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Most communities have terrible newcomer to regular conversion ratios. If you can improve this, you can rapidly increase the number of active members in your community. Most other problems you think you have in your community pale in comparison to a terrible newcomer to regular conversion process.
In this five step process, you can design the perfect journey for your members from newcomer to regular. Treat these each as unique steps. You can optimize each one in turn. These steps are also numbered in the priority of importance. If you get the first step right, the rest might just take care of themselves.
Previously - Step One: Awareness; Step Two: First Visit
Step 3) Registration and Participation
Goal: Get members ready to participate within 1 minute.
Speed is the key element of this stage. Any longer than 1 minute and you lose a lot of people. The ideal journey goes like this: a member clicks on a thread they want to reply to, they click reply, they are taken to the registration page, they enter their name, e-mail, password and an anti-spam question (e.g. "What colour is a banana?"), then they're taken back to the thread to reply.
Most of all, just keep it simple.
In practice, few platforms have optimized this. Too many ask for more information than they need. If you have a platform that can't take people back to the same page, then take them to a specific page created for newcomers that highlights an activity they can participate in straight away.
If you have to use a confirmation e-mail, then edit the content of that e-mail to direct members to a community activity they can participate in.
The goal at this stage isn't to persuade members to create an online identity for the community. Don't ask any questions that don't relate to the name, e-mail, and password. The goal is simply to get them through this stage and back to participating. Letting members register through FB/Twitter accounts works well too.
Don't write personal welcomes from the community manager to every member. That's not very effective. Focus on making a difference. Either write personal messages to members that have made one contribution already and are likely to become regulars, or members that haven't made a contribution so you can put them on the right path. Be systematic. Collect data and figure out if it's working, if it's not, stop doing it.
The registration to participation process is extremely quick. Every extra second loses a lot of members. If you reduce the time this takes and direct members toward a specific activity, the number of active participants should skyrocket.
Next Step: Return Visit
To view all the Newcomer to Regular Journey steps, click here.