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Engaging Your Community: The Do’s

Part of the Online Community Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

What does it mean to be engaging? Here are some tips for engaging your community in order for them to interact with each other and attract new members:

  • Ask questions. Many times, community members, especially those who are new to the Internet or social networking, don’t know that they can comment on blogs or social networking pages. It’s up to you to invite them. However, saying “Comment, please” can sometimes look like you’re begging for interaction. Instead, ask questions of your community. Find some common ground and invite them to share thoughts and ideas. For example, if your brand is made up primarily of moms of elementary school-aged children, ask questions about kids’ habits or commiserate over something all parents go through.

  • Use humor. Everyone responds to humor. Don’t be afraid of being witty and making jokes and creating fun interactions, without being too slapstick or insulting. If you have a good sense of humor and a reputation for make people laugh, yours will be a very popular community. If you talk only about serious things or topics half your community finds boring, you’re going to lose people.

  • Avoid negativity. Community managers have to deal with many different types of negativity, and pinpointing them all here is impossible. Suffice it to say, negativity has no place in an online community. Allowing members to snipe at each other, swear, troll, and insult will split apart your community. Soon, the only people who show up are those who thrive upon negativity. Set clear guidelines and let it be known that certain behavior won’t be tolerated.

  • Spotlight members of your community. Your best content should come from the people who make up your community. While you’re there to help the conversation flow and make sure that no one is crossing the line into negativity, the members of your community are the ones who should be doing the bulk of the talking. Indeed, the best communities are the ones where a community manager’s presence is noted, but not “in your face.” When you allow your members to create discussion topics, you’re inviting them to bring their personalities into play and interact with each other. Get the ball rolling by introducing members of the community who have cool achievements. If a member of your community was in the paper recently, post the mention. If another member won an award, offer a congratulatory comment. When you shine the spotlight on them, it encourages them to take it a step farther and come out in to the open.

  • Use different social networking tools. Many tools and networks are available to community managers nowadays. Your content should cover a variety of ground, including (but not limited to) newsletters, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, forums, and Google+. Each platform allows for a different type of content and different types of discussions. Take advantage of each and every one to grow a lively community. They’ll all prefer to follow your brand on their platform of choice, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Create open ended content. Post the type of content folks respond to. If you’re making a statement but not inviting conversation, it won’t happen. Content should relate to everyone and invite discussion. Avoid questions requiring a yes or no response and create the kind of content where folks want to read and respond, instead of simply reading.

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