Community engagement is what brings your community to life. How well your community members engage makes the difference between a group of people and a community.
But coming up with effective ways to engage with your community can be frustrating. Sometimes, there is not much movement in your community even though you are posting regularly on social media.
But it’s okay, that just means you need to try new things and find something that connects with your audience.
That’s why we’ve created this guide for community managers, to inspire you with tips you can use to build a deeper connection with your community.
For this guide, we also talked to the VP of brand marketing at Everytable, Monica Rutkowski, who shared with us the best tips to help your brand drive community engagement and growth.
Feel free to jump to the tips by clicking here.
Why is community engagement important?
Having an engaged brand community is one of the most important aspects of brands’ success. For starters, without an emotional connection, consumers can choose to support other brands because nowadays, that’s what they are looking for.
People support brands that represent them. Brands that align with their values and offer an honest relationship and community.
But not only that, engaged brand communities have many benefits like increased brand awareness, loyalty, referrals, etc. That’s why so many brands are building a community. The brand-customer relationship has changed.
In fact, 88% of community professionals believe that community is critical to the company’s mission.
For these reasons, community managers are becoming so important nowadays. Brands are having a mindset shift and going for more genuine approaches to marketing.
12 tips that will increase your community engagement
Going from lurking to participating is a big step for a lot of people. You can expect the majority of your community to be lurkers. Customers who like to see what’s going on with the brand and the community and their involvement is limited to liking posts.
And while they are a valuable part of the community, the more contributions, the healthier it will be.
These community engagement ideas have the purpose of motivating lurkers into participating. But they will also keep the community fun so regular contributors continue doing so.
1. Build authentic connections
For Everytable, building authentic connections is the most important goal. And it should be one of yours too. As a purpose-driven company, they make sure they are connected to their community via grassroots campaigns (work with city reps, nonprofits, and community leaders to drive growth in their markets).
But, how can you build authentic connections with your audience?
Monica gives us the following tips:
- The number #1 thing to build personal connections is authenticity, putting people first, and giving people the chance to know who is behind the brand.
- Share stories to give the community and partners a voice, bringing people together to care about your future, accessibility, sustainability.
- Regularly talk to customers and really listen to them. Everytable calls their customers after 2 weeks to hear what they like and what they don’t like.
We talk more about some of these ideas below, but the most important thing is to make sure you are building genuine connections with your customers.
2. Give your community a place just for them
Community members need a place to interact with other members. Somewhere they can talk all about their experiences and passions. Interacting only with the brand is not ideal because people won’t feel like part of a community, just customers.
People love talking about the things they like and having a place where your online community can express themselves makes for a great sense of community.
This place can be on Reddit, Facebook, or any other social media platform your audience uses the most.
However, you might need to do some moderation just so that the community guidelines are respected.
3. Be responsive
People like to be heard. So try to interact back with your community as much as possible. Respond to comments and tweets, thank people for their support, and ask questions.
This way, you are inviting people to be part of the conversation. You can ask for feedback, ask people’s opinions about a topic, or make polls.
When talking to your community, make sure your brand messaging feels human and that it speaks to your audience. Developing the brand’s voice is one of the most important tasks for the community/brand manager.
4. Encourage user-generated content
User generated content is a great tool for community building. This type of content is any social media image, video, or blog post created by customers, mentioning a brand. This could be reviews, opinions, or simply using the products in the content.
This way, customers are engaging with other community members and people outside of it. The benefits are that UGC creates a space where other members can interact with each other and share their own experiences. Also, the content reaches consumers who are not familiar with your brand, so encourage it as much as possible.
5. Create engaging content
Content has many purposes, but most importantly it is supposed to be engaging and make people want to interact with it.
Engaging content creates opportunities to build a deeper relationship with your community. And just as user generated content, it creates a space where people can talk about your brand.
Through content, you are giving your audience new things to talk about and engage with each other. Be creative and think of the content that makes you want to interact with it. That will give you an idea of the content you need to be creating.
6. Build trust
It’s clear that people need to trust a brand in order for them to want to be part of their community. What’s not so clear is how to do it.
The answer is pretty simple, if you think about it. Be honest with your intentions as a brand. Just as with people, you wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who is not being honest.
Thanks to years of false advertising, people have a better radar for disingenuous tactics. So if they perceive this, they won’t trust your brand or community. So your messaging has to be honest.
Something else you should do is encourage your community to recommend you. You want this to happen as much as possible because getting recommended is the best way to be introduced to new people.
That’s because 92% of people trust brand recommendations from people they know.
This means that if your community vouches for you, most people will automatically gain your trust.
7. Welcome new members to your community
When you welcome new members to your community, they feel appreciated and in turn, they feel encouraged to participate.
To do this, you can send a welcome email, create an introductory video, etc. The point is to encourage new people to engage with the community.
Recommended: How To Build Community Online
8. Share stories from your community.
You can increase the engagement of your community by sharing stories and experiences from your customers and partners.
With this strategy, you are accomplishing a couple of things. You are showing appreciation for the people that support you, giving them a voice, deepening the relationship between members, and encouraging people to share their experiences. Which is basically positive user generated content.
As Monica said, this is a very important part of their strategy. A great example from Everytable is when they named a breakfast burrito after their long-time chef who had been a foundational member, which became a best selling item.
People appreciate when you give them a voice, so try to include this in your strategy.
9. Increase employee participation
If more people are participating in your community, it will motivate others to participate as well. Employees are great for that.
They know your brand from the inside so they can engage with community members. This adds to a sense of community and transparency because people can engage with someone from the inside.
For these reasons, encourage your employees to interact, like, share, chat, and be valuable members of the community.
If you’d like this to happen more in your organization, you can take this a step further and incentivize your employees’ participation through an ambassador program.
10. Incentivize participation
Tactics to increase community engagement organically are great, but you should also incentivize participation.
You can achieve this by creating an ambassador program where your employees and customers are invited to join. Then, you select your ideal brand ambassadors and reward them for doing tasks such as creating social media content.
The idea is to involve people who actually love your brand in activities that grow your community.
You can choose a payment method that adjusts to your budget and add as many ambassadors to your program as you like. You could offer cash rewards to your employees and free monthly products to customer ambassadors.
Naturally, more ambassadors lead to a bigger community since they increase participation, user generated content, awareness, and referrals.
People love contests. They are a fun way for people to interact with their favorite brands and potentially win a prize. And for brands, contests are a great opportunity to build a better relationship with customers.
There are many examples of brand contests out there. Generally, they involve people submitting their photos or videos related to a company theme, and then two things can happen. The brand selects the winner or the community votes for their favorite.
Then, the winner gets announced and receives the prize.
12. Keep it fun
Always remember to keep your community fun for members through your messaging, activities, content, etc. People will want to join your community if it’s fun even if they don’t know your brand.
That’s why, when building your community, you need to think about what people would like before anything else. Then you can start thinking about which activities your audience will enjoy more.
If you think about this first, it will be easier to know where to build your community and how.