• Yuri Santana

How to Increase Engagement Within Your Community

Updated: Sep 22

With tips on how to make your community more inclusive


Engagement can be defined as the level of commitment users have to a company, it includes concepts like user trust, familiarity and experience with the community and product. Engagement strategies are put in place to reduce the friction between the user and the product, making it a seaming-less experience.


Think of a time you stopped using a product because of how complicated getting help was or how the documentation was confusing or outdated. A good engagement strategy puts you in the place of the user, but how does this translate to increasing community engagement?


When people have a good experience with your product, they’re more likely to want to be involved in it, actively participating and helping you get instant feedback on how well or bad a product is behaving for the users. The product and the community are not two separate environments, one feeds off the other.


Even if you already have an established community, this article will help you identify some mistakes you might be making and give you actionable steps to solve them, ultimately helping you increase engagement within your community.



Common mistakes when managing a community

Having a well-structured and welcoming community are two of the pillars of having an engaged community, the safer and more appreciated the members feel the more likely they will want to interact and be active, by the end of the day, the community is shaped by its members and daily interactions with each other and the product.


Managing a community is a lot of trial and error, not two communities are the same but some mistakes keep coming up whenever someone is building a community for the first time or trying to increase engagement. Some personal biases like building it the way you want it and not the way users need might be in the way of creating a successful community that serves both the users and the product.


Some other common mistakes we can encounter are:


1. Not having a clear vision of what you want to achieve with the community and how to do it.

Communities especially in the beginning will change a lot, adapting to the members' needs, but it is important to have a delimited outcome of what we want this community for and how we can achieve it. It will make you reflect on what the best community possible for your product will look like.


This will serve as a roadmap you can follow to reach your goals. If you want the members to interact more, make more community events and want them to contribute to GitHub instead? Make more interactive activities like Hackathons part of the community's core.


2. Missing guidelines people can follow.

Not having a code of conduct in place for a community will make members confused on what to expect from your community, making it less likely for them to interact with it just because of the uncertainty that creates. This will also make people question the values and morals of the product and those representing it.


Your role is to make the community as transparent as possible, helping them feel more confident about what your community stands for and what is against of, them by having clear guidelines set in place and ways they can communicate the infringement of said rules to moderators or community managers.


3. Having confusing lines of communication.

When you’re missing appropriate channels for users to reach you, or where to voice their thoughts and concerts it's most likely they will not participate in your community.


Having clear and designated channels for communication is one of the first things people notice when they join a community. This will also prevent ambiguity on channels and when people need help they will know exactly where to get it, or if their concerns have been addressed before.


4. No personalization.

Having the same welcome message for every new member, not engaging in discussions unless they are started by the community managers or moderators and not interacting directly with members of your community is a recipe for disaster.


People enjoy connecting with other people, to know that they are talking with another person and not a brand or a product representative. Be present in the conversation, and when possible add your own personality to it, and instead of trying to build your community in numbers try to build it based on connections and relationships, this will make members feel welcomed and appreciated.


5. Not discussing things publicly.

Discussions and arguments are meant to happen whenever a group of people get together, the important thing is to focus on how we handle those encounters.


Addressing things publicly will help your members view discussions and different opinions as a positive activity and a way we can all learn from various perspectives.


Handling conflicts in public, instead of sending them a private message, will give members a sense of security and stability, that their thoughts and concerns, when discussed with respect and understanding, will be taken into consideration while also setting a precedent of how the community will handle that same situation in the future.



Actionable tips for community managers

When it comes to increasing engagement sadly there is not a one fits all solution, there is a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for your community and what aligns best with your goals.


These are some actionable tips you can start making today, to improve not only your engagement but the quality of your community as well. You should keep in mind most of the time these go hand in hand and will make your work easier and the experience better for your members.


The goal would be to reach a point where they are all implemented together, but drastic changes are not sustainable ones. Try to mix and match them, one at a time to fit your community's needs and reassess when necessary.


1. Leading by example.

By leading by example, the members of your community will see the management team be more active, not only with each other but with the members too. This will motivate them to be more engaging and they will encourage each other to do so too.


Interact in discussions, participate in conversations, join events, and make being in the community an enjoyable experience for both the management team and the members. You need to promote the behaviour you want to see more of.


2. Community activities.

Regular activities reinforce the mindset of being together as a community, whether that is working on a product, contributing or being a user. This will solidify the shared sense of belonging to a group and wanting to contribute to its success.


This will often help members build trust with each other, and create connections and soon after they will be having the initiative to hold more community activities with only the supervision or approval of the management team. You can also publicize them on social media which will increase new member interactivity.


3. Give people a reason to stay in your community.

Your product made them join the community, now what?


The most important part is keeping people inside your community, the hype can die out soon and you will need something that will have them coming back to your community.


How do we do this? Keep them engaged, have community events, give exclusive sneak peeks of new products or features, give shout-outs to active members and when possible promote them to being part of the management team. Have activities that will make people want to stay, make connections, have fun and contribute to the product.


4. Listen to the people in the community.

Communities are built on the members and their interactions with each other and the product, this is why you should always have listening sessions with the community members, see what is working, what is not, what can be improved and reassess as many times as necessary.


This feedback is what will keep your community moving forward and learning from its members will give you incredible insight into both your product and the community, they will also give you ideas of activities and things you can make happen for the community.


5. Learning how to delegate.

Managing a community is often a full-time job, especially when you have members from different time zones. Learning to delegate, whether it is to the most active members or to an already decided team, can help lift a lot of weight off your shoulders so you can dedicate that attention to other aspects of community management.


They will help keep an eye on the activities and the community when you are not available, maintain the engagement levels and they will ideally be prepared when questions arise and decisions need to be made.


6. Making it a safe space.

Having a safe community means having an inclusive community. Knowing that people who feel comfortable engage more, make more connections, ask questions, start discussions and do many other activities they wouldn’t if they thought your community wasn’t friendly enough for them to voice out their opinions and concerns.


Making your community inclusive means making it a safe, respected and comfortable place for the members to express all aspects of their identities, without facing any judgment. Let it be known that your community has a commitment to empathy, kindness and respect.


How can you make your communities more inclusive?

  • Use gender-neutral language. Oftentimes, especially in tech, it is normal to use ‘guys’ in every other sentence to refer to a group of people, but knowing how diverse tech is, encourages the use of gender-neutral language like ‘everybody’.

  • Use thoughtful language. Make it known that the use of derogatory expressions has no place within your community. That it is not okay to ever use racial or ethnic slurs, anti-semitic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist language, etc. And when the situation arrives and someone does, address it publicly so that the affected groups can feel understood and listened.

  • Ask questions: The best and ultimate way of making your community be more inclusive is to ask the members and learn from each other ways we can improve the community. Remember that safe communities encourage curiosity and dialogue.


Have different channels for different needs.

We all have a favourite social media platform, and so do our users. Identify the main channels your community prefers and focus on being active there. Some might use Twitter, some others Slack, Discord, Reddit and many others. Get on a personal level and make those connections with your community.


Twitter might be good for feature updates, Slack might be more convenient for the development side of things, Discord for contributors, etc. While keeping it short and sweet might be the answer, and sticking to a couple of forms of communication, you must adapt to your community and choose the most optimized way to connect with them.



Closing thoughts

Maintaining a community is no easy task, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes and things to always keep in mind, but there is also a lot of learning, growing and fun experiences that take place. Remember that a good community is not built overnight, it is built over a strong foundation of patience and consistency.


Thank you so much for reading this article!


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Yuri Santana is a Developer Relations Advocate at Fonoster. Check out more of Yuri's work on a personal blog, and if you have any thoughts feel free to connect on Twitter.


To learn more about the developer community and initiatives to drive its success and metrics, join the DevRelX Summit, coming up on Oct 12 & 13 at devrelxsummit.com