Bill Kalivas & Mark Simonds talk about pushing members to establish credibility and meet face to face to get things started. Visit Launchpad INW.
Alice Yoo & Eugene Kim recommend using Facebook to get things started. Visit My Modern Met.
Manny Hernandez sometimes puts a focus on big conversations that go on over a long period of time to keep people engaged. Visit TuDiabetes.
Is it so quiet on your network that you can hear the crickets chirping? You launched your new network, attracted dozens or even hundreds of members — yet no one is participating? Why? Even older networks can encounter this problem after the initial excitement of participating in a new community fades. Don’t panic! A few simple steps can re-ignite activity on your network.
Before reading further, have you decided specifically what you’d like your first members to do? Let’s assume you created your network for people who are passionate about kite surfing. Do you want them to report on the best places to kite surf? Write product reviews of hot new equipment? Meet up with other kite surfers in their local area? Post photos from trips to exotic destinations like Aruba or Maui? Submit videos of radical maneuvers they’ve accomplished? The most successful Ning Creators make it obvious what a member should do by positioning key features at the top of the Main Page, renaming features, adding categories, changing the default status update text and more.
- Tell members 2 or 3 things to do: Don’t be reluctant to tell members what to do. A welcome box or page is a starting point. Lost Zombies and One Day on Earth are great examples to follow. Be assertive. Send a message to new members who haven’t started participating with detailed instructions. Or, make a personal request of past contributors. John Mitchell from Garden-Share frequently asks members for “the order” (more content), which has resulted in the upload of over 148,000 photos to his network.
- Call on charter members: It’s always easier to follow the lead of others. In Acquire Your First Members, we recommend that you initially invite a small group of friends, colleagues or other enthusiasts to give you feedback, help you build out initial content, and form a good base of activity. Many NCs recognize this founding group of members by giving them a name (e.g., “charter members” or “founders”) and featuring them. In return, they ask the charter members to contribute content on a regular basis, participate frequently in the forum and welcome new members.
- Reward members when they do what you want: This serves two purposes: The rewarded member will become more engaged and contribute more content, and other members will see a great example of what they should do — and why. Feature the member or their content on your Main Page. Share their content on Facebook or Twitter. Profile one member and their content each week in a broadcast message. For more ideas, check out Make Your Members Stars.
- Trigger activity with fresh content and events: Add content or hold events on a regular schedule. This gives members a reason to come back and jump in the conversation. Recruit two or three experts to blog or post a discussion once per week in return for exposure and promotion within your community. For example, a health network could have a nutrition columnist post on Mondays, a fitness guru post on Wednesdays and a doctor post on Fridays. Manny Hernandez, of TuDiabetes, hosts monthly UStream broadcasts with health experts where members can ask questions via chat.
- Offer easy ways for members to start participating: Make it easy for members to take that first step. Ask members to vote on the best photo by liking their favorite. Post a quiz or a poll on a fun topic related to your network. Tribal Running asks members, “How far did you run today?” as the default text in the status update box at the top of their Main Page. TuDiabetes has a couple of long-running forum discussions that are easy to comment on, including “Word Association Game,” “Three Word Story No. 2,” and “What Were You Grateful for Today?”
- Hold a targeted contest: Design a member contest around one of the two or three things you want members to do. Cheer Prospects is a new network to help cheerleaders find a college or professional program. Soon after he launched the network, Gary Williamson held a contest that awarded the first member who networked with (friended) 100 other members.
- Use an offline event as a conversation starter: Bill Kalivas, of LaunchpadINW, hosts frequent offline networking events where members can meet other members in person. These offline relationships make it much easier for members to interact online. Kris Olivera of Biker’s Post hires a photographer to go and take pictures at local biker meet-ups and events. The photographer hands out cards with the Bikers Post URL and lets attendees know their photos will be posted.
- Collaborate on banners, buttons and links: Identify related blogs, forums and social networks. Offer to repost their content on your Ning Network with links back to their site – in return for doing the same with content from your network. By “bartering” banners, buttons and links, you’ll improve your search ranking and attract new members.
- Tell visitors what to do: Yes, it’s often that simple. A great example is the welcome box on Is There Life After New York. Don’t wait for visitors to figure it out themselves. Start a discussion topic they won’t be able to pass up. Use the Quiz Ning App to challenge visitors and see if they can ace it. How about giving your members a chance to win a giveaway by simply posting a photo? There are lots of ways to encourage lightweight participation.
Don’t do this
- Show static content: A common mistake is to take up most or all of the space “above the fold” on your Main Page with a welcome box, mission statement, RSS feed or other static content. Members aren’t able to see or comment on other member content unless they scroll down the page. The page quickly becomes stale and uninteresting for returning members. Instead, consider moving welcome info to a dedicated page accessible via a clear message on your Main Page.
- Waste an opportunity: You have a short window after a member joins to get them to participate. If they don’t, they’ll likely lose interest and may not return. Every time a member joins, welcome them and encourage them to participate. Don’t waste this opportunity!