Retention Starts on Day One

If you don't know your community onboarding flow, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Retention Starts on Day One
"If you don't know your community onboarding flow, you're setting yourself up for failure."

That's the hard truth about digital community building. It's not just about having a flashy welcome page or sending out an engaging email blast.

It's about truly understanding the step-by-step journey your members take from the moment they find out about your community to the point where they feel like they belong.

Your Onboarding Problem

In a digital space, it's easy to lose the tangible cues that help us gauge a newcomer's experience. In the physical world, you can see if someone's confused by the layout of a room or if they're gravitating towards certain areas.

Online? Not so much. This disconnect, if not carefully managed, is what turns a potential engaged community member into a ghost user. Ghost users are present in your lists but absent in every other way.

So, how do we bridge this gap?

Here are three strategies you can use.

Visual Mapping: A Bird's Eye View on Member Experience

Imagine being able to see your community's entry experience from above - every turn, every click, every moment of hesitation mapped out clearly. That's what visual mapping gives you. By laying out the entire onboarding flow, from landing page to full community integration, you create a comprehensive overview.

This isn't just about finding the pain points; it's about appreciating the journey in its entirety and then tweaking it to perfection. Tools like Figma or even a whiteboard come in handy here, allowing you to visualize and then refine the flow to ensure no member feels lost at any point.

Goal: A single view of the onboarding flow.

    • Use tools like Figma or even a simple pen and paper to map out every step a new member takes.
    • Create a walkthrough video with Loom to experience and share the process from a new member's perspective.
    • Regularly review and update the map based on feedback and new insights.

Targeted Engagement: The Magic Touch

Now, imagine if there was a hand to guide them at every unsure step on their journey. Targeted engagement is about finding those crucial interaction points - maybe it's the sign-up page, the first community post, or the introduction thread - and then doubling down.

It's about creating moments that resonate and that make members feel seen and valued. Start small; pick one interaction point and enhance it. Whether it's a personal welcome message, a guided tour, or an engaging first task, see how this focused effort can transform member retention and satisfaction.

Goal: Identify key moments where new members might feel lost and implement targeted communications to guide them.

    • Establish a welcome committee of existing members who can reach out and provide a personal touch.
    • Utilize automated tools for timely reminders or prompts that encourage exploration and interaction within the community.

Feedback Loops: The Continuous Conversation

The journey doesn't end with onboarding. Incorporating a feedback loop into the onboarding process is like having an ongoing conversation with your members.

It's asking, "How's it going? What can we do better?" This could be an email check-in, a quick survey, or a direct message - the medium matters less than the message itself, which is that you care and are committed to improvement.

Regularly soliciting feedback not only helps you fine-tune the onboarding experience but also builds a culture of openness and mutual respect in your community.

Goal: Consistent feedback via a simple mechanism integrated into your onboarding.

    • Create easy and accessible ways for new members to provide feedback on their onboarding experience.
    • Conduct regular surveys or hold focus groups with newer members to understand their journey better.
    • Act on the feedback collected to refine and improve the entry process continually.

The Final Word

Building a successful community hinges on understanding and enhancing the entry experience of your members.

By visualizing their journey, creating engagement touchpoints, and establishing feedback loops, you can ensure that newcomers not only find their way into your community but also find reasons to stay and contribute.

Remember, the best communities are those that evolve with their members, always striving to create a more welcoming, engaging, and valuable experience.

ps I do community audits!

ICYMI, I do audits on the regular for emerging and established communities. This is your chance to get a member's eye view on what works, what doesn't, and how to make it better. This is probably the single most important investment you can make in your community. Learn more here.