Last week on a Q&A, I received a question asking how I think about members who are not active in the communities I run.
Maybe they’re busy. Maybe they just haven’t made an effort yet. Maybe they’re not community-oriented people and simply consume on-demand content on their own time.
Whatever the reason, this inquisitor wanted to know if I work hard to get these people engaged. Or do I make peace with them being more passive members? Do I try to find other ways to support their learning that isn’t community focused?
Here’s how I responded ….
The first thing I do is remember to keep it in perspective.
Charles Vogl, the author of Art of Community, once explained to me that in a lot of mature communities as many as 90 percent of your members won’t be very active. Then another nine percent of users will be fairly active, with one percent being your superusers.
Remember those numbers. Don’t use the as an excuse to not do everything you can to engage as many members as possible; but use them to remind yourself that you aren’t necessarily doing something wrong if the majority of your members aren’t that active.
Personally, I aim a little higher.
Online communities, with their lower bar for activity, can beat those numbers.
I think 80/20 (the Pareto Principle) is a pretty good baseline — especially in education communities, where people can come and consume education without really interacting. Not everyone wants the interaction.
If I can get more than 20% of my long-term members being regularly active, with a nice chunk of superusers at the top, then I feel good about the top-line metrics.
Good, but not complacent.
- I know I still have to work hard to put together intuitive and helpful onboarding.
- I know I still have to do the daily/weekly/monthly work that creates continuous opportunities for education and engagement.
- I know I need to find ways to build personal connections with superusers and other active members.
But I also try to remember — crucially — that people’s lives and needs change.
Meet people where they are
An inactive member today can still become an active member down the road. A superuser today can become an inactive member in the snap of a finger.
So while someone may not want as much of the interaction right away when they join, that doesn’t mean they can’t be brought in down the line. (To be clear: it’s unlikely, but not impossible.) This is why your onboarding needs to be so good, so it’s helpful and accessible when needed.
And this is where email plays a key role.
You don’t want to lose touch with your inactive members. A regular digest of community activity, delivered via email, can be a recurring touch point for people who are on the fringes.
Even if these inactive members don’t open the emails, they serve as a reminder that the community is there for them when they need it.
Beyond that, you just have to make peace with the inactivity of a large swath of your membership.
Remember that your job as a community leader is not to cajole or coerce anyone to participate. It’s to make participation easy, inviting, and relevant, and then facilitate engagement and transformation for those who do show up.
You’re building a special community, so you should take pride in wanting every inactive member to become active.
But practicing humility in how you approach inactive members will serve you well. Remember how few members will probably make up your active user base. And remember that it takes two to tango.
So do your part, but focus on the people who show up without the lamenting those who do not.
Now here are some additional links on this topic …
Stay in touch (but make it a light touch)
There is a fine line between maintaining an email touchpoint with inactive members, like I mentioned above, and notifying inactive members to the point of annoyance. This post does a nice job of laying out useful tips for how to avoid staying on the right side of that line.
How to Encourage Engagement without Nagging Your Members | The Membership Guys
Sending inactive members a short survey can be a good way to reopen the lines of communication and possibly even get some useful data. Here is an example that might help.
Reaching Out To Inactive Members | FeverBee
What do the numbers say?
From the annual report that Community Roundtable does, we learned that “in an average community, the average member gives 0.5 answers per year, while an active member gives 6 answers per year.” The post below offers more interesting numbers.
Online Communities in 2020: 28 Key Facts + Statistics to Know | Higher Logic
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