The Engagement Playbook of the Future: Strategies for Sticky Communities

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, The Engagement Playbook of the Future: Strategies for Sticky Communities. The summary for this episode is: <p>This week’s episode is all about data! You’ll hear from Higher Logic Community Manager’s Emily Stamm, Annie Moncure, Sara Maloney, and Shannon Emery. Our experts talk to us about their engagement strategies to identify patterns within their community, and how to improve the members overall experience to ensure they are coming back. Listen now to hear these women write the engagement playbook of the future!</p>
Community Problem Solving
00:32 MIN
Automation Rules
00:17 MIN
Behavior Change
00:19 MIN
Update Your Profile
00:23 MIN
Elements of the Profile
00:30 MIN
Tactful Needs
00:32 MIN
Be Patient to See the Change
00:35 MIN
Content is a Form of Language
00:15 MIN

Alex Mastriani : Welcome to the member engagement show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members, and deepen member involvement.

Heather McNair: Throughout our show we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex Mastriani : I'm Alex Mastriani, and we're happy you're here.

Heather McNair: Hey, how are you doing?

Alex Mastriani : I'm doing well. How about yourself?

Heather McNair: I'm doing well. I'm really excited about today's episode. It is talking about one of my favorite subjects. We're diving into some data. We're looking at engagement strategies and how some communities are more successful than others. I've had the opportunity to dig into some of the data with a couple of my colleagues. At this point we have data on well over a thousand community clients, 12 years of data now. We've been able to identify some patterns, about what makes members come back to communities, why some are more successful than others, and really dive into that.

Alex Mastriani : Yeah. One thing that we always hear from customers is, what is everybody else doing that's so successful? Or what should I be doing? How do I know if it's working? Who do I need to copy? What do I need to employ to get the results that they're getting?

Heather McNair: We've gathered up a group of our own community managers, the people we have on staff, who run communities for our customers. They're going to share some of their best practices, the things that they've done on communities and talk about what we're doing, what's working for us.

Alex Mastriani : Today, we are joined by Emily Stamm, Annie Moncure, Sara Maloney, and Shannon Emery, who are all Community Managers here at Higher Logic.

Heather McNair: With that, I am turning it over to the lovely Annie Moncure.

Annie Moncure: Thanks Heather. Today. I want to talk about just a quick use case that I had in actually one of my corporate clients. I do think that it's relevant to all communities. It's talking about motivating and modeling user behavior. A lot of times when a community member gets into the community, they get used to looking for solutions one way, when there's a lot of times, multiple ways to find the solution they're looking for in the community. Whether it's posting, when they should be looking at library resources, or vice versa, or more likely, emailing the Community Manager directly, when really they should be posting a discussion in the community. There are certain ways that people get into habits of finding an answer. Wat we were finding, my example, was, the problem was that there were a lot of people using ideation first, when we really wanted them to post. We need to figure out how to change that user behavior. The main problem was that, users were utilizing a particular feature in the community, but not the additional desired features, or we actually wanted them to go first. We love having their ideas in the ideation area, but we really wanted them to be able to solve their own problems quickly, by reaching out to other members, other users, and getting ideas from them on either work arounds, or ways to solve for the problem, instead of just waiting for the product team to actually fix their problem in the product, because we know that that can take, take a little while. Our ideal pattern in the community, was that they would post in the community, and then if they didn't find a workaround or didn't find a way to solve their problem, then they would post an idea. What we were finding is that they were posting the idea first and they were forgetting to post a discussion and then maybe not finding the answer to a problem that they could have. What we decided to do for this session, was we created automation rules to redirect users to the desired behavior, and show them that this is actually going to solve their problem for them, probably quicker, if not better than the way that they were originally intending. Our criteria for the automation role was anyone that had posted an idea, but had never posted to the open forum. We were really targeting those people that were maybe repeating the same action without getting the intended solution that they wanted. Our message, which I think is really important, our message was very driven to what's in it for the user. We made it very clear." Thank you for your idea. In the meantime, don't forget that other people can help you. Don't forget to post a discussion. You might get an answer faster than you would an ideation." We really wanted to focus on thinking, what are they getting out of taking this action? We don't want to be requesting for them to do something additional. We really want them to be able to solve their own problem. What we noticed in the outcome, is that the email actually had a 20% conversion rate of behavior change. Which 20% is really big for such a big ask of posting a brand new discussion thread for the first time. It was people that had posted ideas, are familiar with the community, but had never posted in the open forum at all, and we had 20% conversion rate of people posting their question in the community. That was a really huge win for us. The bigger win was that users are actually getting their questions answered. They were getting a quicker response than what they were getting an ideation and they were hopefully able to get their ideal outcome in that way, through the discussions. Overall, it really helped us model behavior in our community. We noticed that people that were first time posters, via this automation rules, have come back and posted again. Our main takeaway is, people are going to one action, one area, and you want to really remodel behavior, just make sure that you're automating as much as possible, but also make sure that you're continuing to focus on what's in it for the user. And how do we make our, our statement clear of, we want you to redirect this behavior, because we want you to get a better outcome. And with that, I will pass it on to Emily.

Emily Stamm: All right. Perfect. Thanks Annie. Today, I'm going to be sharing a successful profile update push that I did with one of my organizations, the American Staffing Association. But before I present the findings of there, I did want to talk a little bit about the lessons I've learned by doing things like that and having success and actually thinking about what the profile is. When we see this, I'm sure this looks familiar to many of you. The empty, very bare bones profile completion. When we see profiles like this, I think that our brains start to react. We typically associate empty profiles with disengaged members or someone that has a full profile with them being really engaged. But is that actually what it needs? How I've been trying to think about profiles and getting people to update is, how can we approach it in a different way? When you think about automations that you might have used to try to push people to this point. You have to get them to complete their profile. You've probably used some of those best practice ones, which are great that say," Someone's made a post. Let's send them an email and say, Hey, upload your profile picture." That's an awesome tactic. But one thing that we don't really think about behind that out of the box role, that's really effective, is that there's a component of that, is that they've already engaged with you. There's something called progressive profiling. Progressive profiling, you start to think about, they've engaged with me. This is a perfect opportunity for me to ask them something. What about those people that aren't doing anything yet? They have a blank profile. How can you encourage them to make these updates? I want you to look at this profile. I have my profile, but what does it actually mean? I want you to look at it from the lens of, how can we make this profile meaningful and actionable for my organization, as well as meaningful for my member? When you look at the right side, you see that the bio, I translated that. That's my story that I want to tell you. The products I use, that's why I'm associated with you. That's why I am on Hot. Those are the things that brought me to you. Then you start to move down into some of the more emotional needs that I have. I want to share with you my expertise. Taking that around for your organization thinking," Okay, someone shared that with me. I want to make that actionable." There's lots of little elements of the profile that we don't often think about, because we're so focused on completion. We want those complete profiles, but what does that completion actually do for the member and what does it do for us? Taking that view and saying, how can we get them to actually take the action and know why? I put together this little graphic, the five W's. The who, what, where, when, why. I thought about back to middle school English, when we had to fill out these kinds of charts. When you're thinking about your profile creation from the very beginning, or even if you're in a mature community, thinking about how you can get people to fill out fields. Think about it in the framework of, who do I want to make these updates? What do I want them to do? What does that call to action? Where are they going to make that update? Again, thinking about where they're going to access the different data to update, as well as, how are they going to do it? It's really important when we communicate and ask someone to do something, that we give them explicit directions. When is there a better time to target people, to make these updates? When they're more engaged or that there's something coming up that they can look forward to based on the insights that you're gathering? But then the biggest part is the why. Why are you asking them to update this field? Why is your organization actually including that field in their profile? Why does it matter? For you, why are you asking them to do it? How is an actual for you? Why should the member take the action? How will it benefit them? It's really important to have both those factors. This strategic approach of building profile, building community identities. Now let's go to the how. How can you get this done? You have the tools. If you have an online community or you have the communication solutions with Higher Logic, or you have both, you can leverage what you already have. Using automational emails, setting up different view permission. We're thinking about how you're bringing value based on what they tell you. Personalization, it's really important. Now people expect it. Use the insights you're gathering in the profile to say," If you update this, you'll get a more personalized experience." Thinking about that end goal. Make it fun, add some points to it. Communicate them to the progress. How far are they from the full completion? For some members that's really important and it's something that they connect with. Again, thinking about the emotional needs of your members beyond just their tactical needs as well. Communication solutions. Use your campaigns, hit people at the right time, target them the right way, based on what they are doing or not doing. Think about how you can personalize their emails. Think about how you can present information you already have about them, and have them confirm it or update it. As well as, how are you going to gather it and make it super easy for them to make that update? Thinking about all the tools and people, and the awesome resources that you have, is really important. I did want to share a success story, but there's also one other thing that I want to bring forward. When you think about a profile, when you see an empty one, it doesn't always mean that person is disengaged, but it probably means that they might not be fully accessing this as a full benefit. I'm going to show you what American Staffing Association did and how they combined all the resources they had and how we use some of those little elements that I just talked about. They have, on the left of the personalized email, they created a marketing automation or a communications email. They use information they already had and inserted it into a field in the email that was sent to the individual. It's a personalization. The other factor is if it's not there, they know they have to update it. The next things we did is we combined the community with the marketing efforts. We've made a discussion post that included benefits. Three top benefits. If you update these specific fields, what are you getting in return? Then we did one other thing, which was, we did a automational email from the community manager. Again, automational emails, very personal touch that asked them, do you need additional assistance on making this update? Then we also linked back to the post that we made that gave them the benefits again. All of the efforts that we did, worked together, and they actually created resources that we can also repurpose. The result was over 1200 members updated their profile within a month. If you have experienced with reaching out to members and trying to get them to update their profile, it's like pulling teeth. A lot of times it's just because, why am I doing this? Some of my takeaways from this is the community profile, it can benefit the member and the organization. I want you to, when you do this, think about how. Consider your members tactful needs and emotional needs and provide the why. Why are they associating with your organization? What tools do you have that they want to access? But also, why are they part of a community? What are they trying to find? They're trying to network, sense of belonging, show that they're an expert in something. The other thing is, think about the story you want to tell. As I said in my profile example, that's just my story, my bio. The whole thing is a story. The story that your member wants to tell others, as well as the story that you want to tell your organization. The profile can do all of that. We use this field to do this action, and this is the outcome. You can really bring it full circle to tell that story. Then data, data, data. Profile fields lead to more data, so use that data of what people are doing and use it in a meaningful and actionable way that will help your members get whatever they're looking for, as well as helping your organization have an understanding of how your strategic initiatives are performing. With that, I'm going to pass it over to Sara Maloney, to talk about some member spotlights.

Sara Maloney: Hi everyone. My name is Sara Maloney, and I'm a Senior Online Community Manager on the Strategic Services team. As Emily said, with regards to member spotlights, today I'm going to talk to you about using data to improve the user experience and help members achieve their goals faster. One of my clients Aim, they had a community for about 18 months before they decided to start working with the Strategic Services Team here. When they came on to Strategic Services, we decided to do an audit of their community. Specifically, one thing that stuck out was in the search terms report. We noticed that the term'member spotlight' had been searched 61 times in the last 18 months, and it was the fifth most search term. They're a fairly small community, so that was pretty significant to them. This told us that, A: people wanted to find member spotlights and B: they didn't quite know how to. In order to address this issue and give the users a better experience, we decided to address four key areas. The first one being the library and navigation. We decided to take a really easy action and make a library folder for all of the members spotlights. That way, if someone was looking for the member spotlights, whether it was the current one or past ones, they could go to one place to find them all. This also allowed us to be able to link to the member spotlights if we wanted to in an automation role or something like that. Then secondly, we inserted the member spotlight blogs into the site navigation. Right under where you would go to find a member through the Member Directory, we added a tab where you could also see the member spotlights, because that felt like a pretty intuitive place. The second thing that we did, which might seem obvious, is we made a member spotlight tag. We did this in order to be able to tag every blog post and every library entry with that member spotlight tag. That way, if anyone was still using that search bar to find member spotlights, they didn't quite know the changes that we had made yet, they would pretty easily be able to look at a search results page and see what was tagged with that member spotlight tag, and help make it easier for them. The big goal of this was really to make it easier and faster for members to find what they need. As I'm sure you all are already aware, if members come to the community and they can't find what they need, they're not going to come back. We needed to make the community stickier and really make it easy for them to use and find what they were looking for. The third thing that we did, was we created a featured member ribbon for anyone who we had published a member spotlight on. This was a nice reward for them. I'm sure we all have members who say that they'd rather not be featured. They don't even want to put up a profile picture. We wanted to reward these people for letting us spotlight them and give them that extra bit of attention. Additionally, ribbons made it easier to pull lists of featured members. Previously, the Community Manager for this community, didn't have a way to easily pull a list of everyone that she had featured in the past. Using list builder, she's now easily able to pull a list of everyone with the featured member ribbon, and then even possibly reach out to them again for future volunteer opportunities. It's going to be easier to get someone to volunteer, to maybe be a community admin for a special interest group, or even be a seed question plant for us. It's going to be easier to get them to do something, since we've already given them a little bit of attention and a reward. My last piece of advice would be, to stay the course and track results. Anything that was working well already, we didn't touch. For example, they already had a really good grasp on promoting their member spotlights. They would put a big banner on their homepage, so that was already really good and we didn't need to change that. The other thing that we did was, we made sure to track results over time. It's very tempting to look at your metrics and see what changed month over month and say," We need to make a change right now because of that." But in reality, you need to give it some time in order to see the change that's made. You can see, as I said earlier, member spotlight went from being the fifth most searched term from January 2018 to July 2019, to being the 32nd most search term in the span of August 2019 to April 2020. If you do a little bit of math, if we hadn't made any of those changes, theoretically, we would have expected to see that member spotlight search term searched over 30 times, instead of the 12 that it was. We decrease those search results by about 150%. My key takeaways for this portion are make sure that you're using data to listen to your members, even when they aren't speaking. They don't always know what to ask for if they don't know what's possible. Definitely take a look at that search terms report on a regular basis. That's one of my favorites, and I think it's one of a lot of people's favorites. Secondly, the community should be easy to use and help your members automate tasks. Like I said before, if it's not easy to use, they're not going to use it. Similarly, we want to make the community easier for your staff to use too, or your stakeholders, or any super admins. That's the thing with community strategies, is I think that people think of these tactics to implement, as things that are going to be a ton on their plate. When in reality, the best ones are the ones that we can set up and automate and not have to put a lot of work in later. Lastly, tracking results can take time. Keep that in mind, as you are looking to see if your tactics had worked. If we had tracked our results a month or two after we implemented all of these things, we probably wouldn't have seen a big difference. With that, I will go ahead and pass it over to Shannon.

Shannon Emery: Thank you, Sara. Hey everybody. If you haven't been around in HUG, I am the HUG Community Manager, as well as Higher Logic's Internal Community Manager. Today, I'm actually going to talk to you about the importance of language, using words that resonate with your audience. Let's get started. With any community, you want to be able to see yourself in that community. There's a reason you joined it. It's that first association, especially, you're centering around a common trait, such as, what you do for a living, so on and so forth. If you're not greeted or see yourself in that community, it becomes difficult to become part of that community from day one I'm going to share an example today from the Society of Automotive Engineers. This was all about the welcome email. This was obviously an engineering groups, so they're much more to the point, a little tactical. Often times in community, we want to share more of what is a softer language. What they did, is they did some AB tracking on their welcome to the community message, as well as upload a profile picture. Something to note about this community, it's an international community. There were language barriers that you may not encounter at your organization, but that they were encountering. When they said things like" onboarding," some of their members interpreted as onboarding onto a ship, versus onboarding into the community as we might use it here in the United States. They said," Okay, well, we might need to change this." They were able to create two versions and you can do this easily in the platform, version A and version B. Which version A was more conversational, casual, and version B was very simple, clear with less, what we call, personality. It'd be like taking a little Shannon out of your welcome message, but invoking your community members voice. What they saw is actually version B, which was much more clear and to the point, saw a conversion rate of 3%, versus 1. 5% on the welcome message. And they were managing to get 8. 3% of those members to upload profile pictures, which, if you were listening to Emily earlier, is important because that shows how engaged they are. By being able to finesse that language and being able to really understand who their members were, what did they look like? What did they expect when they came into the community? They saw better conversion rates. Make sure you're speaking the language of your members, to make sure they stick around and come back. If I see myself in your community, I'm coming back. They can identify with their community and find the value as they continue to explore and interact. The next step is, and don't worry, nobody has to move slides. I did a little experimenting on HUG this year, because HUG is my community. Recently, I changed a button. There's a button on discussions, or libraries, and things like that, from recommend, which is our standard out of the box, to like, to see if this would change and create a lower barrier of engagement. We all know the great engagement curve. It says you can build muscle memories and those actions in the community, one of those is simply liking. Like a cell phone is to social media and is easily recognizable. Recommending something, as we all know, even if it's a discussion post, is different. I may need to have more knowledge to recommend something. It's kind of like going to Google or Yelp and saying," I recommend this company." You want to have that experience, whereas likings lends itself more to a casual," I get that. I relate to that a little bit differently." I decided to change that up a little bit. Now, HUG has likes on it. Year over year, we've actually seen a 28% increase in likes, which is a lower engagement level, versus recommends. This allows me to understand, what are they engaging with, because they didn't have to feel like they needed to recommend it, as well as, it's building that muscle memory. They're doing that click. What else do I need to do to get those members going up that engagement curve? It says, it's no longer a recommendation, but a like, so that's a lower investment for our members. As they start to like more content, they fill that habit that I'm looking for and they keep coming back. Just like our searches, most liked content can also help your organization understand what's important to your members in a longer term. What's getting their attention? What can you do to maybe focus conversations around that topic and ensure that they are sticky? I'm going to try to use sticky a lot too. A simple change can truly tell you so much and combined with some of the other tactics, you can really understand, what are your members looking for or doing to engage, without them even speaking to you. It's kind of awesome. Finally, engaging content. I know, right? That's like the epitome for every community. We want the good content to keep people coming back. As time goes on, there's a lot of content out there that's no longer, maybe resonating as well, but in your community, because you want your members to come back, you want them to have engaging content. That's driving the value of the community. Language is important, but content is a form of language. Each of us learns in a different way. That way, if you're able to provide content that will engage your members in different ways, they'll be able to come back and learn, how they want to learn. An example here, just like many organizations, we've removed all remote work at Higher Logic. We now rely on our internal community called the O. C., a little tongue in cheek there for you, to communicate and connect with one another, since we're no longer in the office. Our CEO, Kevin Boyce said," I want to do something where our employees hear from us every week, getting updates and things like that." He decided to do a weekly update. He's gotten it down to a science by this point. They are less than 10 minutes long. They're very engaging. They cover specific topics. He's very clear in his post as well. But, just as with anything that you've heard on here, we needed to look at the data. What I did, is I dug down, and this took a little time, but we looked at how many more post views were Kevin's updates getting, previous over the other discussions in our main community? Over 70% more post views were found on Kevin's weekly update video. That was because he also provided a PDF, as well as an agenda within the discussion. If you didn't want to watch the video, that's cool. You can still get the information that you need. What I always tell people is, video may not be just the answer. You should also know that, like I said, he includes an agenda, a PDF, or PowerPoint in the video. He's catering to different types of learners here at Higher Logic, different ways of consuming that information, and knowing his employees may have a preference to consume those updates. We're going to continue tracking those post views, because I'm sure he'll ask me at some point, along with other metrics to tweak its delivery, as we move forward. The cool thing is, now other executives on our teams are doing that as well. Our CX leader, Jay Nathan, is now doing that for his group as well. Finally, we learned within these different video posts, that a personalized touch to his videos, made a difference. Someone who's in a CEO position, at an executive level, can seem a little just out of reach to all of our different employees. What we notice was any time that Kevin's dog Hazel, and he's going to be mad that we talk about Hazel a lot here, made an appearance. There are actually more replies to his post. Yes. Some of them were like," Hey, you should bring on Hazel more." They weren't so significant that we just don't have Hazel do all the updates herself, but it was enough to see a small upward tick. We know that sharing, being more personable, can actually help you create that stickiness within your community. Don't let the dog do it all, but it was enough to show that we're able to connect at a different level. Always remember to look at your content and how it's being consumed, to help your members remain sticky.

Heather McNair: All right, thanks so much. Shannon, Emily, Annie, Sarah. Those were really fantastic tips. I think you've shared some great ideas, that are really going to help people out, as they go into planning for 2021. Hopefully we'll be returning to a lot of in- person, face- to- face, but I don't think we're going to go away from this influx to online engagement anytime soon. I think some of these tips and tricks that the team shared today are really going to come in handy.

Alex Mastriani : Definitely. I think there was a lot of interesting ideas and tests and observations that came out of this. Hopefully something that you can walk away with, be inspired by, to take and try out at your organization. Thank you so much, everyone for joining us today, and we will see you all on the next episode.


This week’s episode is all about data! You’ll hear from Higher Logic Community Manager’s Emily Stamm, Annie Moncure, Sara Maloney, and Shannon Emery. Our experts talk to us about their engagement strategies to identify patterns within their community, and how to improve the members overall experience to ensure they are coming back. Listen now to hear these women write the engagement playbook of the future!

Today's Host

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Beth Arritt

|Association Evangelist

Today's Guests

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Annie Moncure

|Team Lead
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Emily Stamm

|Sales Engineer
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Shannon Emery

|Community Manager
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Sara Maloney

|Team Lead, Strategic Services