Building an online community is not an easy task. And if you feel like it was difficult to find members ready to join, be prepared to work even harder to keep them in your community and have a decent member retention rate.
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges that online community administrators face is to make their members stick around. Once your members have signed up, it’s time to bring them the value they deserve, so that they have a good reason to return and contribute to your community.
Let’s explore the best way to improve your member retention rate.
Set your member retention goals
The first step is to define your member retention goals following the steps below.
1. Define active members
This question may seem silly but it’s really important because you have a lot of choices here!
You could consider that a member who has logged-in is active. Or perhaps the members must ask a question or download a document before you consider them active.
Having a clear active member definition is recommended before even thinking about retention rate (because retention rate = number of active users / total number of members).
2. Choose meaningful events to track
Each community is different and you want to track some events that are specific to your community. For example, if you offer an online course to your audience, you may want to know how many people took the course and how many of them completed it. For course creators, these are meaningful actions.
If you decide that there are a few events that are truly meaningful, you could expand your active member definition above to consider a member active if they have done any of these actions.
For example, if a member watches a course video or downloads a course lesson PDF, either might be enough for us to consider that member active at that point.
3. Set SMART member retention goals
When setting up your member retention goals, make sure they are SMART. SMART stands for:
- Specific: what exactly do you want to do?
- Mesurable: how will you know when you have reached your goal?
- Achievable: do you have the tools and skills needed?
- Realistic: can you realistically achieve your goal?
- Time-bound: when do you want to accomplish it?
I recommend looking at your current metrics. What are your members actually doing? What do you wish they would do more of? Are they aware of certain options/features?
With this in mind, you can decide if you want to make people aware of parts of your product or service they may not know about – or you could decide to improve the product/service so that it encourages existing members to use it more.
Once you have this list for all meaningful actions or major outcomes (feature usage) that you believe is possible, set a SMART goal for improving it. An example could be that you want 20% more members to save a search in the next month.
Once you have done this for the top outcomes of your product, you can now set an overall or aggregate retention rate that you want to aim for in the future.
Provide an awesome experience
The retention rate is a lagging indicator of how satisfied members are.
If they become unhappy, they will not come back – and you’ll only notice this later when looking at your reporting metrics.
Thus, the best way to improve retention is to make the member experience as awesome as you can!
Provide an awesome onboarding experience
Onboarding is an important moment for your members as it is the first contact they will have with your community. It is therefore key to your retention.
Make sure you communicate important information to newcomers without overwhelming them. The goal of your onboarding process should be to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
You can do this by welcoming them in public for instance. You can also invite them to introduce themselves in a few sentences so that other members can get to know them. Why not send them a welcome email to explain how your community works and help them find their way around.
Just keep in mind that it is not always easy to join a new network. So make sure you facilitate the onboarding of new members so that their integration is smooth. After this experience, newcomers will have a positive perception of your community and will be much more inclined to return regularly.
Tailor your content
Tailored content is much more engaging than neutral content. Writing content specifically for your audience and members is going to be appreciated.
Firstly, get to know your members better. Find out what interests them, what motivates them and what made them want to join your community. The answers to these questions will allow you to offer them content that is tailored for this community, completely adapted to their needs.
Note that it is also important to adopt a tone that is adapted to your audience.
Also remember to address your members directly when you write to them. Whether it’s an email, a private message or a public post, be sure to call your members by their first name. Also, consider recommending content or events based on what they’ve been interested in before.
Provide value continuously
For your community to be attractive to your members, it has to be alive, with interesting things happening. It is therefore necessary that content is posted regularly on the platform in order to make your members come back and thus improve your retention rate.
Share articles, videos, documents little bits by little bits: this is what we call dripping content. Let’s say you have a series of articles to share with your audience, the idea is not to post them all on the same day. Build loyalty among your members by posting the first part this week, then promoting the next part which will only be available the following week for example. This way, you will maintain the interest level of your members between two publications.
Involve your members
The last technique is to involve your members in the community decision-making. Ask them questions on discussion channels, collect their feedback. Having a team of super-users that you can consult about potential problems and potential future improvements is invaluable.
This can help you:
- improve the quality of the content you offer them
- involve your members in the creation of a community that is relevant to them
- create discussion between members
Before giving voice to your members, consider writing your community guidelines to ensure that the exchanges will remain respectful.
Track and measure your member retention rate
Finally, don’t forget to measure and track your engagement rate. Some posts may not be performing as expected and you will see this in the data. That’s why it’s important to note which actions you have implemented, at what date, to measure their impact and determine if they worked or not. This will help you create better content later or post at more appropriate times.