I was excited to attend "Pick me, engage me, thrill me!" today (what a great title), and it didn't disappoint. Three experts shared their tips and tricks on how they got people into their external community, as well as how they engaged them and kept them for the long term. Here's what I learned -
Matt Laurenceau of BMC was passionate about how transparent, authentic collaboration has led to revenue growth for BMC. They go so far as to list their most engaged customers in a leaderboard on the front page of their community. They reiterated that content, as we all know, is the magnet that attracts people to your community. The question is how to make your content discoverable. Matt broke it down for us with 3 strategies to raise visibility.
Some have asked if this is *still* important in 2016. Well, 81% of external community traffic comes from natural search like Google, so we cannot afford to ignore it. Pay attention to robots.txt, your sitemap and make sure to tag content correctly with title and H1 tags if you want your content to be found by search engines.
2. Social funnel
“Social media hooks them, community management keeps them” is Matt's mantra. He shared 4 ways to foster shares in Social Media.
- Social media buttons on content
- Employee advocacy
- Corporate channels
- Autotweet blog posts
While the first 3 strategies have become table stakes, autotweeting blog posts as they are written has been a real winner for BMC in driving engagement and traffic. Something for all of us to consider.
3. Programs with users
BMC utilizes 3 different types of programs on their external community: beta programs, ideation programs and R&D blogs. While all are successful, R&D blogs have been the most effective at driving long term engagement.
Deanna Belle of Cisco then took the stage and shared how Cisco has used gamification to seriously motivate the developer community at CiscoLive conferences with tens of thousands of attendees. Their goal at CiscoLive in San Diego was to increase DevNet registrations and overall engagement. Their strategy was to start early (before the event even happened) and to continue engagement beyond the physical event. Before the event even happened, they invited attendees to participate in a "codebreaker" puzzle - if you solve the puzzle you get the tshirt (and associate bragging rights). Onsite they had a prominent leaderboard posted that encouraged lively competition amongst the developers. They also had a mixture of physical and virtual awards, with the winning hack from their hackathon getting a $10,000 cash prize (and more bragging rights, of course!) Their return speaks for itself. Not only did they have close to 500% increase in community registrations, but people who participated in gamification returned to community 13% more than non gamers, and 33% have been active for at least 1 year post event.
Key takeaways Deanna shared:
- Analyze audience and behaviors
- Start small with a pilot
- Have a vision/baseline data
- Reinforce your brand
- Build, measure, learn, repeat
Daysha Carter of American Student Assistance ran the anchor leg of this session. American Student Assistance is a nonprofit looking to reduce financial barriers to education, and due to sensitive nature of dealing with financial information, they have both public and private external communities that they support. Daysha had some great, practical advice on how to keep engagement high. Polls and contests have been particularly effective for them. Polls because they are quick, easy, low ask ways to engage users (from personal experience she reminds everyone to always include "other" as an option in a poll - it can spur additional conversation and makes sure you cover all potential answers). For contests, it's best to structure content to encourage behavior that you want to promote, limit the contest to a sensible period of time, and make it very visible. I was impressed with how they embraced the idea of trying new things, knowing that some will work, and some won't. She shared her list of do's and don'ts with us:
- Be deliberate – set a strategy
- Create a content calendar
- Be a member (non-admin)
- Promote “good” habits
- Try, adjust, try again
- Measure your results
- Evaluate what went wrong
- Too much(at one time)
- Stale content
- Confusing /vague practices
- Closed ended questions
- Inconsistent messaging
Overall, a great session with lots of really practical, real-world advice on how to engage external communities (and keep them engaged)! Does anyone else have some ideas they'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you!