How to Create Advocates within the Online Community - dummies

How to Create Advocates within the Online Community

By Deborah Ng

The best part about online communities is how once the word spreads, folks are just clamoring to join. They hear about others’ good experiences and want to share in their experience. Once word gets out that you’re providing a fun, online experience, the signups will be fast and furious.

When an online community is a positive experience, members will want to share with their friends. You can’t buy authentic member advocacy, but you can certainly create it by providing a place members not only want to enjoy daily, but that they want their friends and relatives to enjoy it as well.

Here’s how you and your fans can help spread the word about your online community:

  • Encourage members to bring friends. Hosting a “bring a friend” campaign is a terrific way to welcome new members and reward older members for their support.

    Sometimes, just asking members to bring friends is enough, and you don’t need to offer incentives. However, it’s always nice to offer some type of prize, such as a discount or coupon for sales-oriented communities. Another option is to enter all participants in a drawing for a bigger prize.

  • Share pages. It stands to reason if something is easy to share, people will be inclined to, well, share. Make sure that you have Share buttons where members of your communities can find them. These buttons are easy to install and allow one-click sharing for Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, and other social networks.

    Sharing is an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of thing, and if you don’t put the idea out there, most people won’t think to share.

  • Make joining easy. Most online communities have simple, secure signup processes in place. If potential members want to join, they’ll soon lose interest if they have to jump through too many hoops to activate their membership.

    Have a sign-on page and e-mail activation page is the norm; having to deal with a variety of CAPTCHAS (codes that must be typed to prove one isn’t a spammer), check boxes, and long, informational forms will discourage new membership.

  • Remember the little things. You know what makes people happy? When you remember them and make them feel special. Birthday or congratulatory announcements give community members the impression that you care.

  • Make it fun. Folks want to share enjoyable experiences. Use polls, quizzes, and games to mix things up and add fun.

  • Provide value. All community managers should ask themselves these questions: Why would anyone want to join my community? What value will I provide to members? Is the community a learning experience? Does it offer savings on a product or service? Does it feature intelligent discussion? A community can’t just sit there; it has to provide something useful to its members.

True word-of-mouth marketing can’t be bought. If you build an engaging community, your members will advocate on your behalf and bring in others.