During a recent webinar, RealMatch was fortunate to have expert speaker Andy Steggle conducting a session entitled, “Measuring Online Engagement & Return of Investment.” These issues are central for both trade publishers and professional associations that work hard to provide members and readers with information that they can monetize in their businesses. Here is a closer look at a few of the essential takeaways from this webinar that can help trade publishers and professional associations increase and measure their online engagement.
Understand Different Types of Engagement
One of the key themes that Steggle highlights is the importance of understanding the different types of contribution. In any online ecosystem, a small percentage of the participants are likely to be the most active participants. A slightly larger percentage will contribute occasionally and the vast majority – often as many as 90% – will simply lurk and observe.
The size of the organization plays a role in determining these dynamics.
It’s important to set appropriate expectations for what engagement means for your organization based on the number of members that you have. In general, the greater the ratio of subscribers to customers, the higher your engagement will be. At the same time, less segmentation and a more unified messaging strategy will help increase your engagement across the board.
Levers to Promote Engagement
Engagement tends to promote engagement. Working with your staff and your most engaged users to seed conversations and centralize discussions in a way that involves other participation is more likely to stimulate increased engagement.
It’s also helpful to find ways to create profiles that really identify members. For example, does your current online configuration support headshots and biographies? Can members of the community identify who they’re engaging with and count on having their contributions help build their brand in their industry space? These and other levers for engagement can help get the conversation going.
Strategies Shown to Improve Engagement
A number of different strategies have been shown to promote engagement. Profile completeness as described above is one. Another is migrating engagement off one successful platform, such as LinkedIn, to another. Encourage members, especially new members, to introduce themselves and to be clear about what they’re looking for out of the relationship with the group. It’s more possible to offer targeted help when you know what your customers need.
Finally, there are some technological and content decisions that can help you increase engagement. Include non-members in the community. For example, could you get a well-known speaker to contribute in a way that would stimulate discussion? Could you open up some of the discussion beyond the paywall/security wall to capture SEO benefits and stimulate engagement by thoughtful non-members? Don’t overly segment your discussion platforms, which can lead to fractured user experience and make engagement levels seem artificially low. Finally, make the technology simple to use by allowing for email contributions and automatic logins.
Once you’ve committed to the path of increasing engagement and return on investment, create a strategic plan that allows you to experiment with a range of new techniques. Measure to see what’s working, and you’ll quickly find out what strategies are most effective with your membership community.