What is your retention strategy?

(Sarah Hawk) #1

Lots of us have strategies that focus around growth and engagement, but what about retention? Do you measure it? What do you do when you see a drop?

Best Practices for Communities of Practice
(Daniel Dow) #2

We’ve found that a biweekly email with selected resources targeted at our different audiences helps maintain interest and follow-up traffic. We are implementing auto-emails to inactive members encouraging them to come back or give us a sense why they are not finding it of value and what they would find of value.

We are also planning bi-monthly, short-term, high concentration discussions on topics specific to our audience’s interest. I call these burst groups. They last for two weeks. I partner with a member of the Commons as a co-facilitator. They take the lead in shaping 4 - 6 questions. We intentionally invite 8 - 10 participants / expects to join the conversation. I then promote the heck out of it.

This serves several purposes:

  1. Adds rich content and knowledge to the community as we leave it up for browsing/reading and often summarize it as a best practice resource doc.
  2. Leverages member expertise and engages them in the community
  3. Creates a burst of site traffic, interaction, and interest
  4. Allows busy people to engage and deal with multiple emails for two weeks vs. a lengthy on-going conversation
  5. Is pretty easy to plan and low tech
  6. Demonstrates the value / caliber of member in the community

Emails to re engage inactive members
(Alessio Fattorini) #3

My top tool is MENTION, I try to revive interesting topics mentioning people or asking for help and Discourse helps me a lot with the weekly digest email

Every 2 months I send an email who haven’t logged over the last 30 days, asking information or sending updates about the project. Often people reply to me so I can re-engage linking interesting discussions

Another tip is creating a generic self-disclosure discussion (my community ones are very technical) where people can freely chime in and share their opionions

(Joe Velez) #4

People will eventually leave so it’s good to plan for this.

The trick is getting them back to the site.

We do the following…

Focus, Focus, Focus on growth to site. New vs Returning Visitor (50/50 is a good place to be.) Improve all your channels!

Send auto Inactive notices … we send a total of 3 messages: 60 days; 120 days; and 360 days. If neither works we stop sending message.

We send weekly newsletters. Everyone is automatically subscribed who registers on the site.

Notification (email) to replied topics.

Daily postings on facebook. We have a strong presence on Facebook. (This brings back lost members and new.)

Even with all this (listing only what I can remember), we are also working on gamifying the whole experience. (early stages right now)

(Dr. Michael Sutton) #5


Cowan (2012) suggest that the community managers establish a community as well as a cohort:

  1. Make certain the cohort is a community that consists of both active participants and inactive participants. The cohort groups or even the lowest dyads come into the community together or are paired as mentor/mentees. Often if the members self-identify as a cohort, then those who are less active can be nudged by those who are more active. Additionally, the active participants are visible exemplars for inactive participants.

  2. Establish and maintain program-wide expectations based upon the contribution levels for members in the different COP environments. Use this to nudge individuals back into participation, especially if knowledge is available that indicates those inactive members are pursuing interesting initiatives that could be reported on with a short video clip.

  3. Establishing a community takes valuable program time, personnel, and budget resources. In addition, many participants are initially reluctant to participate in community building exercises.

To change attitudes regarding participation in group activities requires a clear plan to make certain that individuals understand that time in this regard is carefully crafted and serves a purpose, not just for the moment, but as a part of the long-term program experience. (adapted from p. 15).

Cowan, J. E. (2012). Strategies for developing a community of practice: Nine years of lessons learned in a hybrid technology education master’s program.TechTrends, 56(1), 12-18. doi:http://dx.doi.org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s11528-011-0549-x


In Mitre Corporation’s Systems Engineering Guide, Communities-of-Interest and/or Community of Practice the author suggests the following for achieving longevity:
The “practice” part of CoP relates to the work the community does. This includes solving common problems, sharing ideas, setting standards, building tools, and developing relationships with peers and stakeholders. Collective learning takes place in the context of the common work. These groups learn to work not so much by individual study, lectures, etc., but by the osmosis derived from everyone working together—from experts to newcomers—and by “talking” about the work. This provides value to all organizations represented.

Mitre emphasizes that participant/member retention is based upon creating “real problems,” or “building tools” together. The focus and meaningful value for participation needs to be apparent. For example, Sarah Hawk, Head of Community for FeverBee Community, used this technique to get me involved again :grin:.


The value added by the COP (Ginsburg & Weisband, 2004, January) must be made clear (in comparison with dropping participation), and, if possible, the Community Managers should represent an opportunity lost cost for no longer participating. The greater the value perceived by the member, the greater the chance of maintaining participation by that member.

Depending upon the community, the opportunity lost cost could be represented through video testimonials in which individuals comment on how much time was saved or could be reinvested through information shared in the community. Some of the positive benefits of active participation are the sum of the useful features for a particular member and the ease of interface navigation to reach those features.

Ginsburg, M., & Weisband, S. (2004, January). A framework for virtual community business success: The case of the internet chess club. In System Sciences, 2004. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 10-pp). IEEE.

The IAPP emphasizes this same critical success factor:
It is well understood that ‘connection’ is key to member retention, and the organisation is committed to seeking and acting on member feedback, and improving and strengthening the member experience through a range of initiatives that communicate the value of belonging to the members.

The organisation is also committed to providing strong, replicable systems and professional, reliable support and day to day servicing of needs…looking after the current member base with quality experiences, belonging, relationships, incentives and recognition.” (p. 5).

International Association for Public Participation – Australasian Affiliate, (April 2012). Strategy Plan 2010 – 2012. Sydney: Author.


Blanchard & Markus, (2002), and Resnick et al., (2002) suggest:
Social emotions associated with a community, such as sense of belonging, friendship, trust or reputation, are thought to increase the switching cost of leaving one virtual community for another, thus assisting in member retention

Blanchard, A.L. and Markus, M.L. (2002) Sense of virtual community – maintaining the experience of belonging, Paper presented at the 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Science, Hawaii. In proceedings.

Resnick, P., Zeckhauser, R., Swanson, J. and Lockwood, K. (2002) The Value of Reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment, Paper presented at the ESA conference, Boston. In proceedings.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

:wink: With great success, for which I am grateful.

(Dr. Michael Sutton) #7

SEGAN (Serious Games Network) as a COP

You may find this article by Andrade and de Carvalho, (2013, July) to be very useful. The article describes SEGAN (Serious Games Network) as a COP associated with the topic of Serious Games. Like the communities we are involved with, SEGAN must demonstrate a dynamic, lively and continuously animated approach in order to be effective. Community members must be engaged participants and feel like they belong. The article presents a gamification-based strategy in order to involve and sustain members:

One of the most common gamification definitions proposes it as the process of applying game mechanics to an interface as a mean to engage users [Deterding, 2010, September 9]. This may consist of defining user achievements and badges, user points and leaderboards, challenges between users or virtual currencies (redeemable for goods or perks), for instance.
The most common critique to this process points the risk of turning game-like interaction into an end in itself, hence undermining content quality and missing out on the experiential and storytelling dimension of a product. In other words, it interprets rewards in a behaviorist way [Kelly, November, 2012]. Another significant critique arose inside the SEGAN community pointing leaderboards as inhibiters of newcomers‟ participation. Other views highlight valid patterns to apply game mechanics to: validation of content (by peer review), completion of tasks (and progress assessment) and prizes [Zichermann. July, 2011]. Despite the criticism and skepticism, company success stories abound [Duffy, April, 2012] and communities such as StackExchange have clearly benefited from such process before. The main question seems to boil down to the way gamification is implemented in the community.

Other sources you will find useful for information around this theme include: Asbell-Clarke, et al. (2012); Deterding, et. al. (2013, April); Filsecker and Hickey (2014); and Nolan and McBride (2014). These sources should provide some fresh persepctives on retention and engagement in COPs.

So, what are you working on?
So, what are you working on?
(Alessio Fattorini) #8

What about auto-emails? How many and how frequently? Which kinds of email?
Do they really work?

(Richard Millington) #9

It would be interested to get some metrics here as well @ddow.

I’m usually of the opinion it’s VERY difficult to re-engage last members. I’ve seen it work on a small scale, but never someone that was able to get 10% of their lost members regularly participating again.

(Daniel Dow) #10

Don’t know yet. We’re experimenting with an auto-email that tries to
re-engage them by asking their opinion. We have to try the auto-option –
written as personally as we can make it - because personal emails won’t
scale. I am playing with having it send any replies to me so I can respond
to their responses personally. Pretty experimental right now.