I am often asked for new and creative ways to close the feedback loop and engage community panel members; keeping them interested and happy to participate. Sending regular newsletters is a great idea, but they might not always be the best vehicle for your audience - and they are certainly not the only one. Each year, Vision Critical selects one of our clients to win the "Panel of the Year" award, so I reached out to our nominees from 2011 to see what creative ideas they are using to engage their members and keep response rates high. Hopefully some of these will work for you too:
1. Rules of Engagement: Try to incorporate non-flexible directives in survey design including maximum time limits, use of engaging question types, relevant topics that are entertaining and engaging, establishing a maximum number of surveys per month per member.
2. Plan & Play: Maintain an "engagement calendar" that ensures the release of feedback to members at regular intervals. Try utilizing a range of mediums such as video content, conversations on Facebook, or results in an emailed newsletter.
3. Getting to Know Each Other: if possible, allow members to step away from the computer and invite them to in-person events such as exclusive shopping in your retail stores, coupons for eating in your restaurants, or even having information sharing get-togethers that include a presentation of results from the past year.
4. Get Involved: Ask members to send in their ideas for ideal dream summer vacation, do-it-yourself home handyman ideas, favorite recipes, whatever resonates with your business and pick a winner to interview and highlight in your newsletter.
5. Monthly Omnibus: Gather questions from around your organization and send monthly to members. It's a win/win: you get more exposure for the community panel with your colleagues, and your members get a great variety of topics and even more ways to interact with your business!
6. Be the Decision Maker: Give members the opportunity to make a decision on something you are grappling with: a magazine cover idea, the name for your latest product, which ad creative to run with. Go a step further, and take the final concepts to a smaller group of ideal responders or your most loyal customers, and have them share ideas in a forum discussion.
7. Portal Changes: Google does it all the time, we should too! Update the look and feel of your member portal with your latest branding; keep it fresh for people that are visiting often. If new creative is a bit too much, definitely update content regularly including quick polls and other widgets that you're using to engage.
8. Newsletters - Tried and True: Quarterly or monthly newsletters don't have to be boring - try using Wordles to illustrate top themes and keywords, spotlight a "member of the month", and give as much information as you can about how the data you're collecting is being used.
Our Panel of the Year nominees last year were John Deere, Harlequin, Schnucks and the overall winner was Debenhams - looking at these great engagement practices, it's easy to see why! You also can find more great ideas, how tos and best practices for engagement in the Vision Critical University resource section for Community Panel Engagement but we would also love to hear from you: if you have an especially good tip or trick that you use to keep your Community Panel members engaged and enthused, post it as a comment below. Alternatively, consider entering to be our Panel of the Year 2012Û_ more information on how to nominate your community panel coming soon!