Onboarding new members is a critical process of community building. The goal of this process is to make a great first impression. You want members to come back and participate regularly. However, this essential step is often skipped. We have put this guide together to ensure you provide your community with the best onboarding experience possible.
Why is it important?
A seamless onboarding process ideally offers an engaging experience which results in regular member activities. If the welcome experience is not perceived as seamless, your members probably won't stick around for a long time and will abandon your community quickly. Here are some key benefits of onboarding new members:
- Helps to set the right expectations for new members
- Introduces new members to your community guidelines and culture
- Provides information about digital tool platforms and necessary information on how to get around your community
- Introduces members to activities, channels, groups and events
1. Step: Welcome members
Start with the basics. Make signing up easy for your future community members. A straightforward sign-up process sets the foundation for the entire experience. If it is unnecessarily complicated or lengthy, people might regret joining before they even actively participate.
- Send an explicit e-mail with a call to action: "Join now"
- The Link should refer the future members directly to the signing up page
- Pre-populate any fields based on the user data to save time
- After signing-up members should receive a confirmation & welcome email
Greet joining members with a warm welcome email. It can set the tone for their entire community journey, so you don't want to start on the wrong foot here. You can encourage members to participate in your community and get them involved.
- Introduce them to what your community is about
- Inform them about membership benefits
- Highlight what they can expect from your community
- Inform them about the community guidelines
- Surprise them with a fun fact about your community
Welcome new members with a guided tour and walk them through the community process. Introduce members to the key functionalities, features, guidelines and the communities mission and vision. The goal here should be to answer all their questions before they even ask them. You can even incorporate a welcoming video. They are highly engaging, fun to watch, and easier to comprehend than lengthy text.
2. Step: Encourage engagement
Encourage members to introduce themselves to the community by using an Introduction thread. It is a great way to break the ice and get the ball rolling. Gamify the experience by suggesting members share something fun and interesting about themselves.
- Start with a warm, welcoming message
- Reassure your joining members that you are excited about them joining.
- Introduce your super users and moderators
- Encourage them to introduce themselves and add a fun opener question.
Get help from super members
Ask your super members to help out with the onboarding process. They should keep an eye on newbies and primarily focus on their needs and questions. Especially in the beginning, engagement is fragile and unanswered questions can easily lead to the abandonment of a community.
3. Step: Connect members
New member channel
Open up an additional channel for new members only. Joining members will feel less intimidated by a small group of people in the same position as them instead of being thrown into the entire community. It will make the experience more comfortable and allow early bonds. You can include:
- Special FAQ’s
- Guidelines and rules
- Resources on how to get started
Host a member orientation event, to teach new members about your community, show them how to get around and introduce them to other community members. It can either be a virtual, hybrid or local event. Invite super members and let them share their experiences with the community. The focus should be on Information and Socialization. Provide them with helpful details about your community and introduce them to other members. Activities like speed networking are a great way to connect members.
Matching mentors and mentees
Look for some volunteers in your group, some more experienced members who can guide and answer questions from joining members. You can, for example, assign superusers to a set of new members. This is an excellent way to network, especially for introverted people, since addressing a whole new group of members is more challenging compared to a small one.
4. Step: Get feedback
After a (hopefully) successful onboarding process, it is important to collect feedback from your members. You can use their input to determine what works and what doesn't. Ideally, you collect the feedback a week or two after the onboarding process to ensure they haven't forgotten any part of the process. After about 2-3 months you can conduct another survey or poll as a check-in, where they can state what they like or dislike about your community and make suggestions.
You should also analyse the member activity and see how the implemented changes from your onboarding process work. Set yourself micro-goals, such as members completing the profile, reacting to content or even posting something. Evaluate how many members have reached these micro-goals.
- Make the signing up process as simple as possible.
- Don't just send out a membership confirmation but also a welcoming e-mail.
- Welcome new members with a guided tour, and include a video.
- Increase engagement by implementing an introduction thread.
- Ask superusers to give additional attention to new members.
- Create a new members-only channel/group.
- Host an event for new members and introduce them to your community.
- Mentor finds mentee - implement a buddy programme.
- Collect Feedback and analyse the stats.