Our clients often ask us about the best ways to encourage engagement across their groups, so we thought we'd summarise our advice in a practical, handy list.
The way you launch and pitch new tech makes a big difference
How you introduce the tech that you want your group to use contributes to how well they adopt it. If you sound excited about it, and sell in the benefits, they'll be more likely to get on board with it. Hosts often introduce Guild by email, but some of the most engaged groups are (also) on-boarded in-person at an event. Feel free to contact us if you'd like help with any brand copy – although we've found that the most success comes from the host's own words.
Embed reminders in all your comms
A one-off email or announcement at an event may drive some adoption but ideally you should embed reminders about your group/community across all your communications: remind people at your events, in your email newsletters, in email signatures, at face to face meetings, in onboarding or renewal discussions, in marketing collateral, in social bios etc.
FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a powerful motivator
Once you have a nascent community with some valuable activity taking place (e.g. some interesting content shares, some questions helpfully answered etc.) then you can let others know what they're missing. Let them know who is already in the group, possibly show a screenshot of some valuable content/conversations happening, and they will soon want to join so as not to miss out.
Customise the branding of your group(s)
One of Guild's unique features is that you can customise the branding per group. Via the Web Admin, all Account Admins can change the logo at the top to their logo and customise the header image to reflect their brand. This makes the group environment feel more special, more premium, less vanilla, and encourage members to want to be seen, to make an effort to make their profiles also look their best.
Make each new member feel welcome
As the host it is up to you to lead by example. The moment a new member joins, send them a direct message to welcome them personally and also post a welcome message to the group to introduce them. Speak about what they do, or if it's relevant, what they are bringing to your community – encourage them to talk, and similarly, suggest that existing members ask questions of them.
This is also a good time to suggest to them to fill in further details in their profile e.g. links to their company site, their LinkedIn profile etc. You can suggest they look at any featured content from the group's conversation archives so they get immediate conent value.
You should also @mention them by name for a personal touch and so they get a notification too. If you send them both a DM and @mention them in a group message it also helps 'train' them in how Guild works with direct messages, group messages and features like @mention.
Vary message content
You can post different types of content e.g.
- Welcome messages (see previous point)
- Links to interesting content/news
- Links to register for events/webinars that you are running
- Links to surveys or polls you are doing
- File attachments with content you have produced (white papers, research, presentations, spreadsheets etc)
- Links to documents the group can collaborate on e.g. Google Docs/Sheets, Dropbox, OneDrive etc.
- Updates/reminders about what members can do in Guild that they might not be aware of compared to WhatsApp etc. For example, updating their professional profile with links, being able to see info on who has read messages for all messages, being able to edit/delete their messages forever, being able to search archives and profiles, the ability to see host-featured content from the group etc.
Don't panic! It's about quality rather than quantity
We recently conducted research into what the optimum number of host-generated posts per month might be, which we found was two posts per week. Try to make sure that you are posting quality rather than quantity, or your members will feel spammed. Ask them questions in your posts and try to get everyone involved. Consistency is more important than frequency.
Feature content for immediate value
Upon entry, your members will be exploring everything that your group has to offer. Make sure you put your most valuable content right at the fore, by using the "pinned" or "featured" content capability in Guild. That way, it will be the first thing they see – along with your welcome message - and get immediate value from being part of the group.
Set a fun, informal tone if you can
Set the tone from the very beginning that you'd like your community to adopt. If you don't want it to feel too formal, use an informal tone and/or smileys to make people feel comfortable. The more comfortable and welcome they feel within your group, the more they will post their own content and encourage interaction across the group.
Let group members talk about what they're doing too
Don't be afraid to let your group members discuss what they're doing – not all self promotion is selling. As soon as members find commonalities between each other, they're that bit more likely to turn up to your in-person meetings, and find the group valuable. Encourage some old-fashioned networking practices.
Applaud efforts by members
As soon as your members start posting their own messages, make sure you're there to support them. Hit the applaud react button on their messages to show them you're there and listening.
Have guidelines? Be seen to stick to them
Does your community have guidelines? Then stick to them. Members will start to lose trust in what you're doing if you expressly forbid members selling their products, whilst you spend time doing that yourself. If you control who gets added to your group, make sure you follow the same rules. After all, engagement increases when hosts lead by example. Spend some time cultivating that respect that your community should have for you.
Interviews with group members
Conduct mini interviews with some of your group members, either within the group or separately and link to them. Make sure to get permission from the individual to publish it on your company blog, and share it widely across the group. Getting individuals to have a dialogue with the content you share will make them that bit more likely to engage with each other, too.
All job titles are equal when posting... or are they?
Make sure all of your members feel that it is worth their time to post in your group. That includes all cross sections of the industry, whether they are at the beginning of their career or the end. Sometimes when senior executives post, junior executives become nervous to post – so make sure you're encouraging all members to feel welcome.
Remove inactive members of your group
If someone isn't contributing to your group, don't be scared to remove them. Find this awkward? Send them a quick DM to check if they are getting value out of being a silent member of your group, and take it from there. If they claim to be getting value despite their passive status, then encourage them to become an active contributor – win-win. Make sure your group has a steady flow of new entrants to keep the group feeling fresh, dynamic and current. Guild's engagement analytics (in the Admin section) gives you detailed insights into who is engaging and who is not.
How did your group come about? Let people know
This is often a much over-looked and under-rated fact about your group which members will often not know if they are new to the group – especially if you've been running something for several years. Consider writing this up in a blog post, and pin it to the top of your group. You can even explain it at the beginning of in-person meetings, or include it in your member email newsletter. The roots of a group can often re-inspire members to contribute positively as they feel they are part of a bigger, often more meaningful, whole.
Ask for feedback
Worried about whether the content you're posting is striking the right tone? Make sure to consistently ask for feedback. You don't even need to ask the whole group every time – remember that on Guild you can DM people completely privately. Don't be afraid to say "What did you think of when I posted ______?" You might not always get positive feedback – but remember every bit of constructive criticism inspires learning.
Rotate group host status to mix things up
You can reassign host status to any member of the group, so if you feel that this might keep things fresh in your group, you can use this to invigorate things. Ask your members if they'd like to act as a guest chair, host, or interviewer for a few days – let them have fun with it. A great feature if you're going on holiday!
Invite in temporary special guests
Just like you'd invite a speaker, or expert, to a real world event, you can invite someone into your group on a temporary basis. Just remove them after a week or whatever time period is right. You could invite in a specialist who can answer group members' questions. Or a keynote speaker. Or researcher, acadmic, author, trade association, journalist, analyst, even a politician?! This really helps liven up the group.
Find and nurture your ambassadors
The more you can make your group members feel as if they have a stake in your group, the better. Aim to have 10 true group ambassadors that will help you spread the word, and help get more people involved. Successful online communities are made up of members who feel that they can contribute when they want to, so do your utmost to ensure that organic usage is at the forefront of your strategy. The more self-sustaining your group is, the less you have to worry about consistently coming up with exciting new content, and your ambassadors will help you defend your policies.
Create group traditions
Successful communities have their own 'rituals' or 'codes' that are known to the group and make it distinctive. Are there ideas you can come up with that might seem idiosyncratic or quirky but differentiate your group and build emotional bonds to it? Does your group need to present pitches? Host a #pitchFriday thread. Does your group propose new members into the group? Start an #introMonday thread. Other ideas include #helpWednesday, #throwbackThursday, #marketplaceMonday, #casualFriday, #thankfulThursday – and so on.
It can take months for a group to 'warm up'
It takes time for all groups to warm up to each other – both in-person and through tech – as that is what is natural for humans. Even your quieter members are likely gaining value from merely being connected with the other members – the DM count in your admin panel will show you this. Don't be disheartened if it takes a few months for your group to gain that momentum, and keep up the good work.
Make a hard switch from other messaging apps (like WhatsApp)
It is usually easier for your users to have just one messaging app to use for your group, network or community. In some cases Guild is used alongside the likes of WhatsApp where the latter is just used for 'off the record social' chat. Engagement on Guild is typically best when a group starts with Guild rather than running parallel groups on WhatsApp and Guild as users aren't then always clear which to use for what. Increasingly we are seeing customers making a 'hard switch' to Guild and shutting down groups on consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp (for legal/compliance reasons also). Obviously this takes some decisiveness but certainly helps with engagement.
Ensure your members have the mobile app
The best thing about modern connectivity is that our phones allow us to be part of online communities like never before. In order to encourage maximum participation in your group, encourage your members to download the Guild mobile app and enable notifications. (NOTE: you can see via the engagement analytics data whether individual users have the mobile app or not so you can gently 'remind' those who don't). If users go into their app settings, they can enable or disable notifications on a group-by-group basis, or choose to receive email notifications instead.