Have you ever invited people to your home for a dinner party then decided to go out and do something else, leaving your guests to wander around not really knowing what they're even doing there? The thought of inviting people to join you in something then not showing up sounds unlikely, but this does frequently happen with Community Panel participation. We take the time to plan out our ideal composition, spend money and effort to find the right people and invite them, but then we often leave them hanging with potted plant in hand, wondering where their host is.
When we invite people to join a community panel, we can easily forget that these are our best customers, our potential new trusted advisors that are going to help shape our business with the research we are conducting. They are volunteers, opting in to participate in online activities that will in turn help us make decisions to evolve our business. First impressions are critical in ensuring these members will stay with us over time and continue to participate.
Often, we feel we should wait until we reach our ideal target community panel size before we start contacting members but that can take many weeks, or even months. Waiting too long to engage with new members can lead to people feeling dissatisfied with the experience, unappreciated by the company, and eventually they might even forget they joined and start marking your survey invitations as spam. Not engaging members right away can result in higher attrition and increased numbers of non-responders, which then requires you to repeat the potentially expensive recruitment process.
You may not want to send out your first research project when you only have a portion of your target size & composition, but you can definitely engage with new members via short but insightful "engagement" or "welcome" surveys to establish a connection. Your welcome survey can include anything from additional "nice-to-have" profiling questions that provide you with more details on your members, to fun "more about you" questions that you can use to feed back to the entire community panel via your first newsletter. Perhaps you'd like to find out more from your membership on how people feel about belonging to a community panelÛ_number of ideal contacts, whether or not they are motivated by incentives, etc. Sending a short engagement survey within a week of members joining not only helps them feel valued and connected to the community panel experience, but it also provides you with additional information you can use for future projects.
It's as simple as being home to greet your invited guests to your dinner party.