25 ideas to increase community engagement

Hivebrite community experts and customers share community engagement activities to encourage member participation. Get started now with our community engagement best practices and ideas.

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Community engagement best practices

Optimizing community engagement is at the heart of community building. But “community engagement” isn’t a complete goal. Before you begin to activate the engagement lever in your community, it is essential to ask yourself, what does engagement look like in this community and what is the end goal you are looking to achieve with fostering more engagement? To answer these questions, look to your community strategy, including your mission statement and overall goals. By looking at what you hope your community will achieve for its members, you can determine which engagement tactics make the most sense for your goals. 

Your engagement goals will be specific to your community, but there are some common goals for various types of communities to help you get started. For a non-profit community that aims to turn supporters into volunteers or donors, engagement will look like new and repeat donations and new and repeat volunteer sign-ups. An alumni community focused on connecting its membership may focus its engagement efforts on event attendance, member messages, and mentoring relationships. A customer community that aims to provide support to their user base may focus engagement efforts on answering product questions and sharing how-to guides to improve customer satisfaction and reduce customer support tickets.

Whatever engagement means for your community, there are some best practices that can help you set the stage to drive meaningful interactions that align with your community’s purpose and goals. By baking these best practices into the standard operating procedures of your community, you make your members comfortable, invite engagement and conversation, and create a community that is open and excited about engaging with each other. 

25 ideas to increase community engagement

You define community engagement is unique to your community. Many communities measure engagement with metrics like community membership and growth, community activity, and event conversions. These 25 ideas for increasing community engagement contain ideas for increasing engagement across these metrics. They include ideas for community branding, community onboarding, community content and programming, community management, and community structure.

Community branding ideas to drive engagement 

Creating an environment that people are primed to participate in starts in the earliest stages of your membership journey — even before someone joins. By continuously presenting your community as a place where people are engaged, you prime members to follow suit when they join. 

1. Optimize your homepage to be a welcome page

Use your homepage to outline your community’s vision and show how members can participate to get the most value out of the community. This welcome page serves as a handy primer for new and potential members, but also is a regular reminder for your veteran community members what the community does and can do for them.

Community example: Harvard Business School has a great welcome page that showcases the community’s mission and the key benefits that it offers members front and center. Scroll down, and you’ll see upcoming events and can read more about the programs that the community offers.

Best for: All communities!

2. Make membership feel inclusive or exclusive, whatever works for you

If your community is meant to be inclusive, make it very clear on your homepage, social channels, and marketing materials that membership is open to anyone and that everyone is welcome.  Alternatively, if members have to apply to join your group, or be referred by other members, emphasizing that exclusivity assures members that your community is a safe space of like-minded peers. That exclusivity actually encourages participation.

Community example: The D2 Collective, a community for tech professionals, requires an application or referral to join and charges a membership fee. These barriers to entry ensure that members are all closely aligned to the mission and can trust they are among a community of like minded peers. Conversely, Gong, the revenue intelligence platform, has created a community that is completely open to the public. “There is a lot of thought leadership in the community, and we keep it open to the public so prospects can understand more about revenue intelligence,” says Nisha Baxi, Head of Community and Digital Customer Success at Gong. “I can see people join as non-customers and then become customers.”

Best for: Collectives & Associations, Commercial

3. Showcase community voices 

People join communities to meet people, and it’s essential to share these voices with potential members on your welcome page. By sharing personal testimonials about the value of community, you invite your members to imagine how they might benefit from and contribute to the community. These community voices should be shared wherever you promote your community, including your homepage, emails and newsletters, social media channels, and print brochures.

Best for: All communities!

Onboarding ideas to drive engagement 

Onboarding sets the stage for engagement in your community. It’s your chance to let new members know that this is a space where they are welcome to contribute! 

4. Create a robust member onboarding journey 

A positive onboarding experience sets the stage for a positive member experience. Your onboarding resources should include ways to participate in the community and connect with members, as well as a friendly primer to what they can expect in your community. If members use acronyms or jargon, make a key and make it easy to find. Hivebrite’s Journeys feature makes it incredibly easy to create a robust onboarding program with guided learning paths to make your new members feel part of the community from the start.

Best for: All communities!

5. Assign new members a community champion to welcome them

A personal message from a current member will make them feel welcome and help forge early connections. What this outreach looks like will vary according to your community size and goals. Sometimes, it might mean a quick private message. For others, it could mean a one-to-one welcome meeting or an invitation to attend an upcoming event together. Let your community champions guide you on what type of experience will work best for your members.

Best for: Education, Collectives & Associations, Non-profits

6. Create regular welcome posts to invite early participation 

Each month, welcome new members to the group publicly. Tag them and invite them to introduce themselves, and encourage your community champions to respond enthusiastically to these posts and create a culture that makes new members feel cherished from the start.

Best for: All communities!

Content ideas to drive engagement 

The content that you regularly post is the backbone of your community. Your main feed is usually one of the places members go, and it’s essential that what they find there is engaging to them. 

7. Create a content calendar 

A content calendar enables you to develop a consistent cadence for your posts and encourages users to visit often to see new content. Consistent posting makes your community feel alive and gives lots of opportunities for participation.   Community example: SETsquared Partnership is a business incubator that connects university-affiliated startups and entrepreneurs with funders. Its content calendar includes investor showcases and funding opportunities. “I found that once there was a bit of momentum and there was content being generated consistently, the platform snowballed,” says Lydia Green, Innovation Manager, SETsquared.

Best for: All communities!

8. Set monthly themes 

Monthly themes help you build out your content calendar with topics that are interesting and relevant to your community members. Themes help give some structure to your community content so that community members know what to expect and can plan to participate accordingly.

Best for: All communities!

Community management ideas to drive engagement 

A community manager alone cannot create an engaged community. But there are things you can do regularly to instill a culture of engagement. 

9. Reward participation

Rewarding members for their contributions shows them that they play a vital role in the community and motivates them to continue to contribute. You know that you must reward your community champions, but all contributions by all members should be acknowledged. This could look like ensuring that every post gets at least one “like” or comment. Other ideas include programs to offer digital badges or sending community-branded swag.  Access can also be a reward: For example, invite community champions and engaged community members to beta test products, give them early access to top content, or invite them to exclusive events, like roundtables with executives.

Best for: All communities!

10. Get involved in the conversation

Let your community know that you are listening. If a member asks a question, reply to them promptly. Boost the quality of your responses by soliciting the most expert person in your team to respond.

Best for: All communities!

11. Have regular one-to-ones with community members 

Whether you’re reaching out with an email to say hello, inviting community members for coffee, or asking them to jump on a quick phone call, one of the most important things you can do as a community manager to drive engagement is to connect directly with members of your community.

Community example:Startup Colorado is nonprofit organization that connects entrepreneurs in rural Colorado with resources and community. Community Manager Vanessa McCrann made it her job to speak to every community member when she joined, and she continues the practice today. “When I started, I talked to everyone to find out what they wanted out of the community,” she says. “Our work is always going to be relationship based.”

Best for: All communities!

12. Track your engagement metrics 

Tracking engagement metrics helps you see what methods are successful and helps you tell the story of your community. The community engagement metrics that you track will depend on your community goals, but the big categories are membership and growth metrics, activity metrics, and conversion metrics.

Community example: Terence Sinkfield is Vice President, Alumni Support for West Point Association of Graduates. “Our mission is to serve West Point and the Long Gray Line, which is what we call our alumni or our graduates,” says Terence. “And our vision is to be the most highly connected alumni body in the world. The real value that we bring to our constituents is the ability to form enhanced connections.” To measure their success toward that goal, Sinkfield and his team track a number of engagement metrics in Sallyport, the organization’s alumni community powered by Hivebrite. One important one? Member profile updates. “We know that in order for our community to be successful, constituent updates are the priority,” says Terence.

Best for: All communities!

13. Capture engagement stories 

While tracking metrics are essential, the numbers don’t tell the whole story of community engagement. As a community manager, you must capture specific anecdotes of community engagement in order to tell the story of your community. Just by the nature of your work, you’re doing this already! But when you write these wins down and reference them often, you help your community members understand the value of engagement.

Community example: Community Manager Vanessa McCrann of Startup Colorado records all of her community engagement wins in a massive spreadsheet. She looks for these wins throughout the community and finds them in community testimonials, post comments, and in her own conversations with community members. Connections made, doors opened, ideas sparked: These qualitative metrics are the true barometers of the community’s success.“If you want to look at the impact an event has, the number of attendees isn’t going to cut it,” she says. “You want to know, did people get something out of it? Did it help them?”

Best for: All communities!

Programming ideas to drive engagement 

When your programming is specifically designed for your community, members take notice and engage.  

14. Introduce a mentoring program 

A mentoring program helps your members foster deep and meaningful connections. The empowerment leads to increased involvement and loyalty within your community.

Community example: APM, the Association for Project Management, has a robust mentoring program built into its community platform.  “I am delighted that we can offer our community the added value of a mentoring program to drive our mission and give members another reason to come back!,” says Sarah Slater, Volunteering Manager.

Best for: All communities!

15. Collaborate with other organizations 

Inviting people from other organizations to participate in your community, either in specific groups or as event guests, gets your own membership excited and engaged.

Community example: The Data Lab, which unites data and AI professionals in Scotland, regularly partners with outside organizations on events and projects. These collaborations give members something to look forward to and showcase the community at a central hub for the industry.

Best for: All communities!

16. Create study groups for courses in your community

If part of your organization’s work involves courses and events for non-members, leverage your community sub-groups to run your courses through your community

Community example: The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Boost is a community for immunization professionals. When Sabin partnered with WHO to create a fellowship program and training course, it leveraged its community to connect participants. This worked logistically, giving participants a place to meet each other and engage with instructors on course materials. But it also brought new people into the community and invited them to participate from the start.

Best for: All communities!

17. Migrate other organizational programs to your community 

Look for opportunities to bring active members of your organization into your community.

Community example: EIT Health created its EIT Health Innovators Community to connect its members and drive innovation. It also had a successful mentoring program. By moving that program to be hosted within the community, the organization added a number of highly engaged members to the community and increased engagement by 40%.

Best for: All communities!

18. Identify and nurture community champions 

Who is posting or replying to discussions? Who gets recognition from other members for their willingness to engage? Who demonstrates moderation and leadership skills? These are your community champions.   You need to recognize and reach out to your community champions. This group can give you invaluable feedback on your community from a member perspective. And, of course, you need to keep them motivated to continue their great work.

Community example: West Point Association of Graduates has an incredibly engaged membership base. Its community champions lead subgroups and events. “We invest time in training, and then they help each other,”  says Terence Sinkfield, Vice President, Alumni Support. “I see a lot of goodness whenever we get our volunteer leaders training other volunteers.”

Best for: All communities!

19. Test a variety of event types

  • Community challenges
  • Giveaways
  • AMAs
  • Coffee hours
  • Happy hours 
  • Working sessions

Community example: The University of Notre Dame had long focused its alumni engagement efforts on in-person events during football game weekends. During the initial shutdowns of the COVID pandemic, they quickly pivoted to online events, including series fireside chats with a beloved vice president. The events were incredibly successful and inspired more online programming through their Hivebrite community.

Best for: All communities!

20. Share event and programming recaps 

Recaps and recordings, when appropriate, allow members who were unable to participate feel included. They also inspire members to participate in future events!

Community example: Girl Up, the UN-backed organization that encourages young women to be changemakers, has over 125,000 youth leaders spread out among 5,600 clubs in 130 countries. The team organizes monthly club-based challenges to encourage members worldwide to share the social impact-driven content and events they have built.

Best for: All communities!

21. Encourage a feeling of ownership 

When you encourage members to take ownership of the community, exciting things happen.

Community example: iac Berlin is a “do and think tank” focused on collaborating to address complex challenges. Its alumni community, the Bosch Alumni Network, powered by Hivebrite, connects over 8,000 members from 140 countries. Groups are run by group members and members are encouraged to develop and grow their own initiatives. Over 90% of projects on the platform are now organized by members, up from 35% in its early years. “We see members increasingly assuming ownership of the network,” says Tobias Gerber, Head of Communications and Community Management.”

Best for: All communities!

Structural ideas to drive engagement 

Set your community up for success by baking engagement into your community’s structure.

22. Centralize your organization’s communications and resources in the community 

When you make your community the one-stop-shop for information and tools that members need, you invite members to visit often.

Community example:  Girl Up is a UN-backed organization that encourages young women to be changemakers. Its online community is the heartbeat of its organization. “We centralize all communication, resources, and tools in one place,” says Tess Reiman, Program Coordinator Girl Up, United Nations Foundation.

Best for: All communities!

23. Create a member directory 

A member directory encourages members to connect with each other on the platform and off. It’s a valuable resource for members.

Community example: The Fulbright Program created Fulbrigther to connect the global community of the prestigious grant program, including current grantees and alumni. An interactive member directory built into the community allows community members to find and connect with each other based on a number of criteria including location. Members and alumni who are moving or traveling can easily find community members in their area, no matter where in the world they go. The directory encourages both private connections through direct messaging features but also public conversation via the global newsfeed.

Best for: Collectives, Education

24. Create sub-communities

Creating community groups or sub-communities allows members to connect with small groups of people that share their interests, needs, demographics or location. When these smaller groups are formed  around specific shared interests, they invite deeper relationships, increased sharing, and more participation with targeted topics and discussions.

Community examples: JA Worldwide serves 12 million students around the world to inspire them to succeed. Its online community connects 50,000 teachers and students into 100 sub-communities organized around region and interests. These groups connect members to people near them and who share their specific interests, inviting closer relationships that can go deeper.

Best for: All communities!

25. Make it mobile 

In order for your community members to be engaged in your community, it must be easy for them to do so. Part of that means understanding what they need to drive action. That may mean giving them access to your community where they are already active. For some this is on a mobile device. For others, it may mean customizing notifications, adding additional social channels, or other options. Understand how your members are using the community today and how they want to be using it.

Community example: The Taco Bell Foundation awards the Live Más Scholarship to young people who use their passion to help and inspire others. Its Hivebrite-powered community, Live Más Scholar Connect, provides scholars with a space to connect with peers, find inspiration, and grow personally and professionally. An essential component of this community is its fully functional mobile app, which enables its members to connect with each other where they are — on their phones.

Best for: All communities!

Bonus tip: Invest in a robust community platform 

A comprehensive and customizable community platform (like Hivebrite!) enables easy implementation of all of these strategies. Branding, onboarding, events, mentoring programs, member directories, sub-communities, and mobile apps are all features that are made incredibly easy with a strong community platform. With data and analytics built-in, you can see in realtime what strategies are working for your community.  And for the strategies that rely on you, the community manager, to connect with your members, a community platform makes messaging them simple. By having everything in one place on a flexible, all-in-one community platform, you have the tools, the access, and the information to optimize community engagement.  Learn how Hivebrite can help increase your community engagement by booking a demo today. 

Download Hivebrite’s free community metrics spreadsheet

We have created a free community engagement checklist designed to help keep fresh engagement ideas top of mind. As a bonus, we’ve designed a Community engagement tests & learning tracker that aids in tracking your experiments (and results!) in community engagement. These templates are meant to be a starting point that you customize for your own unique community. Have engagement ideas you think we should include? Drop us a line! You can find us on LinkedIn or email us at [email protected].