Traditionally, most community managers send one email to engage new community members and welcome them to the online community, sharing everything they need to know about the community. This online community engagement tactic is a great start and definitely a good practice for making new members feel welcomed, but we can take this tactic even further and make it even more successful with a welcome email series.
When someone decides to join your online community, they’ve made the decision to become a more active part of your company. They want to get to know you, your products or member benefits, and their peers. You want to maximize this opportunity to boost online community engagement by getting your new members involved right away.
Trying to put this all into one, effective welcome email is incredibly difficult, and it’s daunting. You’re trying to make the newcomer feel welcome, informed, and provide actionable next steps – and make it short enough that people will read the whole thing.
That’s why this post isn’t about how to write the perfect email or personal note. That’s just the beginning. There’s so much more to making someone feel welcome. To strengthen your introduction, build a strong relationship, and make it easier on yourself, you need more than one message.
Want to dig deeper? Check out our complete guide to online community.
I’ll share tips for how you can revamp your online community onboarding emails to get new community members engaged.
How to Engage New Community Members with an Onboarding Email Series
There are a few things to focus on as you jump into your community onboarding series. Let’s talk about timing, strategy, content, tone, and calls to action (CTAs).
- Timing: Send your first email a couple of days after your new community members have accepted your terms and conditions, and time your remaining emails for every 7-10 days. (But try to make it match the email cadence your community is used to.) We recommend you send between 3-4 emails, depending on the goals you have for your series, and excluding members from other automation rules while they receive the onboarding series. Speaking of goals…
- Strategy: Decide what your desired goal is before you craft each email. Your goals will help you decide what actions you want new members to take and which information to share. Structure your emails around those tasks.
- Content: Focus on one topic per email. Stick to one topic per email and make its content scannable. If you have many topics you need to cover, go over them in separate emails. Short emails are easier for members to get through. Not sure what to include? Focus on the basics of using your online community platform. Generally, your community members will want to know how to:
- Post a discussion
- Navigate the community
- Adjust their community email subscriptions
- Find useful resources
- Tone: Write your email in the sender’s voice. If it’s coming from the community manager, make sure it sounds like them. Your goal should be to make these emails as human-sounding as possible.
- CTAs: Create clear calls to action (CTA) so members know what action to take next. Like the tip above, don’t include too many calls to action in one email, or you might lose your reader.
Best of all, with a Higher Logic Community you can create your community onboarding email series easily with automation rules. These logic-based emails operate from criteria you set. When those criteria are met, an email is triggered to that group of people with the message you want to share. For example, your email criteria might be “Has been in the system 0-3 days and has agreed to terms and conditions.” Now just write your emails, and voila! Welcome email series, here you come.
Tip: Gamify your onboarding tasks to reward new members. Use gamification to inspire new members to get involved. For example, you might award newbies a community badge if they complete all your welcome tasks (again, this is easy to do using automation rules).
Keep Revising Your Emails & Strategy
As you go, track your metrics to optimize engagement. How are your emails doing? Here are ideas for solving four common problems:
My open rate is low
If your open rate is low, you can try changing your subject lines to see if they pique your audience’s interest. You can also try changing up when you’re sending your emails (i.e. time of day, how spaced out your emails are).
My conversion rate is low
You might find that your open rate was very high, but your conversion rate (this means whether they took the desired action) was very low. This might be an indicator that your subject lines and timing are good, but the content in your emails isn’t compelling readers to take action, for some reason. Test out new approaches in the email content (tweaking your CTA, content, language – but test things one at a time) to see if those improve your conversions. You could also try changing your tone. For example, go from more formal to more casual, or vice versa.
My engagement is decreasing
While good content should ensure high email open rates because people are new and interested in ways to connect, you should also watch for a decrease in engagement. The last thing you want is email fatigue, so consider shortening your welcome campaign if open rates drop dramatically.
My tests aren’t improving things
If things still aren’t working, revisit your strategy. Consider whether you’re pushing your new members to take the right action. For example, if you want your new members to download resources, but your current members aren’t downloading resources, your chosen action likely won’t work to engage new community members. Look at your current online community engagement analytics to see what current community members are already doing.
Bonus: Should You Create an “Introduce Yourself” Discussion Thread?
You may have participated in or started an “introduce yourself” thread in an online community. These can be fun, but they have a couple problems. First, these threads start to tire out your current community members, because they’re long past the introduction phase. Second, these threads aren’t the best at increasing learning or driving engagement. Instead, you could try a more creative approach that benefits everyone in the community while making it easy for a new person to get involved or start learning. Here are some ideas:
- What’s your favorite community platform “hack”? (Members can share tricks for using the community)
- What’s one thing you wish you would have known when you started your role?
- What’s one question you have about [insert industry]?
As you create your new online community onboarding campaign, remember to keep testing and asking for feedback as you go. Although onboarding might not seem like a big deal, it’s the first step toward engaging new community members and turning them into an involved and interested community super user.
Senior Community Manager
Annie is a senior community manager at Higher Logic. In a previous life, she worked in non-profit database solutions and fundraising software. Outside of work, you will find her trying out the latest coffee shop, hiking on a nice day or planning her next trip (favorite places she has been so far include Peru and Croatia)!
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