Four Ways to Engage Silent Community Members

This is the last in a series of blog posts on community management, highlighting the keynotes at a conference on online communities and community management hosted by Higher Logic, the platform used for CASE Communities. While the conference focused on the association world, the keynotes’ ideas were relevant to anyone trying to grow communities online, including CASE member institutions. 

Richard Millington presents on engaging community members at the Higher Logic Super Forum.On average, 90 percent of online community members read the contributions of others, but never answer or ask questions, or share their thoughts. Sound familiar? Richard Millington, founder of Feverbee, shared tips on ways to encourage silent or mostly silent members to begin contributing to the conversation.

Give members a reason to join your community. Don’t just tell members your community is great—demonstrate its value. Do this by including details of conversations and other valuable features in institutional communications vehicles, including websites, social media and newsletters. One of the best ways to get members to contribute is to make them feel they are missing out on something big. This could be as simple as displaying campus images—especially once snow starts falling—or leveraging activities around homecoming, graduation or other big events.

Focus on questions that inspire members to engage in conversation. Don’t start with hard or uninteresting questions—instead, ask questions that provoke thoughts and feelings and for which most people have answers, regardless of their expertise level. Think of easy introductory questions that support the purpose of your community but that are also low-risk. For example:

  • Share your favorite photos of a memorable campus snowstorm.
  • What book has inspired you professionally or personally?
  • Homecoming is approaching! Share your memories.
  • What topics are of interest to you and what would you like to see more of?
  • What are you working on today?
  • What do you enjoy about this community?

Create and sustain momentum. People want to be where others already are. (Empty restaurants and nightclubs are not usually that popular.) The same goes for a community. If members are talking and contributing, the community will have immediate value for new members and they will be more likely to come back and to share their thoughts. To sustain momentum, also create specific goals around member interests and challenges, and make sure that the conversations around these topics are ongoing.

Focus on encouraging members to remain active in your communities. There’s always going to be an ebb and flow with contributions from specific members—sometimes they will be more active, sometimes they will disappear altogether. First, accept that this is going to happen; there’s no way to avoid it. And second, still continue to ensure that your community continues to add value and meet member needs as well as your institution’s goals.

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