Understanding Your Engagement Levels: Building for a Highly Opinionated User Base

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Sep 16, 2023

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Understanding Your Engagement Levels: Building for a Highly Opinionated User Base

Introduction:

Building and maintaining an engaged community is crucial for the success and growth of any online platform. Whether you're managing a community forum, an online marketplace, or a social media platform, understanding the engagement levels of your users is essential. In this article, we will explore the different shapes your engagement levels chart can take, what they mean for your community, and how to effectively address any bottlenecks or challenges that may arise.

Visitor Heavy:

Every community starts with visitors, those who come and go after a single interaction. While it is normal to have a large number of visitors initially, a high proportion of visitors in your engagement levels chart may indicate that people are not finding enough value to stick around. As a community manager, it is important to consider what your community has to offer beyond transactional support. Think about ways to make your community more appealing and valuable to encourage visitors to become more engaged members.

Core Heavy:

On the other end of the spectrum, having too many members at the core level can be a concern. This suggests that you are not effectively serving those who are not yet ready or able to be core members. To ensure community growth, it is crucial to offer value at all levels, making your community welcoming and accessible to casual participants and one-off contributors. By broadening your community's appeal, you can attract a more diverse group of members and foster a sense of inclusivity.

Participation Bottleneck:

A common situation in healthy communities is the presence of unseen bottlenecks that hinder members from progressing to the next level. These bottlenecks are evident in the engagement levels chart when there is a significant difference between two levels, but smooth transitions between others. Identifying and addressing these bottlenecks is crucial for member satisfaction and overall community growth. By removing barriers and facilitating seamless transitions, you can ensure a more positive and engaging experience for your users.

Contribution Bottleneck:

If your community primarily revolves around user-to-user interactions, having a bottleneck between participants and contributors may not be alarming. However, it is important to assess whether your members have the necessary skills or resources to contribute effectively. For user-oriented communities, empowering members to provide support themselves is crucial. If your community is product-oriented, consider whether potential contributors have access to the necessary processes or tools. By addressing these concerns, you can unlock the potential for future growth and foster a more collaborative atmosphere.

Core Bottleneck:

Reaching the core level requires a significant investment of time and effort, which naturally limits the number of members who will reach this level. However, if you notice a bottleneck at this stage, it is essential to evaluate the contribution experience your members are having. Examine whether there are any unnecessary obstacles or negative experiences that discourage first-time contributors from further engagement. By improving the contribution experience, you can ensure a more positive and rewarding journey for your members.

Ideal Distributions:

In a healthy community, the number of members at each level should have a relatively consistent difference. This indicates that every member moves up at their own pace and to their own limits. Striving for this ideal distribution allows for a balanced and dynamic community where members can progress naturally and feel a sense of achievement.

Steep Onramp:

If your community revolves around specific knowledge or skills that require significant time or resources to acquire, it is expected to have a steep onramp. While there may not be much you can do to change this, you can explore ways to make those skills more accessible or affordable. By reducing barriers to entry, you can encourage more users to engage and progress through the levels.

Shallow Onramp:

A shallow onramp suggests that your community is progressing easily and quickly through the levels. While this may be desirable in some cases, it can also indicate that you are not reaching as many potential visitors as you could be. If your community is based on broadly held skills or interests, consider promoting it more broadly to attract a wider audience. By increasing visibility, you can expand your community and foster greater interaction.

Lessons from Reddit: Building for a Highly Opinionated User Base

Understanding how to navigate a highly opinionated user base is crucial for platforms like Reddit. Here are some valuable insights we can learn from Reddit's experience:

1. Harness Passion Productively:

Passionate users are a valuable asset to any platform. Instead of trying to suppress their passion, it is essential to channel it productively. By filling the "Trust Vault" and acknowledging their passion, you can create a more positive and engaging environment. It is important to remember that the loudest voices may not represent the general user base or the ideal customer profile. Identifying who to pay attention to requires careful examination and consideration.

2. Consider the Silent Majority:

Negative feedback tends to be more vocal than positive feedback. Users often do not feel the need to express their satisfaction with useful features, as they consider them to be basic expectations. When evaluating user feedback, it is crucial to consider whether it represents a significant portion (10% or more) of your user base and whether the users giving feedback can influence others' opinions. This allows you to gauge the true sentiment of your community accurately.

3. Provide a Safe Space for Nuanced Discussions:

Public forums or comment threads may not be the ideal place for nuanced product discussions. The incentive to "win" conversations often hinders clarity and alignment. Creating psychological safety for users to express their opinions and ideas is essential. Providing alternative channels for feedback, such as private discussions or surveys, can foster more productive and meaningful conversations.

Conclusion:

Understanding your engagement levels and effectively addressing any challenges or bottlenecks is crucial for building and maintaining a thriving community. By offering value at all levels, removing barriers to participation, and creating a positive and inclusive environment, you can foster growth and ensure member satisfaction. Additionally, when dealing with highly opinionated user bases, it is important to harness passion productively, consider the silent majority, and provide safe spaces for nuanced discussions. By implementing these actionable strategies, you can create a vibrant and engaged community that benefits both your users and your platform.

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