.e. why is the question relevant or important?)
Following these guidelines should help you create stimulating and relevant topics, to which you’re bound to experience increased participation.
*Many communities have side forums or areas where members can indulge their need for the irrelevant. These can be super fun, but won’t form the foundation of your community.
Raise your floor, not just your ceiling
Driving new participation is fantastic, but understanding why participation has dropped and making amendments is equally powerful.
This awesome graphic from FeverBee illustrates some actions you might take to identify where participation is falling plus suggestions for addressing it.
Of course, this kind of ‘decision tree’ can and should be tailored to your community. Without this kind of direction, you’re only working off your best guess—and that’ll never match the accuracy of data plus your intuition!
Give flexibility to new members
Remember we said to keep posts on-topic and practical? Well, bear with us.
First-time contributors are often just trying to find their feet and see if the community is a good fit for them; they’ll be starting socially-oriented discussions, sharing personal opinions and experiences and trying to get a feel for the community vibe.
So our advice is to make sure you have a place and tolerance for this. If new and lurking members can open up and be engaged safely, they may come out of their shells and slowly feel comfortable joining in bigger discussions where the whole community is involved.
Ask what your members want to see discussed!
This sounds so obvious, but if you’re struggling to get any traction with your members, you need to speak with them.
- Are they nervous about putting themselves out there?
- Make the community feel more secure, or demonstrate that “there are no bad ideas” here and no one will be criticized
- Does no one have expertise in the subjects being discussed?
- Re-evaluate how you select topics or recruit members
- Is it the same people getting involved every time?
At the end of the day, all you can do is try your best. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, then follow our tips here, switch things up, and keep an eye on what works best! Remember that while people join for the content, they stay for the community—if yours is a great place to be, then participation will always grow with time.