There are seven key elements I believe must be considered when building an online community. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be exploring each of them in a series of posts designed to help you build the best community possible. So far, I’ve covered the platform and community member engagement, and this week, I’m looking at recruitment.
So how do we get people to join an online community? There are two main ways to achieve this:
Passively and unprompted: this is when people visit the community of their own accord, for example doing an internet search for online communities, or more commonly, hearing from someone who is a current member of a particular online community extolling the benefits of being a part of that community. Passive recruitment is essentially a cost-free approach to getting people into your community.
Actively and prompted: this is when people are invited to join your community, so having access to contact details, such as a list of email addresses and/ or contact phone numbers, is important. Of course, knowing the names of people being invited also helps as it provides a touch of personalisation. Irrespective of whether the people to be invited are from an in-house data source or from an external sample provider, active recruitment involves setting up a recruitment campaign and for this reason, there is a cost associated with this approach.
Given that passive recruitment is about having an online presence and waiting for people to come and join naturally, there are less opportunities to influence new members joining using this approach, than with active recruitment.
Therefore, in the remainder of this post, I’m going to focus on active recruitment, and what I believe are key considerations to ensure you maximise the return on your investment in recruitment:
Invitation: It is often said that ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, however, in the case of inviting people to join an online community, I think that first impressions count. Whether it’s recruitment over the phone or by email, it’s important that the message is compelling and succinct: introduce the online community and explain why you are inviting them to be a part of it. Often, phone recruitment is conducted by an external company, so be sure to properly brief the recruiter. If inviting by email, craft a subject line that makes people want to open rather than delete (or heaven forbid, send it to the spam folder!), and check that the email itself is easy to read. The aim is to ensure that as many people as possible open, read, and act on the email.
Registration: Assuming people have agreed to join the online community, the next step is to make sure that the registration process is quick and easy. Having an integrated platform where the people invited are already in the system means that the status of any given invitee is known, and enables reminder emails to be sent, if needed, to encourage people to complete their registration.
Profile: Aside from the online community having a clear purpose, it is important to know the profile of the people who join and become a participating member of the community because they will essentially be the voice of a particular cohort for you to target. In other words, making sure that people’s interests and characteristics match the concepts being tested and questions asked. A good place to start is with demographics, such as: age, gender, and state. Building on that, you might want to consider life stages or some other qualifying criteria such as: grocery shoppers, private health insurance holders, or families with young children. Over time, you’ll want to get a better understanding of who the members are and so having a database of profiling questions is useful.
Having a well-crafted message in the invitation, a simple registration process, and an understanding of who the members are, will ensure that an optimal number of members will join following an active recruitment drive.
Part 3 – Community member engagement Part 5 – Feedback
Next week’s post is about feedback – what information is given to members about their participation?