In his book Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities, Richard Millington argues that ones of the keys to growing your social media community is to optimize the conversion process. By the conversion process, he means converting non-visitors to visitors, visitors to registrants, registrants to participants, participants to regulars, and regulars to volunteers.
Non-visitors to Visitors
The first step is to look at your current process for attracting people to your community. Ask yourself, “What sources attracted the current members to your community?”. Identify the best sources of traffic and concentrate on exploiting these sources to draw more people into your community. If a particular blogger has referred a large amount of traffic to your site in the past, work with him/her to improve your relationship and increase your future traffic. In short, focus on the sources that have been the most successful in driving traffic to your site in the past and work to accelerate the amount of traffic generated by these sites.
Visitors to Registrants
Once you have gotten someone to visit your site, the next step is to get them to register. First, you must position your best and most intriguing content “above the fold” (i.e. no scrolling or searching necessary to find it) so that it is immediately evident, when they arrive at your site. The “registration form” should also be prominently displayed on the landing page and be visible without scrolling. After a certain number of “clicks” on the page, the visitor should be prompted to register. Registration should be quick, easy, and require a minimum of information. If a confirmation email is sent, it should be sent promptly (i.e. within a minute, not hours or days), and the subject line should encourage immediate action (e.g. “Community Registration Confirmation – respond within 24 hours”).
Registrants to Participants
When the Registrant clicks on the confirmation, they should again be directed to engaging content that is begging for a response. An initial poll or other content that requests participation will encourage them to begin interacting immediately. A special forum for new members hints and tips (and a helpful community manager) will get them up to speed and help drive further participation.
Participants to Regulars
While fresh and engaging content is always a good start to keep people engaged in your community, this is not enough to guarantee participants will become regulars. Continue sending participants regular reminder emails highlighting the current trending topics and offering ways for them to participate. Notify them of upcoming events that they won’t want to miss. Introduce members with similar interests to each other or pair more veteran members with newer recruits so that they become an on-going part of the community. Gaming concepts can also be used to “score” participation levels and create an environment that rewards participants for becoming “regulars”.
Regulars to Volunteers
Although the number of volunteers to total group members will always be a small percentage, it is still important to work on this last conversion process. As a community manager, your job will become much easier if you have an active group of well qualified volunteers promoting and participating in your community. You should always be looking for talented participants who bring special expertise and skills that could benefit the community at the “volunteer” level. You will want to personally invite these members to become volunteers or if you have number of qualified candidates, you may want to have a competitive application process. Either way, it’s important to continue recognizing your volunteers and offering them opportunities to continue growing as a member of the community.
What techniques does your community use to optimize your conversion process? What steps are the most difficult in the process for your community? How do you overcome these obstacles?