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Community management

Community management

Community management

Oct 5, 2023

How to increase engagement in your customer community?

Madeleine Lewis

Community manager @ ManyChat

The engagement problem

Looking back at last year, I've noticed that it is becoming harder to keep your community members engaged. We found that 55% of community managers state that it is difficult for them to consistently engage their members, and currently on average only 7% of members act and provide answers in a community.

Low engagement in customer communities is increasingly becoming a major problem and limits SaaS companies in experiencing the benefits of customer retention, lowered support costs and increased user acquisition, for which they launched their community in the first place.

As a community manager at a SaaS company, this should be your worst nightmare, especially if you don't know what the cause of it is. Let’s look at what causes this growing trend of low engagement, so you can shield your thriving community from this problem and so you can learn how to increase your community engagement.

More and more SaaS brands trying to cultivate the engagement of your users

First of all, there is a growing amount of SaaS brands trying to cultivate the engagement of the same users you are trying to engage, to their stand-alone community environment (an isolated and self-owned community environment, that your users were not initially on. This is usually built on a white-label solution).

On average, a company uses 80 SaaS applications to establish all working processes and 60% of SaaS businesses own a branded online community, while 15% are planning on launching one within the next year. This gives you an idea of the number of other SaaS branded communities that you are competing with for the engagement of your users.

A lack of incentive for your customer base to use your community‍

Second, there is a lack of incentive for your customer base to use your community, because of different customer processes being scattered outside of your community environment. As long as your users are used to interacting with your brand for support, resources, onboarding, feedback, etc. outside of your community, you are making it incredibly hard for yourself to drive adoption of your community, let alone incentivize them to come back to the community.

An ineffective community management strategy

Third, there is an ineffective community management strategy in place. You have a strategy in place for how you are managing your community in terms of, guidelines, how you deal with super users, what type of content you censor, how you as the manager interact with members in the community, how to deal with unanswered posts, etc. but is your community management strategy actually benefiting the engagement of your community? Of course, you are only able to identify if you have an ineffective community management strategy, if you are able to measure the effect that your community management practices have on your community’s engagement. So, make sure you measure your performance! As a community manager you need to determine what is working and what you need to change in your strategy to increase the engagement of your community.

What you can do to increase engagement in your customer community

The only thing more important than identifying the problem, is the solution. Here is what you can do to increase your community’s engagement:

  • Integrate your community into your SaaS tool. Integrating your community in-app into your SaaS tool, allows your members to participate and interact with your community from the comfort of the environment that they are already in when using your company’s SaaS tool and when they're most likely to interact with your community. This lowers the barrier of adoption and activity retention of your community and makes it easier for your members to stay engaged.

  • Host your community on a platform where your users are already on. For most stand-alone community environments, there is a big barrier to entry and activity retention. Your users are normally not yet located on this isolated environment and have to follow too many steps to become a part of your community or to interact with it. Moving your community to other social platforms where your members are already on by default lowers the barrier to entry and makes adoption of your community easier. Unfortunately, the other part of the equation when moving to such a platform, is that you are giving up a lot of moderation and management functionality. This lack of functionality on itself could also have significant effects on your engagement. For example; Not being able to properly moderate the content that is posted in your community, not being able to implement gamification, not being able to reward your most valuable members or not being able to actually measure the performance of your community. If Only there were a platform that would combine the best of these 2 worlds ;). Down the line the outcome of this ultimatum is different for every community and your preference as a community manager should depend on your members. Ask yourself, does the engagement and adoption benefits of moving to such a social platform out way the engagement down sides of less functionality, for my audience specifically? The simplest thing to do is to ask your members and potential members what their preference is. Get them involved and figure out what is best for your audience.

  • Allow the conversation in your community to be about more than just your tool. By allowing the conversation in your community to be about more than just your tool, but also about more generic topics about the niche that your company operates in, you create another incentive for your members and users to join and come back to your community. This will not only allow you to engage existing members, but also attracts non-customers to the value of the conversations in your community.

  • Get super users to comment on unanswered posts. As a community manager you are hopefully aware of the amount of posts or topics that remain unanswered in your community. Instead of replying or answering yourself (as the community manager), reach out to your super users and ask them to do it for you. When you do it yourself, you create a culture where other members see that if they post a question in that part of the community, the community manager will answer it. When the goal is to create a self-support culture, you definitely don't want to do this. So, get your super users involved! Super users are there to show other members how to interact with the community, how to deliver great member-centered replies/answers, and down the line help you build the right community culture. 

  • Centralize your customer processes in your customer community environment. In most customer communities, there is a lack of incentive for your customer base to use your community. Different customer processes are scattered outside of the community environment because SaaS brands struggle to centralize the interactions of their customers with their brand. Centralizing your customer processes in your community environment delivers direct incentives for your users to adopt your community and to consistently come back. For example, as long as your users are used to accessing direct support outside of your community, you are making it harder for yourself to drive adoption of your community. Once in the community, it will also be harder to keep them engaged and incentivized to come back to the community. This results in less engagement, and therefore less self-support through the community and more unnecessary support tickets and support costs. By combining your direct support channel with your community, your users always have to go to your community to get some type of support. This drives adoption of the community under your users in the first place and ensures that your users will come back to the community. Here are the customer processes that you should centralize or at least integrate into your community environment to drive engagement from your users and members: Direct support, Customer onboarding, Product feedback loops & Product communication, Knowledge base, Help center (and other resources such as blogs, academy, etc.), Courses, and as much other customer communication touch points as possible (e.g. product announcements, feature releases, surveys,etc.). I can hear you think, “it is almost impossible to make those processes solely available through the community”. You do not have to directly make them only accessible through the community, you can easily start by making sure that they are also accessible through the community. For example; If you have an existing knowledge base or help center, link those individual articles in your community. This way those articles will become searchable from your community, members are able to discuss, comment or ask questions on specific articles in your community and they will still read the article in its existing environment. It is about making your customer community the starting point for every interaction that a customer has with the brand. You should engage your users by centralizing your customer processes where it benefits customer retention and support costs most.

  • Direct message and nurture your super users. As a community manager, you should be in direct one-on-one contact with your super users. This enables you to better understand what drives them to be so active in your community, to give them personal kudos for their contributions and ask them to get involved in a specific channel/subgroup/area of your community that is lacking activity and interaction. By the way, this also further connects these super users to the brand (you and the company).

  • Don’t create sub-communities / private groups for your most engaged users, until your community has reached critical mass. Every community has members that are more active, create more valuable contributions and are more vocal than other members. Don’t isolate your most valuable members in a sub-community or private group until your community has reached critical mass. You do not want the members that deliver the most content and value for your other members to start shifting their focus towards this private group and interact less with you community as a whole, while you are still building momentum in terms of community adoption.

  • Go more in-depth with gamifying your community experience. We are all familiar with gamifying your community experience. Your members will be rewarded for contributing to the community, and as they climb the ranks and rise to prominence, you can reward them with swag or bring them into exciting initiatives such as beta testing groups. But, the most important part of gamification usually gets overlooked. You need to make sure that you give your super users, that have proven their value to the community through their contributions, influence on deciding what is valuable content for the community. This way you involve your super users in managing your community. Members with proven value (super users) can help decide which other contributions are valuable and not valuable. These members have a better sense of what is valuable to your other members, which leads to a scenario where your members will interact less and less with non-valuable contributions in your community. A good example of how this can be implemented effectively is through an upvoting system, where contributions in your community can also be ranked based on their upvotes. By giving your super users an increased weight with their voting, the most valuable contributions will be ranked higher in your members feed, creating a more valuable community for your members.

  • Ask people what they want. If you’re starting out and a little unsure of what type of community interactions will engage your members the most, the best thing to do is to simply ask them! Your community members are a huge resource for feedback. First reach out to them individually and ask them openly, without any input, what they’d like to see. Afterwards, create polls or surveys where you also give several options (such as case studies, product updates, product roadmap goals and so on) and be guided by the outcome.

Start implementing these tactics and let’s show your peers the true value of your community and the fruits of your labor. Keep in mind that you need to be able to track and measure the right metrics such as unanswered posts, number of posts, active members, the number of support cases deflected and the retention rate of your community members to be able to see the effect of your new engagement tactics and to be able to communicate the fruits of your labor to your peers.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.

The step-by-step launching guide for SaaS customer communities

Ensure a successful launch of your customer community, by following this step-by-step launching guide.