How to Drive Engagement Part II – Social Media Best Practices Series August 11, 2011 by Jamie Beckland best practices, game mechanics, social media best practice 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. In my previous post, we discussed a number of ways that website owners can drive additional engagement on your site. Engagement continues to be an important metric because it is a leading indicator for a number of harder and more important bottom line goals; increasing engagement is the first step to improving time on site, conversion rate, and repeat visitors.There are a number of additional ways that community managers and marketers can drive additional engagement and activity. So much so, that we should discuss some additional ideas for creating an engaged community. The tools and platforms that empower these interactions are varied, but their goal is the same: to make your site stickier and more interesting for your users. Ratings and Reviews Consumers trust each othermore than your team’s marketing speak. So, give users the chance to have their voice heard. Review platforms allow specific products to be discussed by users who may be in the market, or have used the product before.One concern with ratings is that they are frequently abused with paid or incentivized reviews coming from all sides – competitors, marketers, and affiliates. In order to maintain the quality of your reviews assets, you should require a real identity to be linked to the user’s account. Even better: have users use their real names, and put a face and reputation to a critical review.Sears works to build community engagement on it’s e-commerce site through offering ratings and reviews on all products. Loyalty and Rewards You can effectively drive user behavior through rewards and points systems by incentivizing behavior you want to see more of from users. The concept is simple, but powerful. By creating an immediate feedback loop, you reinforce positive actions for the user in a way that triggers our natural reward response mechanism. Rewards can also drive consistency over time, increasing return visits. One area that is not significantly leveraged currently is transparency around rewards and achievements. Consider informing your users what actions they should take to unlock the next achievement or ranking level, and leveraging each interaction to build into chains of connected events. This gives your users a clear path to driving value from your website. Matthew Morrison’s website encourages community by offering rewards to active members. Real Time Information There are a number of reasons why someone would want to engage on your brand site, as opposed to another social media channel. One of the strongest is because the user can interact with other like-minded users around what is happening right now. Immediacy is so important because Twitter and other real-time services have trained users to expect streaming information. Of course, Twitter is also a burden for the same reason. The never-ending march of status updates from ephemeral contacts, about a variety of random topics the user has no interest in.Your brand site can improve greatly on this frustrating user experience by allowing community members to have real-time dialogues around a finite, understandable set of topics that are related to your brand promise. In this model, users understand that they can engage with others who they may not know, but who share the same interests and passions as they do. And, they can find a welcoming community with real people ready to talk about something interesting right now.Having real-time components on your website requires a strong technology backbone, and an existing userbase that you can activate with new communication options, like real-time chat and messaging. But the rewards are clear: real-time information brings increased rates of engagement, more time on site, and more frequent return visits (our friends at Livefyre hint at how much difference real time conversations make). Have more ideas for driving community engagement on your site? Let me know in the comments.