So my contractor is finally ready to launch an “introduce yourself” email I wrote that our new members will receive after signing up, but I wanted to see what others’ experiences are? Is an introduce yourself email the best way to go, or an explanation of the sites features? or both? How do I make the best first impression I can to get members engaged? Obviously I’m looking at you @HAWK but I’m hoping others will chime in too!
I think to some degree this will depend on your audience and your platform.
The key is to make sure you only have 1 CTA in the email – what is the first thing that you want them to do or see (i.e. what is the most likely to make them feel comfortable and want to stay)? Is that engaging in a topic, or updating their profile? I wouldn’t use this key communication to explain features – you can daisy-chain that into an onboarding process.
What is your process up to the point of this email – i.e. have they already been through an automated email sign-up/account confirmation process?
These discussions about onboarding processes should give you some tips:
I could also go into some detail about my current thinking around introduction topics, if that’s useful.
Would also be great to have some more context here.
What kind of community is it?
Broadly speaking, explaining features isn’t always that great. Explaining how people can get started is usually better. But it varies depending upon the type of community.
Thanks for the help.
@HAWK I’ll look into those discussions. I haven’t thought about onboarding, yet–I didn’t know our developers were actually working on the introduce yourself emails (it was on my hope and wish list). I guess I want to draw them to the discussion board because that’s where we see the kind of “engagement” we’re looking for - our site is supposed to help move evidence-based cancer control interventions into practice by connecting researchers and practitioners, and our only real mechanism for them to engage with one another is the discussion board. I’m just curious here - is there a benefit to having them update their profile as a first step in your opinion? That seems like an easy way to draw them to the site, but does it do anything else (keep them there, make them come back sooner)?
Honestly, I’m not completely sure about the process of signing up for the site, but I think they just fill out our form online. Then we have to go in and manually approve them. I’m actually not sure whether they receive an account confirmation email (I’ll ask our web developers about that. My expectation is that we already do). I think they would receive the automated “introduce yourself” email separately.
Please go into your current thinking about introduction topics – I’m trying to come up with ideas now.
It’s interesting you framed it as explaining how people could get started…that’s actually what I was hoping to do with explaining features–get people started on the site. But it seems like you and Sarah agree I should be more specific. I’m not sure what the best step is to get them to stay to be honest…
Then offer them one call-to-action (CTA) which goes to a topic on the site with a very low barrier to entry.
Pitch it in line with your audience – i.e. think about what their values are and what might scare them. In some audiences, new members feel daunted by intelligence or complicated language, in others, people want to showcase their knowledge and achievements. What will work best for your audience?
We use a 'What are you working on this week?" topic here, and we keep it relatively low key, the added benefit being that we can pull out topics to form wider discussions. In another community I run (which isn’t a professional community) it’s more lighthearted. I ask 3 simple questions (Where in the world are you? What stage of your career are you at? Cats or dogs?).
Don’t be afraid to change and refine as you go. More on that soon.
Probably not. In some cases it is a non-confrontational way to get people onto the platform and invested. There is no self-disclosure involved and it does offer a way for people to familiarise themselves. Higher Logic are big proponents of filling out profiles as an introduction to the platform (caveat: I don’t actually agree with some of that article).
I’d strongly recommend going through the process yourself, relatively regularly. You should understand the process that your members go through to get to you. It helps with ironing out platform bugs, sticking points, and gives you an idea of the state of mind they might be in (are they frustrated because they had to wait 24 hours to be approved or because the UX of the form was awful?).
And here is my thinking on introduction topics as promised.
Note: I copied and pasted this from a response that I gave to another member in a private forum because I think it’s relevant here but is pretty wordy!
There are a few reasons that we actively speak out about introduction threads. The first is that unless you build a very strong culture of members welcoming other members, introduction threads tend to be new members talking to you (the organisation or the CM) but not building relationships with each other. That’s something to avoid. I do that here by employing the services of volunteers to further engage new members. You can see an example of that here.
The second reason is that they tend to turn into dumps of low value responses, and the third is that they don’t have a great track record for fostering retention. People say hi and then they leave. It’s more valuable to get them to personally invest by talking about a challenge or a passion. They’re much more likely to come back to see what people have said in response to something personal than a ‘hi’.
But that doesn’t always work. For a long time I used a ‘What is your biggest challenge?’ or a general ‘What are you working on?’ topic as the primary CTA but the response rate was dire. So I talked to my audience. It turned out that people felt a bit intimidated by the idea of talking about what they were working on in such a professional community of ‘experts’. They were afraid of looking stupid. The barrier to entry was too high. We gave the ‘Introduce Yourself’ topic a go and it was a lot more successful.
My personal view is that new platforms (like this one) are reshaping our old ideas. I think it’s ok to try things that we didn’t used to think were a good idea, provided you actively work to mitigate the potential downsides. I use that welcome thread to split out new and interesting topics that stimulate further engagement. For instance this topic was a response to the intro thread but I think it has the potential to form a valuable discussion, so I pulled it out. Same goes for this one.
If you have a proactive CM and a flexible platform, I believe that the low barrier of entry that an intro topic offers can offer real value provided you carefully model behaviour so that it doesn’t denigrate into a thread of fluffy responses that don’t go towards achieving a goal.
Another tactic that I use here is contacting new members with a CTA to post in a more relevant topic, like this one. Ideally our automated welcome email and PM would do the same thing, but that would involve me remembering to edit them every week and that’s not scalable. For that reason, the more general welcome topic acts as a net to catch those that fall through the cracks if I’m on leave, or too busy to make personal contact.
I think the key is trying to find a balance between making people feel comfortable about making that first post, having threads that are valuable and model the behaviour that you want, and are relevant to your community. That means reading your audience and making decisions based on your circumstances, even if that means diverging off the ‘best practice’ path. You just need to make sure you collect data to justify those decisions down the line, and be prepared to pivot if an idea doesn’t work.
That is a very long winded answer to your question, but they are all pretty important points. I’m happy to elaborate on anything further if that’s necessary.
[5 December] What are you working on this week?
one thing here is to simply run a few tests and see what works best.
Usually the impact is minimal, but every now and then you will find a