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Event Marketing

10 Tactics to Increase Online Community Engagement

Andrea Amorosi May 13, 2024
Table of Contents
12 min read

With engagement. In-person and online community engagement are cornerstones of your success as an organization. The latter especially is critical in today’s digital age, but unfortunately, it is too often done wrong. From disorganized messaging to confusing landing pages to ineffective donation strategies, community engagement is a hot mess at many companies, corporations and nonprofits alike. It’s time to do better.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at how to do online community engagement right. We’ll take a look at what it is, why it benefits you, and the most effective tactics out there. Ready to see more interaction, greater profits, a happier workforce, and an ever-growing mission? Read on.

What is online community engagement?

A simple definition of online community engagement is the amount of interaction between your organization and its members in the digital space. Anything that happens between you and them, mediated by a web page or an app, can count.

A more complex definition of online community engagement is an active process in which your organization seeks to deepen relationships between the mission and the people who help serve it – whether that’s through donations, volunteering, purchases of branded gear, promoting your organization on social media or in their own digital spaces, or simply responding to your communications.

As you can see, online community engagement is like an onion. The skin is hardly representative of the whole. Yet many organizations unthinkingly disregard the rich potential of digging deeper into their community engagement, either because they don’t realize they’re doing it or because they don’t know how to do better.

Unfortunately, superficial relationships with your members often result in superficial results for your organization. Understanding the true benefits of a rockin’ engagement strategy can help fix that.

Benefits of online community engagement

Online community engagement brings with it several important perks, including:

Build better relationships

When members of your community feel as though they have a voice, they are automatically more invested. They care what you have to say because they know you care what they have to say.

This also increases their trust in you and their willingness to spread your good name among their own communities, from work to family to hobby groups and beyond. They may even help you forge important connections with other nonprofits or associations that can result in valuable, lifelong partnerships.

Get more volunteers

One of the best things about an engaged community is your ability to draw in volunteers. Since many groups are run on volunteer work, you can’t afford to ignore this potent source of organizational empowerment. Yet when volunteers feel as though there’s nowhere to go to engage, they may leave for organizations that do give them a platform for sharing their voice, views, and ideas. Don’t let that happen.

Re-engage disinterested members

The sorry truth is, most members don’t stick around forever. Although you’ll certainly get lifers – people who want to stick with your organization over the long haul – this isn’t the norm. You must accept a certain amount of churn, but that doesn’t mean you have to be fatalistic.

An online community space can help reel in at least a portion of your disengaged membership, helping them reconnect with why they were drawn to your mission in the first place. Make no mistake, these members aren’t the same as new members who have to be wooed, because they’re already used to giving their time, money, and other resources. By virtue of already having been onboarded, they will use up less of your resources in return.

Retain interested members

By the same token, a community space will help you keep hold of those members who aren’t yet disengaged, but might become so without easy access to the mission and the message.

Counter misinformation

The online sphere is famous for promulgating false facts and misinformation (or even disinformation, intentionally seeded to serve a purpose counter to your own). It’s important, especially for any organization that has a cause, to keep on the lookout for misinformation and correct it wherever possible. Your mission relies on it.

Happily, a community engagement platform lets you do just that, giving you a platform on which to speak whenever you want.

Generate leads

An existing online community engagement platform makes it easy for you to find and generate new leads. Because you already have a place to send interested parties, your funnel is set up for success.

Seek input

Your members have a lot of valuable input to share, if only you’ll let them. An engagement space lets you seek those opinions through questions, interviews, surveys, polls, and more. While it might feel difficult to adjust the trajectory of your organization based on the thoughts and feelings of others, this is the only way you can know it will survive over the long haul.

Want to nab these benefits at your own organization? Let’s take a look at the following community member engagement strategy ideas now.

10 community engagement tactics

Benefits are all well and good, but eventually the rubber has to meet the road. Here are 10 specific, effective, and tested strategies to help you build engagement among your community members today.

1. Create a new member experience

One of the best ways to increase online community engagement is to create a new member experience. Chances are your organization already has a community in place, whether it’s small and growing or already thriving.

However, nonprofits and associations can quickly get stagnant. Perhaps they over-rely on strategies that have worked in the past. Maybe there’s nobody on deck who has a marketing background of any kind. Or maybe – and this is especially true for older organizations that were historically successful with analog approaches – they simply haven’t transitioned to the online sphere well.

An online community gathering space can help solve all of these issues. It can bring people together, energize them, and help them solve problems with which they’ve been struggling, such as:

  • Confusing payment systems
  • Inefficient HR and volunteer coordination strategies
  • Disconnect between leadership and community members
  • An inability to communicate

2. Ask great questions

One of the best ways to increase communication potential is simply to start asking questions, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by using an online platform. As with all other crowdsourcing strategies, an online gathering place helps you solicit public opinion without having to reach out to each member individually. Now you can speak to the masses and give them a voice, but you don’t have to spend the time and manpower to do it.

How can you start asking questions if you’ve never done it before? Simply invite conversation. You can do that in forums, via email links to online feedback forms, or by making yourself readily available on social media.

3. Give VIP access

Who doesn’t want to feel a cut above? It’s important to give your members a way to enter the elite circle if they want to, because that will only draw them closer to your organization and mission. This is especially true for people who have put a ton of their own resources (time, money, energy, in-kind donations, networking, hosting) into your cause.

Again, this is a place where online community engagement can help you shine. You can offer VIP access in many ways, including:

  • Gated access to a newsletter containing early bird deals or leadership opportunities
  • Different subscription or support tiers that come with different gifts
  • Entrance into special events, meetings, etc.

4. Highlight member successes

Member successes are absolute marketing gold. Not only do they prove your organization works, but they also contain massive media potential.

Member successes can come in many forms. For instance, a member of your writer’s association may land a book deal, in which case you might honor them with a speaking gig at your next event or with an interview on the main page of your website. Alternately, your member success story might come from the community, say from a young single father who was able to send his childhood to a good preschool because of your help. Any story that tugs at the heartstrings or impresses the rest of the community is worth highlighting.

You can then make the most of this by creating different types of content, from video marketing pieces to podcast interviews to written profiles with nice images.

5. Spotlight members

Closely related to the above, you’ll want to put a plan in place to spotlight members on your home page. This doesn’t have to comprise only success stories in order to constitute solid online community engagement. Anyone who works hard deserves recognition, even if they didn’t hit the million-dollar mark in a fundraising campaign, get invited to the White House, or cure cancer.

To spotlight members effectively, build a reliable routine. For instance, you might:

  1. Decide where on your online member hub the spotlight will go (main page, dedicated page?)
  2. Select time periods in which you’ll spotlight people (weekly, monthly, quarterly?)
  3. Choose the criteria for picking someone (number of hours worked, different milestones in the community, positive feedback from other members?)
  4. Task a member of your staff or volunteer force with conducting interviews and creating media
  5. Post regularly on the timeline to which you’ve committed

Doing this will excite people about the potential of recognition, and thus will encourage them to work harder, promote your organization, and stick around for the long haul.

6. Moderate your community

It’s so critical to moderate your community once you create it. In order for it to thrive, it must be a positive and loving place for people to interact. Yes, you need meaningful exchanges of ideas, especially important in mission-based work where you are addressing age-old problems that you can’t fix, but can only improve bit by bit.

However, that exchange of ideas has to be respectful. Who is responsible for ensuring it is? You, and only you. You cannot rely on your volunteers, donors, members, or ideologues to do it for themselves. Rather, you must maintain an obvious and caring presence and do it for them. That way, everyone – even the smallest voice – will feel safe participating.

7. Diversify your content

Blogs are great, but they’re not everything. True online community engagement means giving everyone a way to engage, not just the bookworms of the world.

Remember, not everybody in your community is a strong reader. Indeed, often the community members being served didn’t have the access to communication that we might have hoped for them in childhood. As such, it’s critical you engage with them on wavelengths that resonate. Ideas for moving beyond blogging include:

  • Live streaming content from events or simply from HQ
  • Videos and podcasts
  • Q&A sessions with important people at your organization and in the community
  • Interact content
  • Gamification

… and more. Take your cue from what people in your community already enjoy and are doing with their time. The more closely you can tailor the digital experience you offer to the ones they seek out as entertainment and/or infotainment, the better you will do.

8. Host an amazing event

Now, how to transition your member engagement from the online space to real, in-person events? That’s a quandary for many organizations, who find it challenging to transition from one to the other, with the inevitable result of disjointed communication and often low attendance at live events.

Don’t worry, though: there’s an answer. To increase your community engagement, you need to create a virtuous cycle between both online and physical spaces. At your events, praise and promote your online space and highlight member accomplishments within it. In the online space, talk up your events and offer clear links to signing up, volunteering at, or donating to them.

Stuck for how to put an event together? Here’s a raft of amazing event engagement ideas to get you started.

9. Community leadership programs

One of the best ways to drive online community engagement is to encourage leadership among your members and volunteers. People want to be leaders for all kinds of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Making a difference
  • Improving their resume
  • Making amends

No matter why someone wants to give back, leadership is a great way to do that. Offer opportunities for all kinds of sign up methods, for your members to receive the training they’ll need to lead, and routes to get recognition for being a great leader. Best of all, this removes some of the responsibility for delegation from the shoulders of staff.

10. Ask your community for feedback

Your organization needs feedback in two ways. First, you need to improve the organization as a whole, which means gathering feedback on such aspects of it as:

  • Your mission and whether people find it compelling
  • The way you do things, and whether folks think you could do it better
  • The effectiveness of your message, your values, your community outreach, and your programs themselves

If you’re sure those are meeting the mark, then it’s time to determine whether your online platform is cutting the mustard. Again, feedback is critical here. While criticism is never fun, input can make your platform a better place to be and engage. This is true for the donors, volunteers, and/or members who make your organization tick.

You can ask for feedback in many ways, such as putting out a poll or survey, conducting interviews with individuals who are willing, and monitoring what happens in online spaces such as forums. You should also ask for feedback consistently over email.

Questions to help you choose the best online community platform

Each of the above strategies has its own merits, which are powerful indeed. However, you may not get far with any of them if you don’t take the time to choose your online platform wisely. Remember, whether you’re a nonprofit, association, or chamber, your members will be spending a lot of time on your platform. You want it to be a good experience, not a confusing one.

Yes, that means using smart software that reflects your standing as a modern company. But it also means choosing a platform with the capabilities you need to keep members engaged. As such, choosing a community platform is a big decision, and you shouldn’t make it without thoroughly considering its implications for online community engagement. It can help to ask (and answer) a few questions first.

Among the most important of these are:

  • What do we need more of: members, content, revenue, or all of the above?
  • Where are our current sticking points?
  • What holes do we currently have in our online systems?
  • Where is member data going to waste?
  • How can we put it to better use?
  • Which admin tasks go unfulfilled, are confusing, get done poorly or not at all, and require more manpower than they’re worth?
  • What online strategies have worked to engage our community members in the past? (E.g. giving campaigns, volunteering signups, surveys, online training, gated content, etc.)
  • How have our donors responded differently from our volunteers? Which types of strategy work well for each subset of the community?
  • How can we bucket community members effectively so they feel like we’re talking right to them with our strategies?
  • What types of experiences do our members prioritize, and how can offering online or in-person experiences get them to engage more readily online?
  • What kinds of questions get the most responses from community members?
  • What capabilities will an online community need?
  • How will answering these questions help us build better connections in the community?

These questions are all important, and sitting down to wrangle some answers with your team will provide more benefits than perhaps you can imagine.  By determining what matters to your members … and what doesn’t … you can help to serve them, which makes them in turn better at serving you and your organization.

Of course, online community engagement won’t go far without the online community engagement solution we discussed above. A platform such as MemberClicks, specifically designed to help you reach members and craft meaningful interactions with them, is your answer. Used by over 3,000 organizations and representing more than 6 million members, MemberClicks is a tried-and-true answer to the problem of online community engagement.

Add CommUnity to it, and you have a seamlessly integrated, fully rounded tool to help you create an exclusive space where members can interact more and better with your organization. CommUnity allows you to customize your look, run polls and surveys, custom groups, gamification, and more. Whatever your organization wants to do, CommUnity is here to help them do it!

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.