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How to make your members stick

Sun 08 Dec 2013 12:54:00 | 22 comments
One problem we hear pretty often from our customers, is that, no matter how many members they invite to their social network, the retention levels are never as high as they would like it to be and this is a common problem that many online communities face across all platforms.

Having hosted well over 300,000 social networks on our platform, experienced three of them reach and exceed 1 million members, we’ve had the exclusive privilege to see what best practices make a social network foster and build an engaged audience.  Here we want to share those useful tips with our customers. 

Basically, we’ve observed that it all comes down to the fact that there are 2 ways to create stickiness within your network:

1. Real-Life Authority
2. Content

So let me elaborate more:

Real Life Authority applies particularly well to professional and educational networks. In professional networks, where the purpose of the social network is collaboration, the founder of group, which usually happens to be the boss, manager, or director already holds a legitimate authority and the members (employees) follow the lead much more strictly than they would, say in a hobby network. This practice starts with direct force of authority and then turns into a habit, where members start enjoying the social network so much that they spread the word about the platform to other departments within their company and other companies they’re working with, resulting in the networks exponential growth.

The same magic happens inside educational networks as well. This time, the authority holder is usually the teacher who will require students to contribute content, share assignments, and announcements with their classmates. In this case students are required to participate in the network, keeping them engaged and sticking around. Although again it starts with the direct force of authority, it doesn’t take long for the students to realize the value of the network, so much as to even bring it to the attention of parents and friends.

The second and more general way of creating stickiness is simply, content, and not just any content, but good high quality content- such as funny comic strips, memes, tutorials, instructional videos, thought provoking articles or even sexy hot pornographic photos depending on the purpose of your network. The problem with content is that, at seed stage, it’s expensive/time-consuming to create it. We have already discussed that in a previous blog, along with an alternative method of how you can reduce churn by turning your members into content. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend you take a look at it first before going on.

So what you want to do there, is to kick the tires relentlessly, make your members come back by producing more and more content. I can’t tell you how critical content is to the success of any social network. But of course high quality content is not scalable, it’s a full time job and most of your create a social network in your spare times. However, you’ll see, at some point, the quality content will create the same effect of authority, and you’ll see your members creating content themselves while you just sit and enjoy your success. To sum this part up, I’ll give you 4 tips for seeding your network with good content:

1. Craft authentic content, be it photos, blog entries, videos, your knowledge (via wiki) or whatever… We give you all the tools you need to create content in any format you need.

2. There’s nothing wrong with sharing content from other sources from time to time. At times when you feel less creative, just scrape content from similar sources with your members, helping them discover more content. PS: always be respectful to the rights of content owners. If necessary give credit and make sure the content is licensed permissively. A quick Google search, Flickr and Technorati blog search, YouTube are good examples of places where you can scrape content from.

3. Members are also your content. You can read more about that here. But basically all you need are:
(a) Quality targeted leads (e.g relevant Yahoo Groups, email lists etc) 
(b) Enabling Facebook Connect (so that your members won’t need to re-enter their basic profile info one more time on a new social network)
(c) Last but not least, make sure that you ask high quality profile questions so that the profiles are meaningful to stir new conversations between members.

4. Do not be the only one who posts the content. You need to encourage others to post as well. So either go to people you’re close with and ask them to create content for you, and reward them with extra roles and privileges in your group --- or at least, create personas and post in their names.

But of course, the question that remains to be answered for you is, do you really need to have your members stick? Because 99.9% web sites don’t get regular visitors and that’s fine. People usually discover web sites via search engines, and your social network will always remain a place that represents your online identity and your care for community. Hence it’s still great if your social network is a place where people occasionally visit and use. As for those who need a vibrant growing community, patience and relentless work to bring people and seed content is the key. Good luck!

Comments

Two things that I want to make you aware that is hindering our stickiness of which I have submitted tickets on, one is You say to use Facebook Connect. Well, I have really tried but the problem I have submitted is in the setup procedure there is not enough allowed character space in at least one spot as instead of slurperssmoothhotboys it will only take up to and including the o in the hot part. Secondly, we do an exit poll on why members want their account deleted and the reason that is mentioned in close to 90% of the instances is the technical errors that can be easily fixed by the platform but is continually not done for instance the biggest one is the member to member messages.If you even put one apostrophe in the message to the member, even though it says it was sent and it shows up on the screen that one apostrophe eliminates the message to the recipient. As you can check as you go back to your message and if it makes it it will not show any longer and you ask the member and they say no they never got it or vice versa.We've been complaining since you changed a perfectly fine system in 02/12 and nothing ever has been done to fix this???! Is not communication the key to keeping and informing members of things in the personal messages that I mention not important enough for you to want to fix it after almost two years and I need an answer and resolution to it today and not two more years down the road, PLEASE!
Clarification,I said if it makes it it will not show. It should be if the message doesn't make it, it does not show in the message history and also, I have had notifications recently of new messages and I go to my messages and you go back ten pages and one from seven moths ago will be highlighted and as soon as you read it, it drops the number of new messages.Also, I liked the old system where it kept a track of the number of messages between you and the same member taking up less time to go back to.Also, since I have your attention in this forum the private chat if you go back to a person, it will not give you the most recent history but one chat from days or weeks ago.Along with the group chat history, how do I get rid of pages of the group chat so I do not have to go line by line deleting since it goes back to March? These are things I mention that creates unstickiness in our site and I am sure as other Founders have mentioned the same things as well to me.
Warren, were these things ever addressed? I have never gotten a response from these people ever even though they use up one of my service tickets every time I write them. Never spoken with a live person EVER.
warren, I'd like to let you know that the apostrophe bug has been resolved.
Yes Emre Thank you so very much as I or others can now write anything and not have fear that it will not make it. Two tweaks I would like is the counter stays at one while there are a number of replies and the old system counted them so why not now? Also, is there a way that I can tell if the recipient has read it? As I do not write things just to write yet despite my pleas I do not get responses on some vital messages so I suggest that. I would make a feature request on it if I could yet the request system says I have reached my limit.

Speaking of feature requests, what has actually been considered and implemented? As my co-director and I made requests for people to add HTML comments that will show and pictures on the members profile wall and your blog is about stickiness so we used them before to create that goodwill to get guys to stick! Yet something was changed in the system and our members can not do that. I write this as a special request because my young 22 yr old co- director Jerome passed away of a brain tumor on New Years Eve and I am so distraught that he did not see his request approved before his death as that was a favorite thing of his to do and everyone else enjoyed that and it created that stickiness. So, I ask that you please please fix that and do it in his memory. Many members across Grou.ps sites knew Jerome like nobbysnetwork, think meeting room and proudandgay3 just to name a few. So I am pleading with you to make that a priority for getting members to stick around. THANKS AGAIN FOR CREATING A PLATFORM THAT TAKES CARE OF ITS ISSUES!
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Warren, were these things ever addressed? I have never gotten a response from these people ever even though they use up one of my service tickets every time I write them. Never spoken with a live person EVER.
Great article! Thanks for the tips and tricks. I see many people use baking soda and lemon. They are also useful when it comes to cleaning!
Thanks for analyzing the reason the retention levels are never as high as they would like it and providing the way to solve this problem.
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I have never gotten a response from these people ever even though they use up one of my service tickets every time I write them.
I'd like to let you know that the apostrophe bug has been resolved.
Clarification,I said if it makes it it will not show. It should be if the message doesn't make it, it does not show in the message history and also, I have had notifications recently of new messages and I go to my messages and you go back ten pages and one from seven moths ago will be highlighted and as soon as you read it, it drops the number of new messages.Also, I liked the old system where it kept a track of the number of messages between you and the same member taking up less time to go back to.Also, since I have your attention in this forum the private chat if you go back to a person, it will not give you the most recent history but one chat from days or weeks ago.Along with the group chat history, how do I get rid of pages of the group chat so I do not have to go line by line deleting since it goes back to March? These are things I mention that creates unstickiness in our site and I am sure as other Founders have mentioned the same things as well to me.

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@ As for slope and the other two.- The message problem was fixed but I agree with Lily Oliver as she is spot on. I shouldn't have to go back like ten pages to find a recent message. And noone chats hardly on our site but I totally want those problems addressed!
I cannot contribute anything more. Your content is too great.

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When the sites have glitches ...and it takes more than 3 or 4 days to fix ... that tends to make them go elsewhere ...luckily for me i have loyal members and no all to well that these glitches happen ...what's my point ... Faster fixes
My site is going thru a number of glitches right now ...I have fix tickets in ...and 5 days later , no fix as of yet
How we can make members stick is to fix it so they can get to the site!
I appreciate it!. I really like it when people get together and share ideas. Great website, continue the good work!. Either way, great web and I look forward to seeing it grow over time. Thank you so much.
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