Engagement Needs Questions!

I just got back from the biggest convention in my community’s industry and had some great discussions with some really smart people. In trying to identify why weren’t getting the engagement we used to, we were having trouble pinpointing the reason. WE have a solid core of really great members in our community and tons of traffic. Over the weekend, we realized what the issue was. Our community doesn’t have enough challenges to sink their teeth into.

We, ControlBooth.com (we call it CB for short), have a HUGE body of established content that 70% of our traffic finds from Google Search on a daily basis and gets the answers they need, and then leaves. That’s fine. But our membership isn’t posting as much as they used to. What we need are new questions for our community to sink their teeth into. This is what I think is the core of our engagement issues. We don’t have enough questions to keep the community engaged.

One of my favorite distractions on the internet is Quora. A rare question and answer site that has a very high signal to noise ratio. I can go on there at any time of day and answer questions about camera gear, something I’m a subject matter expert in. It’s a release valve for my need to contribute my expertise to answer questions. This psychological phenomenon is what has made CB a success so far. People LOVE to be able to answer questions. Over the summer, I started to get emails from Quora staff, inviting me to join the Quora Partner Program. They want to pay me to ASK QUESTIONS. Up until last night, it really stuck in my craw that they would pay for questions and not for great answers. I get it now. At a certain point, a community of knowledge faces the problem that it’s harder to acquire questions than answers.

So, this is our challenge for the next year. How do we stimulate questions on ControlBooth for the community to answer?

Very interesting topic! I didn’t realize Quora offers a partner program to place questions in the community. Looking forward to learn if other communities have done something similar.

I really appreciate @richard_millington’s response. (https://www.feverbee.com/declining-engagement/) There is some really good advice in there. I’ve read the books and I’m still working on a system for segmenting our users to be able to send surveys and track the results over time. It’s a long term project. However, some of his advice was gear towards a company/brand community.

We are an industry community of knowledge. Just like most communities organized around an industry/hobby rather than a product or brand, there really isn’t an end to the questions that can be asked. I just have to figure out how to get them to ask more questions!

You can’t exhaust the questions in a particular industry because there are always new products coming out, updates to protocols, new tests, new standards, and new ideas and ways of doing things all the time. I just wonder how other communities handle this. At some point, do you feel like your community knowledge base is “comprehensive” and don’t know what else do to?

I can fully appreciate the niche and expertise we’ve carved out for ourselves. We are considered a highly reliable source of information about theatrical and live entertainment lighting because we have great community members AND we attract direct manufacturer support. °

The other reality is that we are supported by advertising. A drop in engagement means that it will be harder to attract funding. This is a small industry and competition for ad dollars is rough. If we keep declining, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. As it is, I’ve got advertisers asking for new opportunities to advertise, which is great at the moment. I’m concerned that I’m our traffic is going to die down and it will become harder to attract the attention and energy that the industry invests in our site.

So, I’m stumped. Not quite sure what we can do.

° (direct manufacturer support) We use a system we commissioned years ago, call the Keyword Alert System, that lets manufacturers set keywords that the system will alert them to if someone starts talking about the keywords in the community. We work with the manufacturers to treat ControlBooth as a support channel, alongside their phones, website, email, etc. We send hundreds of emails out to manufacturers every week, alerting them to conversations. I’ve spoken to the heads of technical support who have had the experience of getting the email, only to find out someone posted a correct solution seconds before they arrived! It’s a good feeling. They like it, we like that they are verifying the community’s solutions, and the people needing help have gotten a solid solution.
We also recommend using the keyword alert system as a Reputation Management System, for the rare occasion when a user is upset or dissatisfied with the company’s products, it gives them a chance to quickly swoop in and see how they can alleviate the situation. We had a guy complaining about an LED lighting fixture and the manufacturer was able to step in, get the guy to call him, walk him through updating the firmware, and figuring out that one fixture was bad and arranging a very quick replacement being sent. The guy who was so unhappy the day before came back and sang their praises on the forum.