Engagement. It’s the holy grail of online course and membership site owners.
The more engaged your community is, the more invested they become in your content and the more likely they are to get good results. For an online course this can mean some pretty sweet testimonials and referrals, and for membership site owners it can also lead to increased retention (and retention is king when it comes to membership sites!).
Now, you might think that if someone has paid for something – whether it’s $30 a month for a membership or a $1000 flat fee for a course – they’re naturally going to be engaged, right?
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has bought a course only to never actually do anything more than take a cursory look at the content. We all have that ‘one day’ file on our computer I’m sure!
To a certain extent, that’s just what happens in these glorious days of the internet where all the information that we need is available to us at the push of a button. But it’s in our best interests as course and membership creators to encourage our members to make as much use of our content as we can.
And that’s where engagement fits in.
What exactly do we mean by engagement?
When we talk about engagement it can be easy to think that we simply mean members discussing our content in something like a forum or Facebook group. And that’s definitely a clear kind of engagement – there’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘people join for the content but stay for the community’.
However, engagement is really much more than this. It’s members consuming your content, completing course activities, turning up for live sessions, asking questions and, at it’s simplest, logging into your site.
So, you shouldn’t base how engaged your membership community is purely on the level of interaction in your actual community itself. When it comes to forums and groups, as much as 90% of your community will be lurkers, who simply read posts and never really respond or interact.
That’s actually pretty good news though, and can take the pressure off feeling like if all your members aren’t posting in your community you’re not doing a great job.
But how do we get people engaged?
Now that we know that engagement means more than simply members discussing our content, it’s time to look at my top 3 ways to actually encourage engagement.
Create a welcoming community
This is kind of an obvious one I admit, and whilst I mentioned above that community interaction isn’t the be-all and end-all of engagement, it’s still a good idea to have one. Whether it’s a forum, a Facebook group or something else entirely, ensure that you actually do have somewhere for your members to talk to each other and connect.
It’s important to actually be a part of that community yourself as well. If you’re not engaging with your members, why would they want to engage with each other? Don’t just create a community, step back and leave people to it, especially in the early days. You’ll need to create a lot of the initial interaction yourself – post questions, start discussions, warm your members up a bit!
And yep, a lot of your members will be lurkers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not getting value from the community still. If you can see that they are logging in and reading posts, then they are still engaging with your community, just quietly.
Add action steps and quizzes
You already have some activities built into your content, right? Some action steps for members to take to help them implement what they’re learning?
If you don’t then it’s a good idea to think about how you could add these – both to increase engagement and to improve your members results.
Whilst this is easier for some topics than others there should be at least a couple of places in your content where your members can actually do something with the information you’ve given them. Whether it’s writing a draft of their first blog post or baking their first cupcake, ensure that you have some clear next steps and activities in your content.
Because you know what? We’re all a little lazy at heart. Without clear next steps, we may never implement what we’re learning. And implementation is the key to a successful course or membership site.
If your topic is more educational than practical then this is where you can make use of things like quizzes to help add a little pizazz to your content, as well as to encourage engagement and ensure your members are understanding what they’re learning.
Make use of gamification
I’m a gamer geek so no look at engagement would be complete without mentioning the wonder that is gamification!
If you’re not sure what this is then it’s basically when you make use of old school gaming techniques to encourage engagement with your site – mainly by rewarding members for performing certain desired acts. It’s things like giving people a badge when they complete the first module of your course, or awarding them a certain number of points when they complete a quiz.
Rewards can be simple things like a badge they can put on their member profile or moving up the community leaderboard, or you can make them even more tangible with things like a member spotlight or bonus content.
It may not seem like much, but simple gamification techniques, like points and badges, tap into the inbuilt human need for recognition, reward and acknowledgement, as well as adding a healthy dose of competition for good measure.
Making it a great way to get your members returning to your site again and again.
So there you have my top 3 engagement methods. There are of course countless other ways to increase engagement as well though, including:
- Member challenges
- Live training sessions
- Q&As or office hours
- Member feedback sessions
And you can make use of as many or as few as you would like depending on how you want your membership or course to run.
However, I find that having content based activities, a friendly community, and some simple gamification techniques in place, is a winning combination for engagement in both courses and membership sites.
Of course, the real beauty of increased engagement is that it benefits not just your members – who are more likely to consume your content, act on it, and get results – but you as well. Engaged members are happy members, and happy members will spread the word about your site and stick around for longer. Which is the goal of any membership site owner.