15 Community engagement strategies (that really work!)

Community has been a hot topic for years now. But are you sure you really know what community building is about?
What you’re going to learn:
  • What is a community engagement strategy?
  • The principles of community engagement strategies
  • The benefits of community engagement
  • 15 successful community engagement strategies
If a company wants to thrive, it must constantly engage its community of customers, users, partners, and investors. While some organisations hope that after an initial push, members will naturally engage with one another, this rarely occurs. That is why investing in community engagement strategies is of vital importance.

What is a community engagement strategy?

There could be as many definitions as there are people attempting to define it. A community engagement strategy, in its most basic form, is a step-by-step plan that outlines how to better engage a business's community of customers, users, prospects, partners, or investors. While being firmly rooted in "participatory development practices", it could be compared to "brand engagement" in the commercial world. 
Different professions, organisations, industries, or business units within the same company will have different definitions perceptions of "community engagement." However, all share the same goals: achieve long-term and sustainable implementation, decision-making, discourse, relationships, processes, or outcomes. And for that, it must include strategies and processes that are sensitive to the community context in which it occurs.

The principles of community engagement strategies

There are several identified core principles of community engagement strategies that can be listed:
  • Action and impact
  • Transparency and trust
  • Learning and openness
  • Collaboration and a common goal
  • Demographic diversity and inclusion
  • Adequate inclusive planning and preparation
  • Persistent engagement and a participatory culture.

The benefits of community engagement (Why community engagement matters?)

Community engagement makes your community members feel involved and recognized. Members of an organisation consider themselves "engaged" when they actively participate in the day-to-day operations of their company, whether through project implementation, decision-making, or discussions and deliberations. But it does not end there. Here are a few examples of key community engagement benefits that are frequently mentioned:
  • Increase organisational members' confidence;
  • Empower and integrate members from diverse backgrounds;
  • Improve the chances that projects/programs will be commonly validated;
  • Create more efficient solutions by leveraging local knowledge from a diverse group of people.
  • Build local and, why not, international community member networks.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for issues to be discussed before they become too large or out of control.
  • Provide members with the opportunity to hone their problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and communications skills.

15 successful community engagement strategies

No organisation can be successful unless its entire community shares the same vision and acts in the best interests of its members. As a result, the community engagement strategy should focus on the following:
  • Increasing community engagement in each effort;
  • Inspiring community members to believe in a shared vision;
  • Establishing community trust by demonstrating how your organisation can help.
The following community engagement strategies are in line with these objectives:
  • Start each interaction with a friendly greeting. It only takes a few words of encouragement and guidance to make them feel at home and let them know they are in the right place, with the right people. An automated email can do the thing;
  • Be receptive. It's all about communication, and your team looks to you to set the tone. It is not sufficient to initiate a conversation without waiting for an answer. Respond to comments with additional questions, feedback, and observations, and consider tagging members who may be interested;
  • Engage your community members by giving them the confidence and tools they need to express themselves. Warm welcomes can help members form early connections, but it doesn't have to stop there. Experimenting with social media is an interesting way of providing the members of your community with the tools they lack to express themselves.
The below online community engagement strategies are designed with the members of your community in mind:
  • Migrate from public social media to your own private online community. While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great places to start, you can build more rewarding and deeper connections on your own purpose-built platform;
  • Provide members with a reason to spend time on their profile. Serving as their passport, it will make it easier for members to engage with each other.
  • Develop stronger bonds with sub-groups. If you notice patterns in what your members do and say, you can adjust your community engagement strategy accordingly. This typically leads to more in-depth discussions and connections, demonstrating that you understand what your members want;
  • Identify your unengaged members and encourage them to participate more. It is another excellent strategy for community engagement;
  • Include eye candy wherever possible. The value of a picture on the internet isn't just that it can tell a thousand words; it also captures attention better than anything else. Simply attaching an appropriate image or GIF can do wonders;
  • Make being an engaged member of your community meaningful and enjoyable. Avoid making your spaces feel like a boring advertisement. Instead, prioritize unique, engaging, and exclusive content and conversations. When you allow your community members to be themselves, they tend to have more fun.
Here's how to engage members of your community:
  • Request feedback. Do you have an idea for a new product? Do you want to enhance your customer service? Solicit input from your community. Are you stuck for ideas for your next piece of content? Ask for feedback! Use the information your members have shared to foster trust and loyalty;
  • Fill-in-the-blank questions. You can use this format to ask members of your community about their opinions and other topics;
  • This or that posts. They can be likened to fill-in-the-blank questions. In this case, you would ask your members to see if they prefer option A or B. Both of these community engagement strategies can be great engagement drivers in and of themselves, as people debate why one option is better than the other;
  • Gamify community engagement. Gamification is the process of transforming dull content into something more playful, interactive, and stimulating by appealing to the emotions and psychology of your community members;
  • Run competitions. It works well to boost collaboration. You could propose as a weekly prize or award badges;
  • Maintain community trust and order by moderating firmly but fairly. Winning the interest of your community entails more than just inviting them to participate. You must also set expectations for how they should behave if a discussion becomes too heated, as well as where to draw the line in terms of appropriate content.
Bonus: Covid community engagement strategies
  • Because of the pandemic, online communities are more important than ever. Colleagues, investors, and business partners who used to meet in person are now meeting virtually. Similarly, some of your community members who used to attend meetups to discuss common interests with others must now rely on online groups. Make these new members feel welcome, and they may decide to stay as active members once their offline social life returns to normal.
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