How to Drive Engagement Part 1 – Social Media Best Practices Series

This post is part of our social media best practices series, which looks at how to leverage Janrain’s solutions to drive your marketing metrics. See the entire Social Media Best Practices Series here.

As users continue to demand more sophisticated experiences from websites, the level of activity and engagement must continue to grow. Contemporary social networks like Foursquare, Facebook and Google+ have set a high bar for the rest of the web to adopt when adding social functionality to websites.

The tools for technical functionality continue to evolve, and with them, the marketer’s ability to drive engagement. But engagement doesn’t come from tools and technology alone. There are a number of tactics that you can bring to bear to drive community interaction and engagement.

Active Community Management

Having internal team members who are responsible for encouraging users and highlighting quality contributions is a key component of driving user engagement. This does not have to be a dedicated full time resource, but should happen on a frequent basis to help users understand that there are “higher level” community members active on the site.

If you have not been present consistently on your site, trumpet your return and acknowledge your previous absence with an explanation of how your presence will be different moving forward. This is an opportunity to create a new expectation for participation, and users will generally respond positively.

Create Useful Content

If you have seen a drop-off in community activity, it is an opportunity to review your content to ensure that it adds value for your users. Often, marketers think that user generated content will fill in the gaps where their regularly produced content doesn’t. This is true to a certain extent, but over time it becomes easy to cut content production as overall user levels increase.

Remember that content is the engine of many communities. If users want content that is purely produced by their peers, they can spend time on Facebook. They come to your community in order to go deeper on your brand promise. That means you have to continue to create high quality content for them that’s designed to maintain and grow user activity over time.

Content can come from many parts of your organization. Developing a robust content strategy that maps to your existing initiatives will quickly reveal holes in your content calendar, and give you ample time to fill them through a combination of new and repurposed resources.

User generated content can be extremely high quality, but even when it’s not, a polished introduction or contextualization from the brand can elevate user contributions. Consider easy ways to highlight and professionalize the contributions from your community in order to build credibility with individual users, and lessen your own production burden.

Postmedia maintains a number of newspaper brands in Canada, which means they produce a large amount of content to keep audience engagement high.

Postmedia's brands produce a lot of content for an engaged audience

Redefine User Goals

In most communities, the core functionality does not change significantly over time. That means that new users have a built in reason to come back frequently – they want to understand how the system works.

But this is also a disincentive for long-time users from contributing frequently – after all, they know the system, understand the rules, and there’s really nothing new for them to discover.

Evolving the ways in which users build credibility and reputation on your site is an important way to drive engagement – doubly so because it drives more activity from your most important members. Only a few are trailblazers, but they will define norms and behaviors for the majority.

Tracking and incentivizing user contributions, behaviors, and actions on your community site helps you define a program of increasing relevance for your users, and value for your brand

Matthew Morrison’s website builds user interactions through a variety of reward behaviors.

Matthew Morrison incentives desired user behavior through rewards.

Of course, communicating new activities and incentives are just as critical. Make sure you have a clear communication plan in place whenever you change user incentives.

In the next article in this series, we’ll look at more ways to engage your community members. How have you activated your own community? Please share your thoughts in the comments.