5 Tips to Improve Community Engagement with Your Customers

Katie Cross

Engagement is key to a community's success - both internal and external communities. 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. 

In this article, we focus on how to engage your community of customers, highlighting strategies to create meaningful interactions and build strong relationships. Similar best practices and techniques can also be adapted to improve engagement in internal communities, helping to engage and motivate employees. 

So how does one engage online community members effectively?


5 Community Engagement Best Practices

Here are five best practices that explain how external community managers can increase community engagement online:

1. Post purposefully

Articles, videos, polls, questions are all great ways to engage community 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.


2. 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.

Here are some best practices to help you moderate communities diplomatically:

  • Maintain neutrality: Leave your emotions behind and approach moderation with a fair and impartial mindset. This helps in making unbiased decisions that build trust within the community.
  • Set clear guidelines: Establish and communicate clear community guidelines and rules. This provides a framework for acceptable behavior and helps members understand the boundaries.
  • Be consistent: Apply rules and guidelines consistently to all members. Inconsistent moderation can lead to perceptions of favoritism and undermine community trust.
  • Encourage open communication: Encouraging open dialogue and being transparent about moderating decisions helps members understand the reasons behind certain actions and fosters a sense of fairness.
  • Resolve conflicts quickly and fairly: Address conflicts promptly and impartially. This prevents small issues from escalating and maintains a positive atmosphere in the community.
  • Seek feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from community members about the moderation process. This can provide valuable insights and help you improve your approach.

Leveraging the best online community platforms can also enhance your moderation efforts. Platforms like Higher Logic, Khoros, Salesforce and Verint Community offer moderation tools that allow you to manage and monitor your community effectively. These tools can help you implement automated moderation features, track user activity, and ensure compliance with community guidelines.

By maintaining a diplomatic approach to moderation and utilizing the right tools, you can create a positive and trusting community environment that encourages engagement and growth.


3. 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.

Here are some strategies to help you humanize your community interactions:

  • Show empathy and understanding: Respond to community members' concerns with empathy. Acknowledge their feelings and show that you understand their perspectives. This builds a stronger connection and makes members feel valued.
  • Be approachable and friendly: Use a conversational tone in your interactions. Address members by their names, and use humor where appropriate. This helps break down barriers and makes you more relatable.
  • Share personal experiences: When relevant, share your own experiences and stories. This not only provides context but also demonstrates that you are a real person with similar challenges and triumphs.
  • Celebrate milestones and achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate the milestones and achievements of your community members. Whether it’s a work anniversary, a project completion, or a personal accomplishment, recognizing these moments shows that you care about their successes.
  • Engage in conversations: Participate in discussions and contribute meaningful insights. Ask questions, provide feedback, and encourage dialogue. Active participation shows that you are invested in the community’s success.
  • Be transparent and honest: Transparency builds trust. Be open about your role, the decisions you make, and any changes or updates affecting the community. Honest communication fosters a sense of integrity and reliability.
  • Utilize multimedia: Use videos, live streams, and photos to interact with your community. Seeing your face and hearing your voice can make a significant difference in how members perceive you. It adds a personal touch that text alone cannot convey.
  • Host virtual events: Organize webinars, Q&A sessions, and virtual meetups where members can interact with you directly. These events provide opportunities for real-time engagement and help build a stronger community bond.

By humanizing yourself and showing that you are not just a faceless entity but a real person with a genuine interest in the community, you can foster a more engaging and supportive environment. This approach not only enhances member satisfaction but also encourages greater participation and loyalty.


4. Recognize and reward your community members 

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. 

Community gamification can play a significant role in this process. By incorporating elements such as badges, leaderboards, and points, you can create a fun and engaging environment that encourages participation.

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.

Additionally, consider adding community widgets and integrations that enhance recognition efforts. For example, our Highground Kazoo integration for Jive displays a stream of recognition content, including the giver's name, recipient's name, recognition type, icon, message, and date. Incorporating such tools into your customer community or social intranet can help to highlight achievements and significantly boost engagement among members.


5. 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. 

To facilitate this type of engagement, create dedicated spaces or forums where members can ask questions, share insights, and collaborate on topics of interest. Encourage members to share their success stories and lessons learned, as this can inspire and motivate others in the community.

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 questions and demonstrate to external members that other employees, besides the community manager, care about them and their issues. Identify these experts within your organization and invite them to contribute their knowledge and insights to relevant community discussions. Schedule regular "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) sessions with key team members, including executives, to give community members direct access to decision-makers and thought leaders. Bonus points if you can get some of your top executives to participate!

By encouraging authentic peer-to-peer engagement and promoting internal involvement, you can create a community that not only provides value to its members but also strengthens the bond between your brand and its customers. When members see that the entire organization is committed to supporting and engaging with them, it builds trust and loyalty. Remember, a thriving community is one where every member, both internal and external, feels heard, valued, and supported.


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.

Ready to Increase Community Engagement Online?

It takes time and effort to create a highly engaged community, but it is well worth the investment. Find out how our community engagement marketing strategies can help. 

Social Edge Consulting offers a range of online community consulting and professional services, including community strategy, governance, ideation, gamification, change management, and quality assurance. Our experts will work with you to develop and implement effective community engagement techniques that align with your business goals, enhance user participation, and drive ROI.

Book a demo today to explore how we can help you engage with your community and achieve your goals.

This post was updated on 05/27/2024 and originally posted 03/20/2018.