45 Online Community Engagement Tactics for Maximum Success
Many communities fail at engagement. As they continue to fail, the community eventually becomes inactive and is typically closed down as a result. By then, money and time are wasted and cannot be recovered.
But if you focus on engagement strategies from the start, your community can be very successful and live on and on for as long as you want it to live.
When you use online community engagement tactics, you set up your community to be a successful community.
45 Online Community Engagement Tactics and Tips
Let’s look at 37 online community engagement tactics, strategies, and tips that will help earn you maximum success with your efforts.
1: Define a Clear Vision for Your Community
Do you often wonder how to explain your community to those you want to join it?
Having a clear and concise vision for your community can help you target the exact audience you desire so that you can fully understand how to engage with them.
To start, simply create a strategic plan for your community with a clear mission statement, vision, and goals of what you want and want members to get out of it.
2: Foster a Welcoming Environment for Your Members
Do you wonder how members will feel about joining your community in the first place?
Creating a welcoming environment for community members is important, especially if you want to raise the overall engagement level.
To do this, you need to create a welcoming environment. Your community should quickly show new and regular members that their activity and engagement are highly encouraged.
3: Encourage Active Community Engagement Among Members
Do you ever find that members aren’t creating new topics and replies, and your community feels “dead”?
It’s likely because you’re not encouraging members to be active in the community by engaging with others and community discussions.
To encourage this, create content for members that baits them to want to participate in the content through engagement. Then encourage others to reply even if you need to tag members who you know will have something good to say.
4: Be Responsive to Members of Your Community
Do you ever see members of your community post and then become inactive after their content doesn’t get that much response?
This is because they were not engaged. The failure isn’t with their topic. The failure is with you as the community leader who was not responsive to the member.
Be responsive to every member who tries to create a discussion, reply, or engage in your online community. You should reply to all topics and comments where appropriate, especially those not engaged by other members.
5: Think Networking and Try to Connect Your Members Frequently
Do active members become inactive after a while, right after posting new discussions and trying to bring new light to the community?
This is likely because they cannot connect with other community members. Most of the time, it’s because the right community members haven’t shown up yet to see the potential connection.
You can help prevent this by being the networking initiator of the community. Try to keep a list of members and their interests and goals in the community. When you find a relationship between two members, connect each of the members, even if in a private forum such as direct messaging.
6: Recognize and Reward Member Contributions Frequently
How do you handle your members who contribute frequently to your online community?
If you’re not recognizing and rewarding your highly contributing members, you’re setting yourself up for a community failure because you’re not showing that you appreciate their efforts.
You should recognize those who contribute the most to your community, especially at the start of the community. Try to reward them with something that sincerely shows your appreciation for their contributions and engagement.
7: Organize Member Community Events and Challenges
Are you giving your membership plenty of new things to do and things to try to achieve in your community?
You should be creating events for your membership and challenges and encourage engagement. This will keep things interesting enough for members to keep coming back repeatedly.
Determine what challenges would be appropriate and related to your niche in terms of your online community. Create a way for members to participate in these challenges so you can record their participation. Award those who complete the challenges. Give everyone a participation trophy if you want to win everyone over.
8: Utilize Multimedia Content in Your Community
Do your members show a lack of interest in your text-based content? Are fewer and fewer replying to it?
This might be because you’re not adding multimedia content to your strategy. Multimedia content, such as videos and images, is hot right now.
You should always try to add the sort of content that is currently trending, as that is what people are currently into. Post videos related to your industry, whether you create them or they’re created by someone else.
9: Provide Value-Added Resources and Articles Frequently
Are you finding that your published content isn’t enough to encourage a stronger activity in your community with frequent visitors?
The problem may be because of a lack of resources. Your membership is likely seeking free resources to improve their lives concerning your community’s niche.
You can tend to this by creating resources such as downloads, articles, and freebies that add value to using them. Value is when you change someone’s life for the better with your content. If you can do this, you’ll gain a very highly active, engaging experience from members who assist.
10: Empower Your Top Community Members and Moderators
Are you letting your best members and moderators slowly fade from being the leaders of your community?
Many community admins do this. They don’t recognize their top members and moderators for the betterment of their community. These folks are what make your community the best it can be. Ignoring that can jeopardize it all.
Avoid this dire mistake by empowering those who are most active as members and even moderators of your community. You should do what you must to encourage them to continue as they are. Sometimes that even means publicly recognizing them in something as simple as a Member of the Month or Staff Member of the Week type event.
11: Gamify Engagement in Your Online Community
Do you notice that when you spend money with your credit card, you earn points you can redeem for many benefits?
That sort of feature is called gamification. It basically amounts to earning rewards for doing something related to the service that is being provided. It gains free things by doing things. And it’s very popular among services, even those outside of credit cards.
It’s a great option for online communities. You can create gamification for members who engage in your community. They can earn points or tokens that can be used to gain free stuff or benefits that inactive members are not getting. Gamification encourages participation because it gives a reward.
12: Seek Feedback from Your Community and Optimize
Have you ever had a community member’s suggestion to improve your community?
Many community owners fail at this advantage. This is because it’s easy to ignore the requests of a member. The problem is that your members are what makes your community possible. If you don’t please them, they’ll go somewhere else to get what they want.
You should always consider the suggestions of your members. They’re dedicating their time to your community, and you need them to have a community. If you don’t consider their feedback, they won’t feel like they’re part of the community and will likely become inactive. Pay attention to suggestions and try to do your best to implement them.
13: Develop Connections with Members of Your Community
Are you missing out on the opportunity to build connections with community members?
Building connections with your members can expose you to many different networking capabilities. Your members might find you leads, new members, and even guest hosts to do live events and collaborations with.
To develop connections with community members, you simply need to start a friendship with members of your community. It is easier to do this from the start of their membership in your community. This will help you encourage engagement, too.
14: Make Your Community Just For Your Members
Are you developing your community for you, or are you developing it for your members?
Sometimes community owners create communities for themselves. A community should be made for everyone. Most importantly, your community should be made with your member in mind because they’re the ones who will be engaging the most.
To create a community just for your members, try to understand what each member wants in a community. Then try to see if what they want relates to the wants and needs of other community members. Implement these changes to make the community more member-orientated, promoting major engagement.
15: Create Engaging Content with Engaging Questions
Are you struggling with getting your community members to respond to your content?
The problem might be with the content itself. If you don’t post engaging content that encourages a discussion among your community members, then you can expect most content you post to have very little interaction.
To overcome this issue, you need to post content that is engaging. The best content for this is content that provides some sort of value, such as teaching members something new. Engaging content usually also includes questions that make readers want to answer. They must be good questions and easy for most of your members to answer. It gives members a reason to discuss the topic when you ask questions.
16: Use Your Online Community to Build Trust
If you’re not using your community to build trust, then you’re using it for the wrong reasons.
Trust is a very important factor in creating true engagement. Your members need to trust you and what you have to provide for your community. The more trustworthy you are, the more people will want to engage with you and be around you.
To build trust with your community, you must help members in areas they need most help with. Your help needs to solve their issues fully without being problematic. You need to give your members your word about things and always make sure you follow through. If you can’t follow through, make sure you explain why and be honest about everything.
17: Share Stories From Your Community to Encourage Growth
Are you using the success stories of your community members to encourage growth and engagement in your community?
When community members have successful outcomes, you should use those outcomes to your advantage. They’re opportunities to encourage other members to engage in related activities for a successful outcome.
You can use the stories as testimonials to encourage people to join the community and engage to be successful. You can also use success stories about recent challenges or community events to encourage other members to try out the challenges and events.
18: Require Your Community Manager and Moderators to be Engaging
If you have a team in your community, they should be very active and show great leadership.
There is nothing worse than a community manager or moderator that manages, moderates, and does nothing more than that. If you have community staff members, they should be active. You should be active as the community owner. You and your staff are the discussion creators, you initiate engagement, and you are the leaders that your members should follow.
Make sure it is a requirement for all staff members to be active daily. They should be encouraging member engagement by engaging with others. They should post new discussions, write articles, and share resources with the community. And you should be just as active as the other team members because you’re a leader for your team and your members.
19: Conduct Contests that will Encourage Members to Participate
Are you offering contests to your members as a way to incentivize them to engage in your community?
Offering contests with great prizes to your community members is a great way to get people to engage in your community. This is especially true when the contests are easier to do and offer excellent prizes. Most of the time, prizes are related to the niche of the community. But it’s important to make a contest and prize that people will actually enjoy for this idea to work.
To start creating contests for your community members, try to look at examples that have worked well and adopt those types of competitions. These typically include giveaways and types of contests with very few requirements. It’s common to want to make challenging contests, but the problem is that many people don’t want to put in the effort or become confused by the rules. Easier contests will result in easier engagement in the community. Make sure the prizes are great and related to your niche, if possible so that you attract the kind of members you want to attract.
20: Always Try to Keep Things Fun in Your Online Community
Are your members having a good time when they visit?
If your community is just a place to get information and then run, don’t expect a lot of engagement. If you want more engagement, try to focus on having a fun and entertaining community for your members. That will keep them coming back whether they need something specific or not.
Try implementing humor and entertainment into the content to create a fun and entertaining community. Use things like GIFs and memes that can be related to the content being posted. Allow members to joke and have fun with the content. You might even add a section for off-topic discussions, with jokes and humor being a caveat of the section.
21: Diversify Your Content on Your Online Community
Are you just boring your members with one type of content that might be losing their attention?
A community owner should focus on all types of content. There is a diverse range of content to publish on online communities. By having different forms of content, you keep the community unique and unpredictable. This can help mitigate any boredom that might come around if members know what to expect and it doesn’t meet their expectations.
To be diverse, try posting different forms of content. For example, post questions and polls to the community. Post images and videos. Share external links like YouTube videos, articles, and even screenshots of social media posts that relate to the niche of your community. Do live events, add different discussion topic sections, and occasionally open the chat room.
22: Create a New Member Experience When People Join Up
Are you onboarding your new members when they join?
Most new members become inactive before they can even start to be active. Community owners make the mistake of assuming new members will just jump in and be active. It doesn’t typically work that way because many members don’t know where or how to start. You can help prevent new members from losing interest by having a new member onboarding process.
To start an onboarding process, create a strategy plan for your member’s forum lifecycle for the first few weeks of their membership. You can start by sending them a direct message welcoming this to the community. Try to encourage small talk, asking them why they joined and what they hope to get out of their membership. Then create weekly tasks for them to complete at their own pace to onboard into the community. This will help them understand how to be a member of your community.
23: Be Sure to Moderate Your Online Community
Are you preventing toxic people from joining your community?
An unmoderated community often leads to a disaster. When a community becomes toxic because managers didn’t moderate it right, the community is usually ruined as a result. It will not only ruin a community, but it can also ruin your reputation in your niche.
Make sure you create some member guidelines for your community. Then make sure you enforce them the same way for everyone. Your best member should have to follow the same guidelines as your worst member. Your guidelines should be basic rules meant to ensure that everyone can get along and enjoy the community in harmony with each other.
24: Create Spaces and Sections Based Off Member Interests
Are you creating discussions based on what your members actually desire?
Many online community owners make this mistake. They create loads of different sections based on their assumptions. Instead of doing it that way, communities should have sections and discussions about what members seek.
Ask your members what they want on your forum. Ask them what they want to talk about. Then create sections and discussion topics related to those topics. Once your members realize that you’re making the community based on their advice, they will feel at home in your community and visit often.
25: Do Live-Streaming Events on Your Online Community
Are you doing any sort of live events with your online community?
Since the worldwide pandemic occurred, live is where it’s at. Many people are now used to doing live events in a virtual capacity, especially in the online community space. These live events can create great circles of engagement and keep members interested in your community.
Consider having a Zoom meeting from time to time. You can make it registration-only if you want to control the number of people who show up. This will allow your members to meet you and other community members live. It will be almost as good as meeting someone in person.
26: Conduct Member Ask-Me-Anything Events
Are you allowing your membership to get to know you more?
Many online community owners make the mistake of not posting introductions for themselves. They share very little about themselves, and their community members never get a chance to get to know them better.
It’s more welcoming to a member to know the person running the show. You can conduct events where members can ask you questions about anything. They might keep them related to the niche and your expertise in the niche. Maybe they want to know more about you as an individual and your life. Allow them a chance to get to know you, and that will build trust and more engagement with you.
27: Create Daily Theme-Based Content on Your Community
Are you taking advantage of the days of the week for engaging content generation?
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are all opportunities for engaging content generation. You can use themed days (weeks and months) to post specific content to excite and engage your membership. Plus, this allows you to collect new ideas for content so you don’t ever run out of them.
To use this, simply align familiar or trending topics in your niche with a day of the week. An example could be “Monday Money” if your community is about making money or investing. Another example would be “Freaky Friday” if your community is about writing and you want to feature scary stories on Friday. People tend to get used to and excited about themed days when they care a lot about the topics being used in the theme.
28: Try to Engage with Disengaged Members
Are you engaging with members who are currently not engaging with anyone else?
There will be lurkers for almost any given online community, even paid ones. These are members of the community who don’t do anything besides logging in and consuming resources quietly. They don’t post. They don’t react. They just lurk and consume. Some community owners let them be, while others go to an extreme and remove inactive member accounts.
But what if there was a better way to deal with the disengaged? The better way is to engage them. Chances are, many of them don’t know how to engage because they don’t know where to start. They don’t know how to join the group and be a part of the club. They need a leader to engage with them and show them how to engage with the community. That leader is you.
29: Conduct Quarterly Reviews of Your Community Engagement Levels
Are you conducting reviews of your community engagement frequently?
Reviewing engagement levels in your community is a good idea. You can learn a lot from it. You can see where you succeed and where you fail. It can paint a picture of what engagement looks like in your community. It can help you make timely decisions that will cost less at the end of the day.
To take advantage of engagement reviews, try to review engagement once a quarter. That’s four times a year to set aside some time to study the engagement level of your community. Try to understand what works, what doesn’t work, and what engagement gaps need to be filled in your community.
30: Make it Easy to Join and Participate in Your Community
Is it easy for people to become a member and participate in your community?
Sometimes a lack of membership or participation is due to a bad community platform. That means people have difficulty joining, logging in, and engaging in your community. It could be a technical issue stopping them or something else. You’d be surprised how many people don’t join because of these exact issues.
To mitigate this sort of thing, you should try to make the registration, login, posting, and engagement processes as simple as possible. You should require less information to join and ask for more after the person has become a member.
31: Nurture Your Community’s Power Members and Ambassadors
Do you have highly active members in your community, and are you nurturing them?
Many community managers fail at nurturing their power members. Power members are organic ambassadors in your community. They’re the most active and contributing members. They refer your community to other people. They’re helpful. They want to help in any way they can. And they engage frequently with you and other members of your community.
If you ignore these kinds of members, they’ll eventually go away. Don’t make that mistake. Nurture them by making them ambassadors of your community. Give them something special such as an invitation-only membership, to ensure it’s special. You could even ask those members to become moderators of your community, as they’ll likely make you proud. Do something special for your most engaging power members, and they’ll remain loyal for the life of your community.
32: Encourage Members to Finish Their Profiles and Upload Avatars
If your community has a profile system, are you noticing whether members are completing it?
When a member completes their profile, they typically invest in the community. It also makes networking members easier with other members because you have some clues about their interests based on the profile information. It is also easier to engage with members who invest in your community.
Try to segment profile and photo upload strategies by sending onboarding emails. Let the member become a member first. Then ask them to complete their profile and add a photo or avatar. After that, you can have them introduce themselves and go through the rest of your onboarding process. Make sure you make tutorials to make it easy to complete their profile.
33: Monitor Your Backend Analytics to See How Your Community is Doing
Are you watching your community’s statistics and analytics to improve engagement?
Most platforms have analytics or statistics built into the backend of the administration control dashboard. Sometimes, you might need to add external analytical services such as Google Analytics or something similar. Nonetheless, whatever you decide to use, you should be using something to measure results to help you make better decisions for your community.
Analytics and member statistics can help you improve engagement in your community. You can look at your membership’s demographic analytics to see what type of person your community attracts. Then you can change your strategy based on their demographics. You can also see what content gave the highest engagement rates regarding views, discussions, reactions, and shares. These analytics can help you create content and features in the future that encourage significant engagement.
34: Do Industry Interviews and Host Guest Speakers in Your Community
Have you ever considered doing interviews or hosting guests in your community?
With the power of Zoom and other live meeting services, you can give your members live or pre-recorded content. One thing people in most industries enjoy is seeing what experts in the industry think about topics related to the industry. There are easy ways of providing these kinds of resources to your community, and you should be attempting to do so.
Interviews can be done through text-based content such as posts on a discussion board or articles. You could also do interviews with experts or even have them give a presentation or speech using live recording services such as Zoom and Teams. Then you can provide these as content resources to your community. The community will enjoy and engage with these resources, especially if they can connect to the expert in a live environment to ask their questions.
35: Engage with Members Regularly in Your Own Real Voice
Are you engaging with members and being the real you in the process?
If you create a community only to post information and then nothing else, your community will likely fail. It’s critical to engage with members and be an active member of the community. People likely joined because they wanted to associate with you. You’re often the main reason people join. If you don’t interact with them, you’ll lose them as members and likely lose them as fans and followers.
This is such an easy task to master, too. All you have to do is engage in your voice, meaning be yourself and don’t act differently. Make sure you reply to every comment. You should be the most active member of your community because you’ll set an example of how to engage with folks. Sometimes by, you being active in the community, it will be the one thing that encourages others to become active because they enjoy engaging with you.
36: Install Add-ons to Encourage Member Engagement
Have you considered installing add-ons that encourage members to engage more?
Most community platforms come with the ability to install or enable add-ons. Add-ons are extra features that typically enhance the overall community and its default features to give exclusive benefits. For different niches and industries, many different add-ons are useful, while some add-ons are not useful. It’s ideal for adding those that are encouraging members to participate further in the community.
You should add add-ons that encourage more engagement. You shouldn’t add ones that remove the main features you wish to be active. For example, if you have a community where members can share articles, giving them their own blog feature might be a good idea. However, if you have a discussion forum and you don’t want to take away from the main forum, adding a chat box might be a bad idea. Make sure any add-ons you add encourage further growth through engagement.
37: Provide Education to Your Online Community
Are you providing one of your community’s most sought out member resources?
Education about the niche or industry your community is about is often a critical benefit to provide. People want to learn how to do things better than they already know. People want to know where to start doing things related to the niche. Education is a wonderful way to show people how and where to start.
As the community leader, you’re also the educator. You should be providing educational materials and resources to your membership. Try to provide this content easily and practically. Make sure it is easy to learn how to do things. This will keep your member happy and engaged with you throughout their learning experience. Try to teach members how to do things that no one else is teaching but is something members really desire to learn.
38: Create an Editorial Calendar and Always Stay Ahead
Are you having trouble staying ahead of the game with your community?
You might need an editorial calendar for your content and resources. This is simply a solution for you to plan ahead and schedule things so that you’re prepared to keep your community active. This is how most bloggers can consistently post and keep their blogs active.
Use automation features if you’re able to. If you can schedule your community content submissions to post behind the scenes, try to do it. This way, you can focus on engagement and participation in the discussions with your members. Use something like Word or Google Docs to keep a calendar for upcoming content and resources you want to publish in your community.
39: Enhance Your Member Reputation or Activity Point System
Do you provide a point system or reputation system for your community?
A point or reputation system is typically a digital trophy system. It awards members based on activity and participation. It’s a great way to engage members and get them to work to get more trophies. It’s one of the ways to gamify your online community. Most of these systems are very basic as a default feature but enable you to modify and enhance them.
The best thing to do is try to enhance your trophy feature to relate to your niche. Make it easy to increase points or reputation through activity and engagement. You can make it challenging to encourage some competition between members but ensure it’s nothing too challenging, or you might discourage engagement in the process.
40: Keep Your Homepage and Sections Fresh with New Content
Is everything about your community active daily?
Many forum owners make the mistake of adding too many boards or sections to their community. This causes many of the sections to appear to be inactive because it becomes too much of a challenge to keep each section active. This can make the whole community look inactive and result in people deciding not to join or engage.
It’s important to keep the whole community an active community daily. This might mean adding fewer sections and spaces for member engagement until you reach a point where you have enough members engaging and requesting more spaces to be added. In the meantime, you can focus on adding fresh daily content to each community area to encourage daily engagement.
41: Setup Default Settings to Notify Members of Replies
Are members notified that they have replies waiting for them in the community?
Most community platforms have notification features. There are some instances where you must carefully adjust them per GDPR and other international standards on privacy and how we contact people over the Internet. However, if they subscribe to the community, in most cases, you can adjust where they get notifications for the content they have engaged with or even a weekly digest of topics that have been published.
You should adjust the notification settings to alert community members when replies or comments are made on their own published content and content that they have commented on. Try to make sure alerts are sent to them through email. If they have provided a phone number and you can push content through text messages, that could be another way to do it.
42: Host Charity Events on Your Online Community
Have you tapped into the power of charity events to increase engagement?
Before you consider charity events for engagement campaigns, it’s important to take the charity events seriously. Charity shouldn’t just benefit a community to get an active membership. It should be mainly geared towards helping those in need, which is what the charity is all about. But using engagement to help raise awareness for the charity is a great way to make it work.
Create a charitable event and donate to it based on engagement levels. You can use a trophy or point system to gamify the event and make tracking easier. You can use charity sponsors or your own money and community budget if you can afford it. Donating based on membership engagement and activity is okay, but you should donate something. You should also offer a way for members to donate to the charity if they desire to do so.
43: Start Building New Relationships by Sending Direct Messages
Are you taking advantage of the direct messaging system in your community?
Direct messaging or private messaging is a feature that allows members to contact other members privately. It is similar to email but applies only to members of the community. It is a great tool to establish relationships with members and encourage them to engage actively.
The best way to do this is by sending custom welcome messages rather than default automated ones. From the start, you should try to establish a relationship with the member. Be real in the message and write in your real voice. After establishing a relationship with the member and encouraging them to participate more, you can use automated messaging, such as sending messages about how to engage better, events, etc.
44: Try Not to Overwhelm the Members of Your Online Community
Did you know you could do too much to get your members to engage?
It is possible to overwhelm your membership with engagement techniques. Using too many strategies and campaigns at once could detract members from your community. If a person feels overwhelmed, they’re likely going to remain inactive. It’s important to keep that in mind when utilizing many different strategies of online community engagement tactics.
To avoid this, simply start small. Use a few strategies and see what they do with your engagement rates in your community. Try to A/B test different strategies and features and use the ones that work best for your goals and objectives. Don’t try to do everything at once, or you’ll overwhelm your members and yourself and get burned out from having a community. Start small and grow as the community grows.
45: Keep Learning, Boost Your Expertise, and Solve Problems
Are you improving yourself?
If you want to keep growing your community and its engagement rates, you have to improve your ability to be a leader. As things change, technology shifts and new trends occur, you must stay on top of things; otherwise, your competition might get the best of you. It’s important to avoid security blankets and try new things.
Try to learn something new about your niche daily. Even if for just five minutes, try to gain new knowledge. Keep upping your expertise, and ensure others know you’re the expert. You will even have to get away from your community and post elsewhere. People need to see your name out there. And finally, try to solve your industry’s biggest problems and challenges, which alone will bring more engagement to your community than you’ll ever expect.
Now that you understand online community engagement tactics, it’s time to put them to use. If you feel this article has been helpful, please consider sharing it with others to help support my efforts in writing it. Please follow me on Twitter for more information and tips on creating an engaging online community.
About the Author
Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers that follow this blog. Shawn also offers a variety of services for extra help in the area of content creation, blogging, forums, and digital marketing. Learn more about Shawn Gossman by clicking here.
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