It Takes Two to Make the Thing Go Right [Onboarding]

Joining a new community is a lot like a first date: first impressions matter.

The dating example hits home because it highlights the tension that exists on both sides of the onboarding experience. This tension is critical for the spark that is required to create a sustainable relationship where both parties win.

The Off Switch for Onboarding

Most community builders are solving the wrong equation.

Positioning the community as the desired entity, as the destination, puts emphasis on new members to make things work.

Communities like these are simply focused on bringing people IN, not bringing people ON. This approach can work over the short term, but it’s not a long-term strategic win.

Communities need members who are engaged and have a place where they can contribute.

True Colors

Great Members are Made Not Found

In order for the community to thrive, there has to be a net positive gain of high-quality members. More members coming in is better than more members going out, but losing high-quality members hurts long-term).

The best members are homegrown. Once in a community lifetime do you find someone who just “fits,“ and makes things better from Day One. The other 99% of awesome members are the people who show up on a regular basis and participate, contribute, and lead.

Regardless of their education or professional skillset, anyone can participate, contribute, and lead. The key factors around that trifecta are related more to trust and support and understanding than experience and skills.

The best place to build trust is right from the start.

Channeling Your Community’s Energy

The reality is all successful communities have excellent outward energy.

Capturing and delivering that energy in the first few weeks of a new member’s experience to make the difference between a new member for life or a missed opportunity.

Here are some simple ways you can build a successful onboarding experience.

Setting the Tone; Using the Lingo

Your messaging matters, especially early on. Are you a professional space? Or a social one? Are you into tech or dogs or cooking or teaching?

Your community language lives at the intersection of the type of community you are building and the sector/industry you are in.

  • Serious Dog Trainer Lingo:  What problem do you want us to solve?
  • Fun Dog Obedience School:  Oh Poop! Tell us what’s on your carpet mind!

Highway to Awesome

Early demonstrations of the value of your community are really important. New members are taking a leap of trust as they engage your community. They are likely here for a specific reason -- your course, a project, a challenge.

In addition to solving that you also need to integrate your community, ideally while everyone is engaged.

A simple welcoming ritual where you introduce new members is easy, and often easy to automate. The sooner this happens, the better!

Hey @everyone, Clarissa has joined our community! Say HI.

  • Hi, Clarissa!
  • Welcome to the Team!
  • Hey, I’m from New Jersey too.

Go one step further and see if there’s a good personal connection you can build between this new member and someone already inside the community.

24/7 Support Access

There will always be questions, everyone gets that. Being ready to answer these questions is something altogether different. Having a clear space where members can find and access help is game-changing.

This could be a chatbot, a help area, or even a direct email.

Whatever you choose, make sure the answers are relevant and timely. Bonus if you could capture and publish the most frequently asked questions so people can self-serve.

Give New Members a Mission

Anticipate those awkward lulls and gaps in the new member experience by giving them something to do. Some communities use gamification for this process, rewarding users as they complete the requisite steps. But you don’t have to get all high-tech for the mission approach to work.

Here are a few basic ideas: :

  • Completing their profile
  • Registering for their first course
  • Participating in a group meeting
  • Articulating their short- and long-term goals

Be Human

Most of all, being a real human on the other side of the relationship really matters.  Do your best to reduce the automated outreach, or at least have comparable real-world engagements.

Inside Endurance Nation, I call every new Member to say HI. Most are voicemails but I do this the same day they sign up. Instant human.

But you don’t have to be like me. Even the small touches of personalization matter:

  • Mentioning their city/town in messages.
  • Asking about the weather or family or favorite sports team.
  • Asking for their thoughts on some industry news that’s front of mind.

At the end of the day, our communities are mediums to connect people. The more your members feel that real connection, the better the results.

How Do You Handle Onboarding?

Feel free to share in the comments or on Social Media. We all have much to learn and few things to teach. Feel free to share what has worked for you -- both as a community member and a community builder!

Up Next

Next week I'll write about how you can use the structure of what you are building to help find the right people for your community.

Thanks for reading and for sharing!

~ Patrick