5 Tips to Drive Engagement in External Communities

Katie Cross

Engagement is key to a community's success - both internal or external. Some common external community goals include awareness, information sharing, trust, loyalty, feedback, happy customers, and informed internal stakeholders, to name a few. All of these goals are achieved through different levels of engagement. So how does one engage members?


Here are five best practices for external community managers:


  • Post purposefully. Articles, videos, polls, questions are all great ways to engage users, but only if there is a purpose. Before posting, ask yourself these three things: Why am I posting? What do I hope to gain from posting this? How do my members benefit from this post? If you feel confident in your answers then post away. Purposeful content will give you purposeful results, and it will keep your members coming back for more.


  • Be diplomatic in moderating. When managing external communities you can feel like a school principal - making sure everyone is following the rules, alleviating problems, keeping the parents (your members) happy, keeping the administration (your executives) happy. Leave your emotions behind and moderate firm and fairly. It can be difficult to find this balance, but it is critical in creating a positive and trusting community.


  • Humanize yourself. Leaving your emotions at the door applies to moderating a community, but not necessarily to managing one. A community, after all, is a group of people interacting so it is encouraged to let your personality show. This shows your members you are not a computer and in fact are a person with the capability to help them succeed.


  • Recognize and reward your users. Similar to in-person relationships, it is important to recognize a person's achievements and contributions. Even a virtual acknowledgement, such as a like, will provide positive reinforcement for users. To use another education analogy, think of the different type of students in a classroom. You have the teacher's pets front and center, and then you have some shy middle-row students. They came to class and are interested but are not participating. Recognizing and rewarding even the smallest participation will encourage them and others to post more often.


  • Authentic peer involvement - on both sides. Having members help one another, their peers, is one of the best things for your community. Members perceive it as authentic information with no hidden agenda other then to help. It is also important to have your internal peers make appearances on the community to liven things up. Internal subject matter experts can add a lot of color to a specific question and it shows the external members that other employees, besides the community manager, care about them and their issues. Bonus points if you can get some of your top executives to participate.


It takes time and effort to create a highly engaged community, but it is well worth the investment.


Looking for more ways to drive activity in your community? Check out our community management tips on Knowledge Management Best Practices For Internal and External Communities.