You did a good thing. You created content that earned you a new member into your online community.
So, what’s next?
Plenty. You’ve got to keep them once you get them. Nurturing your online community takes many forms and requires a continuous time investment on your part to ensure your community members’ voices are being heard and they get what they want.
Start with observing and listening to them.
Watch what they like and don’t like, what they are passionate about, what they are sharing, other actions they take, etc. Listen to their comments to you and others. This is the research you must conduct to ensure they are happy campers. And it is much easier for a happy camper to be your brand advocate and spread good news about you.
Next, engage with them.
This includes responding to their comments/questions on a timely basis (try to respond within 12 hours, but definitely respond within 24 hours), asking questions, soliciting their participation in surveys, etc. Another thought is when you curate content, annotate it with thought-provoking questions to your community. Make sure to keep comments open on your blog posts. If you do decide to moderate your comments, post the comment as quickly as possible. Also, consider incentives to engage your audience. This will require some testing to determine which incentives hold more value for your community.
Next, keep the great content flowing.
You know the content they liked that got them to join your community. However, remember that peoples’ likes and dislikes evolve over time so you still need to understand what they want. Review your analytics to see what is/isn’t working. Now, continue to create and curate that great content. Remember to have the right mix of created and curated content. It will take testing on your part to find the sweet spot of the created/curated content combination that is best for your online community.
Now add some color to your content. Consider featuring a community member of the week. Provide exclusive content to your online community. (This also serves as a means to get more folks to be community members – people seem to like exclusives!) Throw in a controversial, but relevant, topic in every now and again to see what your community thinks about it. Ask for comments to a question, then post peoples’ comments about that question in a separate blog post. (People love to see their name in print!)
Reward them for their loyalty.
Consider running contests. Make sure your contests are relevant and prizes are of value to your community. Then, don’t forget to publicly recognize the winners. How about rewarding your community members for their loyalty? Consider rewards for most online reviews of your site, who brought in the most members to your community over a specified period, and other ideas.
Encourage user-generated content.
Encourage your community to provide their own content through guest posts, as a comment to a post, and other ways. Also encourage community members to share information that is relevant and that they have found useful. Don’t forget to recognize community members for doing so.
What tips do you have for nurturing your online community that work best for you?