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Five Can’t Miss Community Programming Ideas

Our State of Community Management research makes it clear: thoughtful content and programs increase engagement and drive the long-term success of communities.

Content and programs are often seen as one collective entity, but they serve two different roles for communities: content connects people into the community, while programs create opportunities for members to connect with each other. Both have value and both are needed.



In this new ebook, we share five community programs that drive long-term engagement and increase the ways your members connect.

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Five Can’t Miss Community Programming Ideas

  1. 1. Why do programs matter? Content and programs are often seen as one collective entity, but they serve two different roles for communities. Content connects people into the community, while programs create opportunities for members to connect with each other. Both have value – and both are needed. In this ebook we focus on five programs that drive long- term engagement and increase the ways your members connect. 2
  2. 2. Consistency is key. The good news for community owners trying to improve their programs is that you don’t necessarily have to do more. The key to sustained engagement is consistency. Pick your essential programs and stay the course. Source: The State of Community Management 2017 3
  3. 3. 4 Quality, not quantity. Our State of Community Management research shows that it’s the quality of engagement that matters in successful communities. These proven programming ideas will help drive engagement in your community. Source: The State of Community Management 2017
  4. 4. 5 Not all engagement is equal. Research has shown that engagement is a ladder, not an on- off switch. Community members need to be coached, encouraged and supported as they move across the engagement spectrum. Different programs work best for members at different engagement stages. Be sure to offer programs suited to all stages represented in your community.
  5. 5. 6 Five Proven Community Programs That Drive Long-Term Engagement Member Spotlight Ask Me Anything Work Out Loud Photo Sharing Contest Question Of The Week
  6. 6. 7 Member Spotlight
  7. 7. 8 Member Spotlight WHAT IS IT? A profile of one member's work (typically in the form of a blog or discussion post) written by the community manager. It highlights one member and outlines what makes them interesting, valuable, knowledgeable, etc.
  8. 8. 9 Member Spotlight ENGAGEMENT STAGE Validate OBJECTIVE Reward members for desired community behaviors; Model ideal community behavior to others; Stimulate extrinsic motivations for public recognition
  9. 9. 10 Member Spotlight RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY Weekly or Monthly CHANNELS Community thread, email, newsletter, blog post
  10. 10. 11 Member Spotlight TACTICAL TIPS  Put a face on it. Be sure to add a photo of the member in question. Seeing human faces increases comfort and connection between members.  Roll call. Call out specific actions the member in question took to gain value in the community. This gives others a roadmap to follow for community participation.  Surprise and Delight. When the spotlight is live, send a personal email to the member in question with a link to the post and a note about why you appreciate their work.
  11. 11. 12 Ask Me Anything
  12. 12. 13 Ask Me Anything WHAT IS IT? For an AMA, the community manager chooses a member host to whom questions will be directed. The member hold court in a public discussion thread which would remain 'live' for a set period of time (6 hours, 3 days, one week, etc.). All other community members are then encouraged to post questions in the comments of that thread. The host answers them live as they roll in.
  13. 13. 14 Ask Me Anything ENGAGEMENT STAGE Ask and answer OBJECTIVES Members learn about and create connections with one another and build trust in the community's ability to deliver value.
  14. 14. 15 Ask Me Anything RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY Weekly or Monthly CHANNEL Community thread
  15. 15. 16 Ask Me Anything TACTICAL TIPS  Adapt it. If your community members have stage fright or just don’t check in frequently enough to support a live AMA, adapt this program and make it a static AMA.  Backchannel. Chances are you know a few members who would benefit from the knowledge of your host member. Shoot them a private note to let them know the AMA is happening.  Sow engagement seeds. When you introduce your host member, add a short write-up of the key projects and topics they have worked on. Share suggestions of items members can ask the host member about.
  16. 16. 17 Work Out Loud
  17. 17. 18 Work Out Loud WHAT IS IT? A Work Out Loud program asks members to share their top three goals for the week. Typically executed in one designated thread per week. Provides the opportunity for members helping members with challenges, as well as surfacing opportunities for the community team to reach out to members with content, solutions and support.
  18. 18. 19 Work Out Loud ENGAGEMENT STAGE Share OBJECTIVES Members learn about and create connections with one another; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value
  19. 19. 20 Work Out Loud RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY Weekly CHANNEL Community thread WOL graphic from workingoutloud.com
  20. 20. 21 Work Out Loud TACTICAL TIPS  Better than bumper cars. Community managers who run WOL programs have a secret: It’s not really about member to-do lists. The unspoken goal of WOL is to create conditions for member collisions.  Easier than pie. WOL threads are an excellent way to introduce members to the habit of sharing their work with the community because the barrier to entry is comfortable and low (a short list of weekly to-do’s is easy to write and there are no wrong answers!) Keep it that way by modeling your own answers with a maximum of three items, written in short sentences.
  21. 21. 22 Photo Sharing Contest
  22. 22. 23 Photo Sharing Contest WHAT IS IT? A campaign focused on regular engagement from members. It could actualize as "Cutest baby picture", "Most recent vacation picture", or "Photo of your work space". Tap into extrinsic motivations by offering the winner a small schwag prize.
  23. 23. 24 Photo Sharing Contest ENGAGEMENT STAGE Share OBJECTIVES Allow members to contribute to the community in a low- pressure way; Create personal connections between members
  24. 24. 25 Photo Sharing Contest RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY Weekly or Monthly CHANNEL Community thread
  25. 25. 26 Photo Sharing Contest TACTICAL TIPS  Money see, monkey do. Create a participation movement by getting thought leaders and executives on board. When your COO posts a picture of herself at 2-years-old, other members are more likely to join in the fun.  #Taxonomy. Consider introducing a hashtag to accompany your photo content entries. This allows you to pre-determine the taxonomy for your content and makes it easier to browse the contributions.  Comfort is King. Be cognizant of what is culturally appropriate for your space. If your member base is uncomfortable personal photos, consider asking for photos of their workspace instead.
  26. 26. 27 Question of the Week
  27. 27. 28 Question of the Week WHAT IS IT? In this program, the community manager selects one question and highlights it as a question that they would like all members to mobilize around answering.
  28. 28. 29 Question of the Week ENGAGEMENT STAGE Ask and answer OBJECTIVES Habitualize question answering in the community; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value
  29. 29. 30 Question of the Week RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY Weekly CHANNEL Community thread, email, newsletter
  30. 30. 31 Question of the Week TACTICAL TIPS  Level up. This program can be evolved and adapted based on community maturity. The more mature the community the more complex and involved the questions can be.  Mix it up The community manager can make up a question to be answered, source & revive a question that has already been asked elsewhere in the community, or allow members to nominate & vote for the question of the week.  Switch it up. Consider asking a light non-community question occasionally. This works especially well around holidays or big events (like the eclipse!)
  31. 31. 32 More Community Programming Resources WEBINARS  Best Practices for Content Programming  Best Practices for Building an Editorial Calendar  Best Practices for New Member Welcome Programs PODCASTS  J.J. Lovett, CA Technologies  Shirlin Hsu, BCG  Tracy Maurer, UBM BLOG POSTS  Why Build an Editorial Calendar for your Community?  In online communities, new member programs matter  The best community managers share leadership of community programs  3 Best Practices When Budgeting for Community and Social Programs
  32. 32. 33 If you work in community, you belong in TheCR Network. TheCR Network is your one-stop resource for best practices, expert advice, actionable case studies, and answers to every community question you can think of – making your job as a community professional easier. We know you have lots of ways to spend your community budget. TheCR Network provides the most value for your dollar. LEARN MORE.

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