The success of online communities is all about having the right people. Online communities provide the most ROI when they have people who are eager to actively participate and who represent the company’s customer base. A strategic approach to recruitment ensures your community has the right members, which helps your company get long-term value.
At the 2016 Customer Intelligence Summit, three veteran research professionals revealed how, with the right strategy in place, recruiting customers, employees and other stakeholders into your community is easy.
In their popular breakout session, Cassie Mally, director of UX Research at GoDaddy, Andrea Bonk, CRM and market research coordinator at OSF HealthCare, and Christy Ransom, VP of engagement strategy and customer success at Vision Critical, shared their three D’s of digital recruitment to help boost engagement and response rates.
1. Define your personas.
To attract the right members into your community, make sure you’re personalizing your message. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. “You run the risk of turning people away if they think you aren’t talking to them directly or providing them with any value,” explained Ransom.
First step in personalizing your message is to understand who you’re targeting. The speakers recommended achieving this by creating personas. Member personas are fictional and general representations to help define the people you want in your community—and why. When creating your personas, consider the people you want to reach and make sure you do your research.
“You can always verify your assumptions later in your insight community,” said Ransom, “but for recruitment, you have to go out on a limb a bit and take some educated guesses about people and their behavior.”
Connect with other stakeholders in your company to validate your assumptions as much as possible and develop a well-rounded view of the people you want to target. Then, create a summary of what you know about your target personas. This should include demographic information such as gender and age, as well as attitudinal data such as communication preferences and media consumption habits.
2. Develop (and execute) a recruitment plan.
Once you’ve defined your member personas, you’re ready to develop a more detailed recruitment plan. To start, answer three questions about your member personas:
- Where are the best channels to find them?
- What kind of messaging works best for them?
- How will you keep them engaged?
OSF HealthCare shared its tactics on how to answers these questions. Bonk’s advice is based on her experience recruiting members for OSF Listens, a 4,000-member insight community. The insight community’s impressive response rate of 48.5 percent is in large part a result of rigorous member recruitment.
“We needed our community to be fairly adept at online communication, but still represent the demographics of our patient population,” Bonk said. At the same time, however, the company needed to be sensitive to the privacy of its patients, so mass invitations weren’t an option. Because the demographic information of survey respondents needed to be self-reported, not pulled from medical records, she needed to find a different way to recruit.
Her solution: invite people who were already using OSF MyChart, the company’s mobile health care app. These patients are already comfortable with online communications, so they fit the persona OSF HealthCare was looking for. Bonk’s hunch was right: the company saw thousands of sign-ups from this channel.
Social media was also a recruitment goldmine. With a small investment of $100 in a Facebook ad campaign, OSF HealthCare had hundreds of additional sign-ups in its community. OSF will continue to recruit members via organic and the occasional paid Facebook ads targeting any population or region they feel need better representation.
— Vision Critical (@visioncritical) September 21, 2016
OSF HealthCare also found success recruiting its own employees. “We also encourage OSF employees (we call ourselves Mission Partners) to be members,” Bonk explained. “What’s great about that is we can see if Mission Partners have different opinions than our patients.”
To make sure people who signed up for the community remain interested, OSF HealthCare shares results through a newsletter. “I encourage you to spend some time thinking through your recruitment strategy,” Bonk said. “Use existing email lists. Use social media. Offer incentives. It all works.”
3. Detect new opportunities.
Recruitment is not a one-time activity. Once you’ve done your initial recruitment push, have a look at your insight community’s makeup and detect gaps.
GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, found success with its insight community, the GoDaddy Customer Council, by identifying new recruitment opportunities. Because GoDaddy’s community was for customers, the company’s recruitment strategy started with an invitation to its entire customer base. But GoDaddy didn’t stop there. Mally and her team compared the sign-ups they received from this first wave of recruitment to the composition of its customer base. This exercise revealed that the company needed to invite more customers in two segments: those who were domain investors and people who were part of GoDaddy Pro, a program for website designers and developers.
With that in mind, GoDaddy’s researchers collaborated with relevant teams in the company for a second wave of outreach to these specific segments. “We saw a great increase in numbers by joining forces with other teams at GoDaddy and inviting customers through additional avenues,” shared Mally.
Recruitment innovation starts with personas
According to Ransom, the most important thing when it comes to recruitment is to have a clear understanding of the people you want in your insight community. She encouraged customer intelligence pros in the room to build or freshen up their personas.
The breakout session is a reminder that recruitment needs to be an ongoing process. Before you pick your recruitment tactics, start with a strategy that clarifies who you want in your insight community and why. Having a crystal clear understanding of your personas will reveal new and surefire ways to recruit the right people into your community.