While it may seem obvious to some, when a user engages with you in some way—joins your email list, follows you on social media, joins your forum, etc.—it is polite and potentially lucrative to personally welcome them and thank them for following you.
For starters, this act of kindness creates a warm and fuzzy feeling and tells the person they’re “more than just a another follower”. Incidentally, this moment also represents a perfect opportunity to make a request of the user. It could be a request for feedback about a new product, a question about the biggest challenges they currently face, or the next steps the person can take to build a stronger relationship with you.
In the best case, a good welcome message provides instant value to new users when they join.
We have found this opportunity is often overlooked by forum owners. However, the Ninja Post platform is designed to help you avoid this costly mistake because we allow site owners to automatically send a Personal Message to new users when they join your forum community. By welcoming users, forum admins can accomplish three important goals:
- Nudge the user to proceed. For example, you can encourage the user to introduce himself or herself or to create a new thread. Many people are bashful when they join a new group and never get involved beyond lurking. A warm introductory message helps users get comfortable right away.
- Alert the user about special deals, new products for sale, account upgrades, etc. When a user joins your forum his or her enthusiasm is very high and he or she might not be aware of products for sale. Bring this information to their attention.
- Set expectations for user behavior. By explaining what is or is not tolerated, the site owner can set a constructive tone for the entire community. The user gets a direct line of communication with the site owner. This approach encourages members to work together and help one another and is designed to reduce vicious personal attacks and things of that nature.
Not everyone will take you up on your offer… but it doesn’t hurt to extend a warm welcome to new users. As long as your platform can take this action automatically on your behalf it’s a no-brainer to implement. How you take advantage of this opportunity to engage is up to you!
Last week, we discussed how the “Like” button on your forum triggers an engagement loop. In the same way that forum communities must make the registration process for new users both obvious and easy, the “Like” experience must be intuitive.
Here are the rules we follow for the “Like” button on our forum communities:
- Make it prominent. The “Like” button must be obvious and easy to use.
- Provide visual feedback. Give feedback to the user after he or she presses or taps the “Like” button, so they know their feedback was recorded. This needs to happen almost instantly even though this can be challenging if the user has a slow connection.
- Reward and notify the recipient. Award reputation points to the content creator who earned the “Like” and send them an email notification with the good news. Chances are that user will come back and pay it forward to someone else, which will spark a new loop.
The “Like” experience is satisfying for everyone involved. It draws people into the conversation because it does not require much effort. Finally, it’s a great tool for both new and old members alike to stay engaged with the community and bring the tribe members closer together.
When it comes to forums and gamification we prefer to keep things simple. Allowing users to give out reps to other users for adding valuable content is the best example of forum gamification because we want to reward constructive contributions without being too distracting.
At its core, the concept of badges as they are commonly used around the ‘Net today is basic as well: the user achieves some goal, and in turn the user gets a shiny piece of flair for their profile.
Computers are perfect for detecting certain milestones: it’s been one year since you joined the forum; you achieved a rep score of 100 points; or you created a thread with 1,000 views.
But in the context of forum communities, where user-to-user interaction is king, this purely automated approach seems rather boring and difficult to customize.
Besides, there are plenty of other tasks worthy of shiny profile flair that are more nuanced. Does the user go out of his or her way to help newbies? Did the user donate to the latest forum fund raiser? Is the user a leader in the community? Is there an inside joke with the community that we can pay homage to? It is much harder for a computer to create, judge, and reward such feats.
Bearing this complexity in mind, we designed the Ninja Post badge system to accommodate three scenarios:
- Badges automatically generated by the system. For achieving a milestone…
- Badges only created and awarded by Admins. For going above & beyond the call of duty…
- Badges users can award to one another. For impressive accomplishments and perpetuating inside jokes…
Most badge systems stop at the first item on the above list. But our goal is to maximize user engagement and user-to-user interaction. We believe that allowing users to create badges and award to one another is a novel way to make your forum more fun and engaging. See some examples in the chart below.
Assuming your forum has more than 365 members, chances are that it’s somebody’s birthday everyday. With Ninja Post, we recognize everyone’s birthday by automatically inserting a birthday cake next to their user name on their special day. It’s simple and fun without being overly dramatic.
We have considered doing more. For example:
- Display the cake icon next to the user name in the “user panel” at the top of the page.
- Sending users a special birthday greeting in the form of a Private Message.
- Display a special birthday message on the forum homepage for that particular user.
- Create a special page and/or link in the footer that displays “Members’ Birthdays Today”.
Of the ideas listed above, we believe the Private Message is the best way to engage a user. One reason is that this message will reach the user via email so they don’t even need to visit the forum on their special day. In turn, a customized birthday greeting from the site is likely to inspire the user to check into the site and say hello to everyone. People love celebrating birthdays, whether it’s their own or somebody else’s. One of our goals is to tap into this positive emotion.