Whether you run a small or large scale business, building human connection with your audience should top your priority list. While ads, emails or organizing virtual events remain one of the effective ways to reach out to your customers or target audience, these strategies themselves are not enough to keep existing clients and members or attract new ones.
Simply put, nothing is as essential as human connection and engaged participation when it comes to building and maintaining your community.
As a marketer or brand, you must consistently prove that you are trustworthy. And to do that, you need to start thinking in the direction of a community engagement plan. The question then is, where do you start from?
In this article, we will explore all your burning questions about this topic, such as how to develop a community engagement plan.
But first, let’s shed some light on what a community engagement is.
What Is Community Engagement?
While there are no fixed definitions for this term, a more generally acceptable one according to Butteriss is: Community engagement is both a process and an outcome.
Community engagement as a process; That is, inviting members to have a say and contribution in decision making and community planning.
Community engagement as an outcome: This includes what you want to achieve such as building and sustaining your community.
Overall, community engagement involves creating a platform opportunity where community members from different cultures and backgrounds can participate in discussions with the organization and with each other, contributing to their own growth as they do, finding solutions to their challenges and voicing issues that concern them.
These strategies involve developing, planning, assessing, evaluating and implementing solutions for a good outcome. By doing this, the community can connect deeply and build a more solid relationship with one another.
The importance of community engagement
Building community engagement goes beyond marketing or selling your products/services, or attracting new members to your association or company. Below are the benefits of building a community engagement.
1 . Helps in understanding your audience more
How do you meet your customer’s needs when you don’t even know them? When a brand creates a platform of communication and encourages public participation, it becomes extremely easy to understand its audience’s needs. And this is only a step closer to meeting those needs.
In other words, consistent engagement efforts of your brand with your audience on a community platform helps you better identify their needs and how to meet them. It also gives you insights of what they think of and expect from you.
2. Satisfies the audience's needs to engage with you
According to recent studies, the primary reason for customer churn is lack of audience engagement with brands. Community engagement can answer questions about you that your audience may have. This includes how your product works and the benefits they stand to gain. In turn, this increases brand familiarity and builds trust.
3. Increases brand transparency
Did you know that 56 percent of consumers say they remain loyal to a brand with complete transparency than one without? Through your community engagement platform, your audience gets to see you for who you are - both your weaknesses and strengths. And that is an incontestable way to build loyalty.
How To Design A Community Engagement Plan
Admittedly, designing a community engagement plan may seem like a daunting task, however, you don’t have to be an expert to start.
- Identification of Member Segments
- Identification of the Desires of Each Member Segment
- Crafting your Community Engagement Plan
Let’s examine them one by one.
1. Identification of Member Segments
This is not only the first step but one of the most important community engagement planning strategies.
Not every member is the same. This only makes sense because people are different! As such, one of the common mistakes community leaders make is approaching and treating their community members the same way.
Members will not have the same level of expertise, and will not create and share posts at the same time. Community leaders need to understand this. And it’s their responsibility to carry out research to discover what their audience segment is. This ensures you create a community engagement plan that meets their specific needs and desires.
Doing this also helps participants become more involved in the project goals because their role aligns with their interests.
“How can I achieve this segment identification?” you may wonder. There are three essential questions to ask.
- Tenure: How long have these participants been a member of your community?
- Activity: What are their activities and contributions to the community so far?
- Psychographics: What are their topic interests and specific thoughts about the community?
Note that the best way to conduct your research for legit information is by walking up to the members and asking them direct questions. Richard suggests that you approach this using:
A survey - Here are helpful questions to include in your survey.
- How long have you been in this community?
- What have your activities been like so far?
- What are your specific thoughts and interests about the community?
- Which of these best define your interest : (list some community topics here)?
- How long have you been a customer of the service/product?
- How many hours a day or week do you spend in the community?
- What would you say your own purpose in the community is?
This is a great way to create engagement plans that specifically target the concerned community member. The end game of this exercise is to identify three to six different member segments which may be categorized under tenure or activity.
An instance on tenure is,
Newcomers member: less than or up to 1 year
Intermediate member: between 1 to 3 years
Expert member: between 3 to 6 years
2. Identification of the Desires of Each Member Segment
Now that you’ve collected your member data, you have the information about each segment and what they identify with in your community.
The second step is where you read and analyze the data you’ve put together in step one. The objective is to understand each member segment’s needs and the best way to address and meet them.
So, how do you do this?
Start by checking their unique responses to the questions from the survey.
What do newcomers look for when they join the community? Do they find the information on the platform helpful? More importantly, do they receive the support they need?
Zero to One year
One to Three years
Three to Six years and more
- Spends less than 2 hours a week.
- Interested in Questions and Answers and needs quick responses.
- Does not find relevant and useful answers.
- Spends approximately 3 hours per week on the platform.
- Interested in quality answers, finds them on the platform.
- Shares ideas and gives feedback.
- Seen as a leader in the community.
- Spends at least four hours in the community.
- Provides support and helpful responses.
The next thing after identifying the unique features of each member segment is to find out their desires. Understand what drives them. Luckily, the information above has already done justice to that. Nevertheless, here are some more useful tips to follow.
Oftentimes, members say one thing when they mean the other. Their words do not always communicate their emotions or needs.
In that case, to fully uncover your segment’s deeper desires and what keeps them hooked to your community, you need to do a second interview with each segment member while taking note of their exact words and emotions.
Whatever your findings are will reveal the strategic approach you need to employ to design a community engagement plan that truly works. And this leads us to the final step.
3. Crafting your Community Engagement Plan
This step should include:
Objective of each member segment:
We’ve established the fact that every member is unique and so should be assigned different project objectives. For example, the objective of an ‘Expert’ should be to contribute to the overall community success by providing relevant answers to ‘Newcomers’ questions.
Without effective strategies, you have no way of realizing the objectives above. Develop the most effective means to achieve the community goals based on your knowledge and experience.
Talk is good. But it’s nothing without actions. This part is where you create the experience each member needs in your community. Remember to make their desires the main focus. Here is a structure suggested by Richard that can help.
Intermediates should be more active and respond to posts as soon as possible.
Increase excitement in the community (by sharing posts that address their needs).
- Create an interesting monthly or weekly ritual that participants look forward to and actively engage in.
- Participants should nominate the members with the best ‘post of the month or week’ by voting.
Other Important Things To Include In Your Community Engagement Plan:
- Background information: Are there any previous projects similar or relevant to your community’s project?
- Expectations: What are the members looking to find in the community groups? What’s the scope of the project ? What’s negotiable and what isn’t?
- Level of Engagement: If you want to build engaging communities then you must include the role of each member in decision making and how often you want them to participate.
- Risk Mitigation Strategies: Thinking ahead of community issues and challenges and planning how to address them is a wise strategy to implement. What are the potential risks of the project? Rate their impacts and identify the best way to reduce them should they eventually occur. This puts you and the community in more control and in a readiness mode.
- Key Messages: Are there key words you’d like to introduce? Maybe codes and their meanings that a non member of the community would understand. Not only is this fun, but it also improves your members’ sense of belonging,
- Stakeholders Analysis: Ensure you develop and include the details of both external and internal stakeholders, their roles, contributions, engagement, and interest in the project. Consider those with a disability, people from other cultures, and youths as well. Think of how you can provide easy access to meet their needs.
- Evaluation: What’s working, what worked and what didn’t? How can you implement the lessons to improve the community, prevent future recurrence, and experience success?
Consider the feedback too. Are the objectives for the month established? Develop the most appropriate way to inform the community of a report or findings and their influence on the project. This last step is essential as it makes members feel valuable and builds trust with them.
FAQs On Community Engagement Plan
What are the 5 principles of community engagement?
According to organizations and scholars, the five core principles of community engagement include, adequate preparation planning, demographic diversity, shared purpose, learning and openness, transparency and trust, action and impact, and participation.
How can I build a good relationship with my community?
Transparency and openness are the key leadership skills when it comes to sustaining good relationships with your members or any organizations for that matter. It's also important to listen to and engage citizens of the community. Carry them along and support them as much as you can. This is how you build positive relationships.
Community Engagement Plan: Key Takeaway
No doubt, one of the key reasons for building a community engagement plan is that it showcases your brand as a trustworthy one.
Marketers and organizations have a better chance at gaining the trust of their audience or members when they build an engaging community with them. You don;t have to be the only decision makers, carry your audience along. Community engagement makes the community members feel seen and that their opinions count.
Audience wants to know more about the brand they patronize to keep them coming for more. And what better way to do that than by creating a community engagement platform. For community success and desirable outcomes, however, it's essential to develop a plan. A community engagement plan doesn't have to be perfect, but it must be built strategically with step by step details of the visions and objectives of the community.
Fortunately, by following the above clear steps, you can design a community engagement plan with positive outcomes that are both impactful and sustainable.