How to make your members stick
Sun 08 Dec 2013 12:54:00 | 28 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
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!