Guides 24 Creative ideas and strategies for online community engagement

24 Creative ideas and strategies for online community engagement

Last updatedJune 9, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

Keeping an online community engaged and actively participating is crucial for building connections, fostering meaningful discussions, and getting members to stick around. But it’s not always easy to get people talking and keep their interest. That’s where creative engagement tactics come in. By using fun, unique activities that encourage participation and sharing, you can breathe life into your community and get members excited to stick around and keep coming back.

The key is to think outside the box and try new things. While standard fare like new member introductions and weekly discussion prompts have their place, sprinkling in some creative ideas will take your community to the next level. Here are 24 ideas try out to boost the engagement in your online community:

1. Behind the Scenes

The idea: Give members an exclusive peek behind the curtain of your organization. Share photos, videos and stories that show the human side of your brand. Maybe it’s a tour of your office, an interview with your CEO, or a day in the life of an employee. Behind the scenes content makes members feel special and builds a personal connection.

Put it into practice: Identify compelling behind the scenes content you can share. Pick things that align with your brand but also reveal something members don’t usually see. Capture photos and videos and craft the content into an engaging narrative. Then share it in your community, perhaps as a featured series. Encourage members to react and share their thoughts.

2. Challenge of the Week

The idea: Rally your community around a weekly challenge related to your industry or niche. It could be anything from writing a haiku about your product to sharing a photo of members using your service in a creative way. A bit of friendly competition and the chance to be featured will incentivize people to participate.

Put it into practice: Brainstorm challenge ideas and choose ones that will be fun and feasible for your members. Create graphics to announce each challenge and a template where people submit their entries. Spotlight the best submissions at the end of each week to celebrate the winners. Keep a leaderboard and consider giving a prize to the overall winner each month or quarter.

3. Expert AMA Series

The idea: Host a series of Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with experts or thought leaders in your industry. This format has been popularized by Reddit, and gives members a chance to get their burning questions answered and learn from the best. It also positions your community as a source of valuable info and connections.

Put it into practice: Reach out to experts and book them for AMAs. Promote the sessions well in advance so members can submit and vote on questions. Pick a specific date and time for each AMA. On the day of, have the expert share an intro post, then open it up for questions. Moderate the discussion and end with a thank you and recap of key takeaways. Post the transcript for those who missed it.

4. Throwback Thursday

The idea: Tap into nostalgia by having a weekly Throwback Thursday thread where members share memories related to your industry or their professional journey. For example, ask people to post their first headshot, a vintage industry ad, or a photo of themselves at their college graduation. Reminiscing is a fun way to bond.

Put it into practice: Pick a theme for each Throwback Thursday and create a graphic to promote it. Pin the thread (if you use Slack) and encourage members to share their photos and memories in the comments. React and reply to submissions to spur conversation. Consider awarding prizes for the best submissions.

5. Monthly Book Club

The idea: Start a book club where members read and discuss important books related to your field. Choose titles that will help your members grow professionally while sparking lively discussions. Talking about ideas from a book is a great way to bring people together and facilitate member learning.

Put it into practice: Create a “reading list” discussion thread where members can nominate and vote on book selections. Announce the book at the start of each month and set a discussion date. Members read on their own time, then come together to share their thoughts and reactions. Post discussion questions to guide the conversation. Bring in the author for a Q&A to close out the month if possible.

6. Weekly Poll

The idea: Get quick feedback and start conversations by posting a weekly poll. Ask members’ opinions on industry news, their predictions for upcoming trends, or their preferences on work and lifestyle issues. People love to weigh in with their two cents and see how they stack up to the group.

Put it into practice: Identify good poll questions that will make members eager to respond. Use your community platform’s built-in polling feature or just post the question and have people reply with their answers. Include an “Other” option and encourage people to expand on their answers in the comments. Share the final results at the end of the week along with key insights.

7. Mastermind Groups

The idea: Help your top members connect on a deeper level by setting up mastermind groups. These are small groups of 5-8 people who meet regularly to support each other, share challenges and successes, and work toward their goals. Being part of an intimate mastermind leads to powerful networking and growth.

Put it into practice: Identify potential mastermind members who would benefit from meeting. Decide on the structure and cadence of the groups, then invite people to apply. Match people up based on their interests, experience level, and goals. Provide them with a private area to connect and guidelines on how to get the most out of their group. Check in periodically to ensure the groups are thriving.

8. Welcome Wagon

The idea: Make new members feel at home right away by organizing a welcome wagon. Seasoned members volunteer to greet newbies, answer their questions, and make introductions. This personal touch sets new members up for success and increases their odds of becoming active participants.

Put it into practice: Recruit enthusiastic members to be part of the Welcome Wagon. Create a playbook for them with greeting ideas, common FAQs, and suggestions of who to connect the new member to based on interests. Set up an alert system so the Welcome Wagon is notified whenever someone new joins. Check that each new member is greeted within 24 hours and monitor the budding conversations.

9. Mentorship Program

The idea: Create a mentorship program where experienced members guide less experienced ones. Participants are matched 1:1 or in small groups to meet regularly and work on professional development. Mentoring relationships foster close bonds and lead to more skillful, engaged members.

Put it into practice: Survey your members to gauge interest and gather information for matching. Promote the benefits of the program, like networking and skill-building. Encourage people to sign up as mentors or mentees. Make matches, set expectations, and equip the pairs/groups with resources. Have them report on progress and showcase success stories.

10. Member of the Month

The idea: Recognize your community all-stars with a Member of the Month program. Each month, spotlight a member who has gone above and beyond in their participation and contributions. Do a quick interview with them and post it for everyone to see. A little appreciation goes a long way in making top members feel valued.

Put it into practice: Define criteria for selecting your Member of the Month. It could be most posts, most solutions, best feedback, or other key metrics. Identify your honoree and reach out to set up an interview. Ask about their experience, proudest moments, and tips for others. Publish a post announcing the winner along with the interview. Consider sending them some company swag, too.

11. Feedback Fridays

The idea: Create a dedicated space for members to share feedback and ideas every Friday. Encourage them to post their thoughts on your product, services, content, community, etc. Having a regular feedback loop makes members feel heard and gives you invaluable insights for improvement. This idea can be particularly impactful in a customer communities.

Put it into practice: Set up a recurring Friday thread and promote Feedback Fridays to your members. Kick off each thread by sharing something you’re currently working on and requesting input. Encourage people to share their compliments, complaints, and constructive criticism. Acknowledge comments and let people know how you’re using the feedback. Report back on changes made based on their suggestions.

12. Community Podcast

The idea: Launch a podcast by and for your community members. Interview thought leaders, tell customer success stories, highlight useful resources, and discuss important industry topics. A podcast is a great way to showcase your members’ expertise while providing valuable content people can consume on the go.

Put it into practice: Poll your members to gauge interest in a podcast and gather topic ideas. Reach out to potential guests and set up a recording schedule. Invest in decent recording equipment and editing software, or hire someone to help. Publish new episodes regularly and promote them in your community. Provide a space for members to discuss each episode and suggest future topics.

13. Virtual Coworking Sessions

The idea: Help your members combat isolation by hosting virtual coworking sessions. At a set time each week, members join a video call to work “side by side”. They can chat about what they’re working on, ask for feedback, and enjoy a sense of camaraderie. Coworking is an easy way to make members feel connected and supported.

Put it into practice: Pick a recurring day and time for coworking and promote it to your community. Create a video conference link and instructions on how to participate. Have a host kick off each session with an ice breaker question or intention-setting. Encourage members to work on their own projects while keeping their video on for a sense of togetherness. Hold space for casual conversations and collaboration.

14. Community Cookbook

The idea: Compile a digital cookbook featuring your members’ favorite recipes. Have people submit the dishes that fuel their workday, remind them of home, or are associated with a funny story. A cookbook is an unexpected way for people to bond over a love of food and get to know each other’s tastes and traditions.

Put it into practice: Put out a call for recipe submissions along with the story behind each dish. Give people a deadline and any formatting guidelines. Collect the recipes and compile them into an attractive PDF or ebook. Share the finished product with contributors first, then distribute it to the whole community. Set up a thread where people can swap photos of the recipes they try.

15. Job Opportunities Roundup

The idea: Support your members’ career growth by sharing a weekly roundup of job opportunities. Curate openings from your own organization, member companies, and trusted industry sources. Having a go-to place to check for jobs will keep members coming back and position you as invested in their success.

Put it into practice: Decide on the scope and sources for your job roundup. Set up a system for collecting and organizing postings each week. Write a template for the roundup post, with space to insert timely opportunities. Publish the roundup on the same day and time each week. Encourage members to comment with other openings they know of. Consider letting members post their own job listings for a fee.

16. Daily Gratitude Thread

The idea: Start each day on a positive note with a gratitude thread. Invite members to share one thing they’re grateful for in their personal or professional life. Expressing gratitude has been shown to boost happiness, health, and productivity. Doing it with others amplifies the benefits and creates an upbeat vibe in the community.

Put it into practice: Set up a daily thread inviting people to post their gratitude. Kick things off by sharing your own each day. Keep the posts short and sweet - a sentence or two is plenty. Like and comment on entries to make people feel seen. Consider prompting people with themes like "a coworker who helped you" or "a stranger’s kind act" to keep things fresh.

17. Micro-Courses

The idea: Share your members’ wisdom by having them create short video lessons on their areas of expertise. These 10-20 minute micro-courses can cover technical skills, soft skills, or industry trends. Tapping members to teach positions them as experts and creates a library of valuable learning content.

Put it into practice: Survey members to see who might be interested in teaching and what they’d like to share. Provide guidelines and best practices for creating effective micro-courses. Give teachers a deadline and have them submit their videos. Review the content and give feedback as needed. Release new micro-courses weekly and promote them in the community. Track views and engagement to see what topics resonate.

18. Weekly Challenge

The idea: Get your members’ competitive juices flowing with a weekly challenge. It could be anything from a 7-day meditation streak to writing a certain number of lines of code. Having a shared goal to strive for gives people a reason to check in and cheer each other on.

Put it into practice: Brainstorm a list of challenge ideas suited to your members’ interests and goals. Choose one to feature each week and create a tracker graphic. Announce the challenge and encourage people to publicly commit to participating. Have people report on their progress and motivate each other along the way. Celebrate everyone who completes the challenge and their insights from the experience.

19. Community Cribs

The idea: Help your members feel more connected by taking a peek inside their workspaces. Invite people to snap a photo of their desk or home office and share a fun fact about it. Seeing the spaces other community members work in humanizes them and sparks conversation.

Put it into practice: Post a thread calling for workspace photos and fun facts. Kick things off with a photo of your own desk and a tidbit about it. Encourage people to share in the comments and react to each other’s spaces. Prompt people to spot commonalities, like the same computer or favorite mug. Consider making it a weekly or monthly thread to feature new members each time.

20. Question of the Day

The idea: Spur casual conversation by posting a Question of the Day. These can be lighthearted icebreakers like “coffee or tea?” or thought-provoking prompts like “What’s a mistake you made early in your career that taught you a lot?” Having a daily anchor thread gives people a reason to check in and interact.

Put it into practice: Brainstorm a bank of potential questions to draw from. Mix in a combination of fun, serious, and industry-related prompts. Post the QOTD at the same time each day with eye-catching visuals. Pin it to the top of the feed for visibility. Answer the question yourself and encourage others to weigh in. Share highlights in a roundup post to further boost engagement.

21. Crowdsourced Resources

The idea: Tap into the collective knowledge of your community by crowdsourcing resources on hot topics. For example, ask members to share their go-to productivity hacks, recommended industry events, or favorite software tools. Pooling information like this saves members time and showcases the value of being in your community.

Put it into practice: Identify a topic that would benefit from crowdsourced insights. Create a thread explaining the type of resources you’re looking for and why it would be helpful to the community. Share your own recommendations to get the ball rolling. Compile the most valuable resources into an easily shareable document. Continue building the list over time as members suggest new discoveries.

22. Virtual Volunteering

The idea: Bring your community together to do good with virtual volunteering opportunities. Find ways members can make a difference from wherever they are, like writing letters to seniors, recording audiobooks, or contributing to open source projects. Volunteering is a meaningful way for members to collaborate and see their collective impact.

Put it into practice: Research virtual volunteer activities that would appeal to your community. Consider causes that align with your industry or members’ values. List the opportunities in a thread with details on how to get involved. Offer to make intros or coordinate groups who want to work on the same project. Create a space for members to share their experience and inspire others to join in.

23. Random Coffee Chats

The idea: Help your members meet someone new in the community with random coffee chats. Each week, automatically pair up members for a short video call to learn about each other. These informal conversations strengthen connections and surface interesting collaborations.

Put it into practice: Set up a tech tool or system to randomly match members who opt into the coffee chats. Send out the pairings each week with a few suggested conversation starters. Provide a resource on coffee chat best practices for those who are shy or new to networking. Afterwards, prompt participants to share something cool they learned about their partner in the community.

24. Failure Forums

The idea: Create a safe space for your members to share their professional failures and lessons learned with Failure Forums. These candid storytelling events position missteps as growth opportunities. Embracing failure as a community builds psychological safety and encourages risk-taking.

Put it into practice: Book 3-4 members to speak at each forum about a notable failure and how they bounced back from it. Give each speaker 10 minutes to share their story. Follow the talks with an open discussion. Facilitate sensitively, keeping the focus on lessons and silver linings over dwelling on the negative. Consider bringing in a high-profile guest speaker once a quarter to share their failure journey.

Start implementing

Implementing creative engagement tactics like these can transform your online community from a slog to a vibrant, must-visit destination. But it’s not about doing all the ideas at once. Pick a few that resonate and commit to doing them consistently and with enthusiasm.

Start small and build up as you get a sense of what resonates with your unique members. Pay attention to which ideas generate the most buzz and double down on those. And don’t be afraid to tweak things as you go to better suit your community’s needs and interests. Remember, the goal is to create opportunities for members to connect, learn, and have fun together. When you make engagement a priority, the relationships and conversations will flow naturally.

So dream up wacky challenges, bring in fascinating speakers, and create space for members to let their guard down. The more you can tap into their passions and personalities, the more they’ll want to be an active part of your community. It takes some extra effort to go beyond the standard discussion prompts and questions. But that’s what will take your community from good to great. Your members will appreciate the thought and creativity you put into keeping things fresh.

With these principles and a library of creative ideas to draw from, you’re well on the way to a thriving online community. So go get your members talking, sharing, and having a ball together. The engagement will follow.

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