Activity Feed: How Does it Benefit Online Communities?
An activity feed is the part of a community, social media platform, or mobile app that shows a collection of recent interactions. It brings all relevant activity into a central location, making it much easier for users to view the app’s content.
The exact content shown in the activity feed depends on the community, but it will typically include questions, announcements, comments, links, and media. The content will usually be related to the specific user or the group they are viewing.
Activity feeds may show all types of community activity or only top-level posts. For example, while Reddit, Instagram, and Strava only highlight new posts, social networks like Facebook and Twitter also show likes, replies, and shares.
There are two main types of activity feed
There are two main categories of activity feed, one that showcases all the activity chronologically and another that displays activity personalized for each individual user.
Timeline feeds show content in chronological order
Timeline-style activity feeds show content in the order it was created. New content is at the top, and older content is at the bottom.
The benefit is that users can see all the content created in the community. Each interaction has an even chance of being seen.
Chronological feeds are helpful when highlighting content related to community events. For example, you could use a real-time news feed for a community webinar so people can see discussions in real-time.
Problems with these feeds occur when you have a lot of users and community interaction—which often happens on social media sites. In this case, people may not see important discussions due to the quantity of other content.
Aggregated feeds organize content for users
Aggregated feeds use an algorithm to highlight the most relevant content to the space, community, or user.
They solve the problem of too much activity by prioritizing important content and relegating content deemed less likely to be useful.
The benefit of this type of feed is that users see your most valuable community content whenever they log on, no matter when it was posted.
This can increase engagement because people don’t have to sort through uninteresting content to find the content they like.
The downside is that it relies on the feed’s algorithm being able to accurately decide what type of content people find interesting.
Some communities allow users to choose how to view content
Some social apps and communities allow you to switch between aggregated and timeline-style activity feeds.
For example, Twitter users can view Tweets as aggregated by the Twitter algorithm or in a timeline-style feed.
What about notification feeds?
Notification feeds are similar to activity feeds except they only show content that the user receives notifications for. The user can configure which type of content they receive alerts for to ensure they don’t miss things they are interested in.
Group activity feeds vs. personal feeds
Activity feeds can be both personal or related to a particular group or feed.
A personalized feed is located in a user’s profile. They typically show content from all the groups and people the user has connected with. Each feed is personalized based on the user’s own interests.
An example most of us are familiar with is Facebook’s news feed. Every time you open the app you see content relevant to the people and groups you follow.
These feeds often use machine learning to learn about the type of content the user likes most and is most likely to interact with. It will then highlight this type of content over other content to increase engagement.
Meanwhile, group or space feeds show content related to a specific part of the community. Users see these feeds when they visit the relevant sections.
Groups will often allow users to choose how they view content. For example, on Reddit, you can view the top content posted during a particular period or the newest content as it is published to a group.
Activity feeds benefit communities in many ways
They encourage interaction
Activity feeds increase community engagement by providing users with a constant stream of content. The user doesn’t have to go out and find new content to interact with; instead, the feed brings it directly to them.
Think about what happens when you log on to Instagram. You are instantly greeted with a list of images the people you follow have posted and you can easily like or comment without having to go to each person’s profile.
This ultimately helps with community retention as people always have something to interact with when they log in.
They highlight new content
Activity feeds are a good way to highlight new community content. When someone posts it gets broadcast into different activity feeds even if the user doesn’t specifically go to the location of the content.
This is good for the people who see the content. But it’s also good for the person who shares it because they are more likely to get a response.
Some activity feeds also include content the user hasn’t directly interacted with.
For example, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all highlight content that the platforms’ algorithms think its users will find interesting.
They let moderators broadcast messages to all users
Activity feeds can also be used by community mods to broadcast messages to all users or a subsection of users. This is essential for effective community management.
For example, if the group updates its community guidelines, the mods can create a post and stick it to the top of the activity feed.
This can be used for all kinds of content, from organizing events to promoting new features.
What should an activity feed include?
Good activity feeds tend to have a lot of features in common. Look out for the following functionality:
- Aggregate activity from multiple sources: The feed needs to be able to bring in activity from multiple groups and users so the user can see all activity in a single place.
- Direct interaction: Users should be able to interact with content without having to leave the feed. This improves the social experience and ensures that the barrier to getting involved is as low as possible.
- Different interaction options: Including options such as likes or upvotes makes it easy for people to interact with a post.
- Easy navigation: While you need to make it easy for people to interact with content from within the feed, it should also be easy for a user to go to relevant spaces, profiles, or groups when they want to find out more.
- Shortened content: Some posts are too long to show in their entirety in the activity feed. Long content should be automatically shortened so that it doesn’t take up too much space. You can use a “See more” button to give people the option to view the whole post.
- “Follow post” button: Follow post buttons allow users to ask to be notified when updates are made to a post they are interested in. This has many uses; for example, support community members can follow unanswered threads to be notified when someone shares a solution.
- Quick share: Open communities can use a quick share button to allow people to share the content outside your group. This can increase the reach of your content, and encourage new members to join.
What types of communities benefit from an activity feed
Many types of communities benefit from an activity feed. Here are some of the ways that Betermode users use theirs.
Activity feeds are an essential part of any customer community for several reasons.
First, they increase the reach of help questions which can result in community members solving each others’ problems. It also provides increased exposure for support answers, which means multiple users can benefit from the information.
The activity feed will also ensure that users can see important content posted by your brand. For example, you can pin resources, promotions, or events to the top of the feed so people are more likely to see them.
Example: The Bettermode community
At Bettermode, we use our Campfire community to connect with customers and provide help and support.
Each users’ activity stream improves their experience by highlighting relevant content. The feed aggregates the latest content from around our community and highlights it to our users.
This has several major benefits:
- Users can see questions and answers which can help with their own support needs
- Users can respond to questions without leaving the feed
- Users can easily upvote, follow, or share posts
- Our teams can share important resources and updates with our user base
Internal or workplace communities need an activity feed as it’s a great way for employees to stay up-to-date with the latest happenings in the company.
When each user logs into the community, they will see all the important activity that has happened since they last logged in.
This is useful for several reasons:
- It ensures that people working remotely or in different time zones don’t miss out on important conversations.
- Management can pin important company or team updates so everyone in the organization can see it.
- Personalized activity feeds mean that each individual can see the discussion most relevant to them.
Communities of Practice
Communities of Practice benefit from activity feeds because using one improves the visibility of community discussions, ensuring everyone can benefit from them and get involved.
This encourages knowledge sharing and learning, which are essential activities in a Community of Practice.
Example: The ConvertKit community
The ConvertKit community is a group for creators to connect and discuss business and marketing topics.
Its activity feed has several features that stand out.
- The moderators have pinned content at the top of the feed so everyone can see it. The content provides guidelines about how to get involved in the community, which can encourage interaction.
- There is a drop-down menu that lets users choose which type of content they want to see.
- Users can easily interact with recently published content by liking or commenting. They can also navigate to the relevant place in the community.
- As well as the general activity feed, each individual community space has its own feed that users can use to see relevant content.