The active member is the holy grail for any online community. (However web traffic shouldn’t be ignored if you need to make money from sponsors or online advertising – in that case eyeballs – or unique visitors – are also very important.)
In order to ensure a thriving community user flow should be attended to at every stage: the diagram above gives some example considerations for each. It is also split into considerations that are more or less platform dependent: this illustrates that you can make thousands aware of your website without having a very good web platform – you can even entice them to visit, however whether they come back, join and participate depends on the experience they get when they arrive.
Being aware of your user flow can enable you to work through each stage methodically – or dedicate different members of your digital team to each, if you have the resources to do that. You should start by putting user numbers to each stage if you have suitable analytics set up. You can then begin to see where you are being successful – what is growing and what is in decline. If only 2% of your visitors ever register you may want to focus your attention on the ‘member’ stage – or you may feel you have enough new members coming in but that they they are not discussing / contributing in the way you would like. The exact form of what you do at each stage and where to put most energy should be personalised to your particular community.
This is when a user first becomes aware of your brand or community. You can achieve this with marketing and PR, however only a good service can drive positive word of mouth.
Whether a user goes onto visit your website depends on whether what you are offering is suitable. Untargeted ads mean you will get fewer relevant clicks – and you will even turn off suitable prospective members if your proposition seems unclear or unsuitable.
Unsurprisingly this is about high quality, frequently updated content and good user experience.
To gain members you need to be clear about reasons to register, including providing incentives on your site if you can. You should also optimise the registration process, and your whole website, to encourage people to register. A simple way of seeing how effective your website registration process is, is setting up a ‘goal’ in Google Analytics. The goal should be reaching the registration confirmation page and you should put in conditions that the user should have been through the registration form to get to the confirmation page (to ensure Analytics doesn’t confuse any stray visits with successful sign-ups). Another fantastic benefit of setting up a member registration goal using Google Analytics is you can also view referrers in relation to successful goals. This means you can see which of your marketing activity returns the best member conversion. (I may write more on this in a future post).
This is about design and nuture: facilitating, encouraging, providing reasons for your members to make the leap and interact. If possible, provide more than one way to do this – with polls, recommending links, submitting video – not just discussions or q&a. For example, the everywoman Network has run highly successful awards that have encouraged members to become active for the first time.