Decades ago, hosts and hostesses of cocktail and dinner parties gave thought to their event in ways that seem almost phony to today’s party goers. They worried about group dynamics and invitee seating arrangements. They planned menus and party games and anticipated how every party-goer would respond. They thought about what each person would bring to the occasion, as far as conversation and experiences.
While the extensive planning may not work for our parties anymore it does help when creating an online member community. Smart community organizers give thought to a member engagement plan. Who will engage your members, in what ways do you want them sharing, who will moderate, what forums will be made available? Will they be on industry topic or a more casual place for people to connect regardless of what they want to connect about?
For instance, HSN (formerly known as the Home Shopping Network) hosts a forum on which its shoppers can connect. You can exchange ideas on everything from hosts to pets. They even have a miscellaneous forum for discussion of things outside of HSN. Does this type of format fit your organization? Only you can say for sure.
What is member engagement planning and why does this have to be part of your social media strategy? Member engagement planning takes your membership into consideration when creating a membership site. You already have a community, you are now taking the next step and providing them with the online tools to connect and build deeper relationships with not only each other but with you as well. Obvious, yes? It also:
1. Shows your members you are a planner but doing it well means the seams are flawless and no one is the wiser to you having undertaken this valuable planning.
2. Ensures a healthy community and lots of activity. The more thought you give to the planning of your community, the greater the chances for success.
3. Focuses on cultivating power users, getting them in place, involved and excited about your site. From there your marketing will begin to take care of itself.
4. Provides you with direction when making decisions. If you know your members it will be easier to make decisions on their behalf. If you don’t know your members you can always resort to polls and quizzes to help you gain insight.
5. Is an ongoing project. Member engagement planning is the structure with which you make decisions but it is a fluid structure that should change as your members needs and wants do. Set aside time to revisit it periodically and make sure that it is still inline with your community.
A little planning will help maximize your ability to stay on-point with your members and create an energized and invigorated online community.