Nov 17, 2023

Read Time 5 min

How to build buzz in your customer community: Four engagement strategies


This is a guest post by Shauna McClemens, community strategist, Higher Logic Vanilla.

Online communities are great places for customers to forge connections, seek support from their peers, and share new ideas.

However, keeping the energy high and the conversations flowing can be a challenge. Without the right engagement practices in place, communities risk stagnating or being abandoned.

To keep your community alive and buzzing, focus on four key strategies:

  1. Attract new users—they bring fresh energy and perspectives
  2. Keep the members you have excited—they’re the heart of the community
  3. Turn regulars into champions—they set the tone and get others involved
  4. Get your team to join in too—they shape the discussions and culture

By following these tactics, you can make your online community more engaging for everyone.

1. Attract new community members

Capturing the interest of potential members starts with clear incentives. Consider these strategies to encourage new sign-ups:

  • Make the benefits of joining explicit. Create visible calls to action that highlight what users gain by registering, such as exclusive content, a community of peers, or a trove of resources. Ensure calls to action are prominently displayed even when users are not logged in. Convey the advantages those users are missing out on and give them a clear incentive to sign in or join.
  • Introduce the community early. Embed the community’s value in the customer experience from the start, including during the sales process and onboarding. Collaborate with customer-facing teams, like implementation and customer success, to facilitate these conversations and ensure the community’s value is communicated at every step. Incorporate the tactic of directing new customers to the community into the processes and playbooks that teams already use.
  • Position the community as a central hub. The community should work seamlessly with the other tools and systems your customers use—such as a learning management platform and ticketing system—to make it more convenient for everyone involved.
  • Promote top community content. Use existing newsletters and communications to feature standout community content, offering your marketing and customer success teams additional resources to engage users and add value to routine outreach.
  • Extend personal invitations. Identify customers who are not yet community members and personally invite them, using clear, value-focused messaging to explain the benefits of joining the community.

2. Keep community members engaged

Now that users are in your community, you’ve got to give them a reason to stick around. Reflect on the goals you set for your community and consider the unique value it offers. Consider these strategies to promote engagement:

  • Create persona-specific content. Who are your different users? What makes them tick? Think about the different perspectives and needs they may have.
  • Send regular, curated updates via newsletters and digests. This keeps the community at the forefront of your members’ minds, offering them a nudge to engage by highlighting what they’ve missed and what’s coming up.
  • Welcome new users with personalized messages. Highlight the community’s benefits and suggest initial steps to engage.
  • Re-engage inactive members with “we miss you” messages. This can be done either automatically via a community platform or through a personal touchpoint, depending on your resources. By integrating a community platform, like Higher Logic Vanilla, with a customer success platform (CSP), such as ChurnZero, your customer success team can see how customers engage with your community. CSMs can use this insight to focus their outreach efforts more effectively. For instance, with the Higher Logic Vanilla-ChurnZero integration, CSMs can create segments within ChurnZero to identify customers who haven’t participated in the community in the last 60 days and may need extra attention.
  • Introduce gamification. Use badges, points, or leaderboards to make participation fun and rewarding. Give your CS team visibility into customer achievements by bringing award data into their CSP. With the Higher Logic Vanilla-ChurnZero integration, for instance, CSMs can create an alert within ChurnZero to get notified when one of their customers earns a community badge, so they can automate a congratulatory message or even create a task for personal outreach.
  • Organize events hosted within the community to encourage one-on-one interactions. Personal connections cultivate empathy and a sense of reciprocity, compelling us to support those with whom we share a bond and mutual trust. Another benefit of integrating your community platform with a CSP is that it allows CSMs to track customer RSVPs for community-related events directly within the CSP. With this data, CSMs can help drive event attendance through targeted and automated follow-up communications.

3. Turn regular users into advocates

As your community matures, consider how you can use it to foster advocacy. Consider these strategies to strengthen members’ ties with your community and brand:

  • Drive engagement with advanced gamification techniques. For example, you could develop tiered achievement levels, special badges, or exclusive perks that reward and recognize community participation.
  • Publicly recognize outstanding contributors on platforms like LinkedIn. This helps motivate the recognized individual and demonstrates the value you place on community interaction. It can serve as a powerful incentive for others to contribute more frequently.
  • Spotlight users. Select a member to be the “featured user” of the week, month, or quarter based on their engagement, helpfulness, or innovative use of your product.
  • Co-host events with users or partners. Highlight members’ success stories in a series of webinars, workshops, or meetups. This format adds a personal touch and showcases real-world applications of your product.
  • Offer genuine appreciation and feedback. When a member contributes something valuable, let them know. Authentic interactions are key. People can usually tell when praise is not heartfelt.

4. Get your company involved in the community.

Staff engagement is key to a successful community strategy, especially for communities that are focused on scaling customer success. Their involvement helps build trust, provide expert insights, and guide the community culture.

However, getting busy teams to contribute compelling content can be challenging. Consider these strategies to motivate team participation:

  • Identify employee needs. Examine the problems your staff face in their day-to-day jobs that the community can help solve. Consider the benefits they would gain from active participation.
  • Use familiar platforms. Make the community accessible through tools your staff already use. The goal is to simplify participation by incorporating the community into the existing workflows and habits of other teams. For instance, integrate the community within a channel where staff can be notified or tagged when a user relevant to them joins or posts something of interest. With the Higher Logic Vanilla-ChurnZero integration, CSMs can create an alert within ChurnZero to get notified when their customers ask a question, allowing them to offer swift support.
  • Repurpose content. Determine if your team is already creating valuable content that could be adapted for community use. Offer to help modify this content for community purposes to ease their workload.
  • Integrate the community into the user journey. Consider the different stages at which various teams interact with customers. Identify how the community can be integrated into each step and department, from marketing and sales to support and product development.

Find your internal community champions

When developing strategies for staff engagement, consider every department that interfaces with customers throughout their journey. I recommend appointing a dedicated community advocate within each department, including marketing, sales, implementation, customer experience, support, and product development. Forge strong connections with these champions.

As you work with each department, think about the following points to ensure effective engagement:

  • Keep the community top of mind: Find ways to regularly draw each department back to the community, keeping engagement high on their list of priorities.
  • Create content that adds to the conversation: Determine the types of community-focused content that can be produced by each department to add value for customers.
  • Simplify their work: Explore ways the community can streamline departmental workflows and make tasks more efficient and scalable.

The power of positive engagement

At the core of any active online community is a simple truth: people want to feel connected and gain something worthwhile from every interaction—whether that’s acquiring new knowledge, networking, or simply enjoying a positive social exchange.

By implementing strategies that prioritize user relationships, value creation, and a sense of belonging, you can nurture a space where members are excited to log in, share, and engage.


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