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3 Simple Steps to Elevate New Member Engagement

3 Simple Steps to Elevate New Member Engagement

If your association struggles to engage new members, you're not alone. There are dozens of reasons new members hesitate to participate in an online community, and that makes it tough to settle on a single engagement strategy. 

But believe it or not, there is a formula for engagement, and it's as simple as Experience + Value. 

Cracking the code starts with putting yourself in your members' shoes. Here, we're helping you elevate new member engagement in 3 simple steps derived from our recent webinar with Amanda Lea Kaiser, author of Elevating Engagement: Uncommon Strategies for Creating a Thriving Member Community

What Does it Mean to be Engaged?

As a researcher, Amanda has conducted more than 477 interviews to learn what engagement really means and how people make decisions about whether or not to engage. 

In her interviews, Amanda heard from people about feelings of connection and alienation, belonging or being an outsider. She heard from consumers who had a bad experience and became detractors and those who had a good experience and became ambassadors. These insights led her to one conclusion: To engage new members effectively, you must first understand what engagement means.

As professionals who are working to drive engagement in the online communities we manage, many of us think of engagement in terms of logic; we try to quantify it and measure it. 

But members who are seeking to join communities look at engagement differently. For them, engagement is 100% about feelings and emotions. 

The truth is that engagement transcends metrics like logins and conversations. It's about feeling a sense of belonging, connection, value, support, and excitement in the community. It's about making sure members feel heard, appreciated, and inspired. Successful engagement comes from tuning into members' emotions to shape their experiences. 

How do Members Make the Decision to Engage? 

In an environment where competition for members' attention, time, and dues is fierce, it's critical to understand how they make decisions to engage. 

There are a lot of reasons members join your association. They may be looking for development, professional recognition, or opportunities to network. But the number one reason they stay is because they're seeking connection. The sense of belonging and shared purpose that community can deliver is a powerful motivator for engagement.

Community Culture Matters

Members form an impression from their very first contact with your community. Research shows that first impressions form quickly, endure for a long time, and influence future decisions. So, the saying is true: you only have one chance to create a first impression. 

Your community culture plays a big role in shaping new members' first impressions. Every online community has a culture, and new members quickly pick up on this vibe. While many factors influence your community culture, the most important thing to know is this:  members take their lead from you. 

As a community manager, moderator, or energizer (ambassador), you set an example. That means creating a positive culture starts by modeling the behaviors you want to see, which creates a virtuous cycle of positive community engagement. 

3 Simple Steps to Elevate New Member Engagement 

It's easy to begin building a positive culture in your online community. Gather your team and use this simple, 3-step process to get started.

Step 1: Ask, "How do we want people to feel?"
Members experience a range of emotions when they join a community. They may feel excited, overwhelmed, hopeful, or apprehensive. Your goal should be to make them feel welcome, supported, and ready to engage. Key touch points where these first impressions occur include emails, welcome messages, onboarding, your website, and social media. 

Step 2: List 1-3 emotions.
As you workshop with your team, identify the three most-mentioned emotions. They might be words like "welcomed," "valued," and "connected." These are now your "grounding words," and you'll use them to reverse-engineer members' first impressions and redefine the member experience.

Step 3: Use your grounding words to design a positive experience.
Remember that members take their lead from you as community leaders. Think about the behaviors you should model to create the experience you want members to have. Examples include being kind and respectful, promoting honesty and transparency, seeking member feedback, and offering mentorship and guidance. 

The Formula for Engagement

The formula for engaging new members in your online community is simple yet powerful: Experience + Value = Engagement. 

By focusing on emotions, creating a welcoming first impression, and fostering a positive culture, you can unlock the full potential of your association's online community and ensure new members feel valued, connected, and eager to participate. 

Want to dive deeper into elevating new member engagement? Click here to access the full recording of the Elevating New Member Engagement webinar with Amanda Lea Kaiser. You'll gain insights to help you transform your online community into a space where new members are eager to engage from day one. 

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