Get the essential steps for welcoming your new members. 

Did you know that a whopping 76% of internet users participate in an online community? And if that wasn’t impressive enough, the number of internet users turning to online communities for connection and information has increased over the last couple of years. We have a feeling a global pandemic and mass social distancing has something to do with that.  

But the truth is online communities have been popular since the beginning of the internet (I know, we’re dating ourselves) as the earliest AOL chatrooms and online forums allowed people to find a space of belonging, comfort and reliable information for anything they could possibly want. The author of this blog post may or may not have been a regular contributor to an X-Files spoiler chatroom back in the day. 

Associations and nonprofits were some of the earliest adopters of online communities since a big member benefit to joining a mission was a connection with other like-minded people passionate about a common cause, and they turned to virtual communities like chatrooms, then FB groups, and now, dedicated online spaces, to meet new people and get the most up-to-date resources.  

So how do you delight new members who join your association through the magic of an online community? We have some of the top ways to make a lasting impression on your new members with your association’s online space.  

4 steps to delighting your members using your online community 

Step 1: Make sure new members can easily find and join your online space. 

One of the best ways to guide new members to all the great discussion boards, hottest learning and career opportunities and new connections is in a welcome email! In this email, you can include a link to your online community and clearly outline the member benefits that come with your online space.  

Best practices would say to make sign-up easy for your online community, and thankfully, the best online community platforms offer a single sign-on (SSO) option that allows new members to gain access to the online community as they sign into their member portals.  

Having SSO is a huge draw for new members, and it’s something to highlight in things like onboarding videos! Which leads to our next step.  

Step 2: Create onboarding videos or infographics that offer a tour of your online community 

It’s no wonder that associations are turning more and more to video marketing since 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day.  

Associations like the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) have turned to videos to both promote their online communities and provide a brief, but fun training video that walks new members through how to make the most of their time in their online space.  

If you don’t have the resources for a videographer, you can create an infographic that is also effective at offering quick, eye-catching instructions on how to sign on to and use your online community.  

Read more! See how NANP exceeded their new member sign-ups goals through online promotions and onboarding videos in the “No Community Manager? No Problem” guide. 

Step 3: Make a splash about new members in your online community 

In addition to a welcome email, adding a “welcome online community post” to your new member checklist will go a long way in making new online community users feel like they’re in just the right place.  

We recommend waiting until the end of the day to post a welcome message that lists all the new sign-ups for the day, tagging them in the post, then inviting them to introduce themselves to the group. You could also welcome new members to the online community at the end of every week, but we’ve found that, if you have the time and resources, welcoming on the same day of sign-up can make a big impact.  

You could also start a Discussion Board for new members based on the month of their sign-up (September 2022 New Member Thread) that encourages them to make even deeper connections with their cohorts. This is a great way to direct new members to the discussion boards where they can start exploring and participating in other groups.  

Step 4: Encourage (even incentivize) new members to complete their profiles  

We’ve seen that members tend to stick around the online community and are more likely to become superusers the sooner they complete their member profiles. The trick with member profiles is to find that balance between offering enough information that encourages other members to reach out to connect with like-minded people, but not requiring so much information that it discourages people from completing their profiles.  

Form fields for information like name, contact information (email and social profiles) and job title are commonly seen, but it’s nice to give them a space for interests/hobbies, their company name and, of course, the ability to add a profile picture! 

Ask your members what information is important to them and what they like to know about other members before connecting to help guide what fields should be present in member profiles.  

You can even incentivize new online community users to complete their profiles by offering a discount of your choice to your next event by using a discount code for members who publish a complete profile and/or post on the Newsfeed main page.  

Whichever is easiest for you to track and reward. 

Learn more about engaging & retaining members using an online community 

If you want more tips for engaging members, keeping them coming back for more and building member loyalty with the help of an online community, join us on 9/22 at 12:30 ET for our virtual course, “Association Marketing 101: Online Communities.” We hope to see you there!