If you’re running an ongoing market research online community, you’re going to eventually need to “refresh” the membership in your community to keep it fresh, vibrant and delivering the kind/amount of feedback you are looking for. Even well-run communities on the most advanced platforms will need refreshment. Whether it’s a MROC or not, attrition is a fact of life in online communities since people will inevitably get too busy, lose interest, etc…
The challenge comes when you’re three or six months in and you try to recruit a bunch of new members into your community. MROCs in particular have a certain “flow” to them. The moderator-led research topics from early in the community build into deeper topics later on that are based on a certain understanding of the audience already there. If you arrive late to the party and see a list of discussion topics waiting for you, you may have trouble responding with any level of depth (and may even quit entirely because you feel overwhelmed).
Here are some tips for “onboarding” new recruits so their transition into regular contributors is as seamless as possible:
- Reduce the activity strain – Go back through your research topics and archive all but the key ones. The list of activities can be quite extensive after even just a few months of a community. Archiving most of them (while leaving the few key activities) will help reduce the strain on new members by simplifying their experience with the site.
- Revise your welcome email – Early on in your community you likely drafted a welcome email explaining the community goals, expectations for participation, how information will be used, etc. Consider spending some time cutting this down to the core message for your member refresh campaign. By the time you are running your refresh campaign the community has likely adopted certain conventions of its own that may differ from the initial community vision and expectations. It’s best to revise the email to reflect the reality of the community now, which will help reduce the barriers to quickly onboarding members.
- Redo your welcome video/tutorial – Similar to the welcome email, it may make sense to redo your welcome video (if you created one). Of course, the advantage this time around is you will be able to run your video on the current community, rather than a blank or demo community you may have used to create the initial video.
- Notify existing community members – Send a separate email or start a new discussion with existing members to let them know they can expect newbies to the community soon, and encourage them to help you welcome them to the site with open arms. Let them know that it won’t disrupt the status quo too much, and that it will help build a stronger, more diverse community over time.
- Run new activities for them exclusively – If you have the capabilities in your MROC platform, consider targeting new members with similar activities to existing members, only in their own private list. Gradually introduce them to the rest of the community through activities that are launched to both new and existing member lists.
- Individual acknowledgment – You should have been doing this with existing members, but it’s especially important with new recruits coming into the community mid-stream… Make sure you leave notes on their profile pages, acknowledge their contributions privately in discussions, etc.
- Pair community elders with groups of newbies – Try asking a few of your most committed members to act as your assistants as you bring on new groups of members. Ask them to take responsibilities for certain members in ensuring that they have a positive experience early on. Reward them with public acknowledgment or points to recognize the time commitment involved with welcoming new members.
Running a member refreshment campaign can be a lot of work, but in the long-run it’s going to help your MROC continue to be a source of insights for your organization.