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Onboarding Community Members: Best practices + Step-by-step Guide

Unlock the secrets to effective community member onboarding! Dive into best practices, step-by-step guides, and strategies to ensure every new member feels valued and engaged from day one.
Written by
Kerry Leech
Last updated
October 23, 2023

Onboarding new members is crucial for building an active, engaged online community. A thoughtful onboarding process sets the tone, influencing how members interact, understand your brand, and contribute on an ongoing basis.

In this guide, we’ll explore effective onboarding strategies to help new members feel valued from day one. We’ll cover best practices like clear communication, personal messages, notifications, and opportunities for interaction. 

You’ll learn how to welcome new members, give them a tour, provide checklists, integrate them into the community, and keep them engaged. With the right onboarding approach, you can activate new members and lay the groundwork for ongoing engagement. 

Let’s dive in. 🤿

What is member onboarding?

But first, let’s take a look at what member onboarding is and the importance of getting this right. 

Member onboarding: Quick definition🔎

Put simply, member onboarding is the journey new members go through as they begin to use your community. It's those critical first interactions we have with someone who's brand new and how we introduce them to what your community is all about. 

You can show them the ins and outs of how things work. And give them the lay of the land and highlight all the cool features and benefits they now have access to.

Essentially, it’s about making sure new members feel informed, excited, and equipped to fully engage with your community. This sets them up for success by teaching them the guidelines and expectations, connecting them with other members, and showing them opportunities to participate right off the bat.

Importance of member onboarding

Member onboarding is a big deal. It's the key element that encourages users to stay engaged and come back for more. In fact, according to HubSpot, companies with killer onboarding see 33% more customer engagement. That's a lot of high-fives.

But it's not just about making people feel good. Onboarding also sets the stage for how your community operates, helps users find valuable resources, and encourages active participation. 

When done right, they'll feel welcomed, supported, and eager to start contributing. All of which sparks participation and loyalty from day one.

So, let's make sure you give every new member the VIP treatment they deserve, with some best practices to follow. 👇

Best practices for an awesome onboarding experience

Creating a smooth and engaging onboarding experience is key to getting your community excited. So let's delve into some best practices that can help create a successful onboarding process, starting with the basics, before delving into a complete step-by-step strategy. 

  • Show clear steps: First up, you need to make it easy for members to know what to do next. Your members should be able to use your products without finding the process frustrating or annoying. So take a leaf from UX expert Steve Krug’s book ‘Don’t make me think’ - and consider this at every step of the journey. 
  • Clear communication is key: So start off strong by clearly explaining what new members can expect, how they can contribute, and where to find support. Tools like Bettermode offer great solutions to help with this.
  • Show your value early: Make sure new members understand why joining your community is worth it. Highlight unique features, benefits, and exclusive opportunities. 
  • Build personal connections: Help new members feel like they belong by encouraging existing members to reach out and include them in conversations. Platforms like Bettermode can be a great tool for direct messaging.

By following these basic best practices, you'll create a smoother onboarding experience and boost engagement in your community. 

So where to start? 

First, we need to think about the member's journey as they join your community. 

community member jouney
Member journey map

Let’s take a look - starting with the welcome stage.

👋 Welcome stage - the first step in member onboarding

The moment a new member joins your community is crucial. It's the first step in their journey with you and sets the tone for their entire experience. So, let's make it count.

Step 1: Make registration easy

The first step is to make registration and access to your community easy for your users. We would highly recommend enabling something like Single Sign-On if you have a platform, website, or app to connect to. But if you don’t have that, we’d recommend having a Social Login. This helps eliminate password fatigue. 

Single Sign-On and Social Login options
Bettermode makes onboarding customers easy with Single Sign-On and Social Login options

Step 2: Craft an engaging welcome message

An engaging welcome message can make all the difference to a new member's perception of your community. Tools like Bettermode can help you to automate this process and send a personalized greeting as soon as they sign up. A bit like a virtual hug.

Your welcome message should be friendly and informative, giving newcomers the lowdown on what to expect. And don't neglect to incorporate info on how to begin and where to look for assistance. 

Step 3: Guide members towards understanding community rules

Welcoming new members is great, but you also need to guide them towards your community rules. One way to do this is to include links in your welcome email or direct messaging system that lead directly to guidelines. 

Setting clear expectations from the start prevents misunderstandings and keeps harmony among members. It's all about keeping the peace.

Step 4: Encourage them to contribute

A really easy way to get started is to encourage them to send their first post by introducing themselves. You could suggest ideas, such as your favorite snacks, something fun about themselves, and why they joined. 

Bettermode post editor
Beautiful posting experience with formatting options, media uploads, @mentions, and embeddable content

Then, once new members are welcomed in, you need to help them navigate your community. Think of this as the ‘Tour’ stage. 👇

🗺️ Tour stage - helping members navigate your community

Starting in a new community can be overwhelming. That’s why guiding members through the platform and showing them how to best utilize their membership is essential. This stage, often called the 'Tour' stage, plays a vital role in member onboarding.

Step 1: Create a 'Getting Started' space/collection

A dedicated 'getting started' space or collection acts as a central hub for all the necessary information that newcomers need. It could include everything from profile setup instructions to detailed guidelines about community rules and etiquette. By creating this kind of space/collection within your platform, you ensure that users have easy access to vital resources right at their fingertips.

Step 2: Create helpful guides/videos about navigating communities

Within your getting started space, it’s helpful to include guides and resources to point them in the right direction. Consider creating informative video tours of your community platform. These visual walkthroughs can cover various aspects such as updating profiles, finding relevant spaces/collections, and interacting within these spaces. Videos are highly engaging, and not only simplify complex processes but also add a personal touch, making learning fun.

Step 3: Keep information up-to-date

Also, remember to keep updating these guides/videos based on user feedback or whenever there are significant changes/features added to your platform, ensuring continuous support throughout their journey.

The tour stage is an integral part of an effective member onboarding strategy, enhancing overall user experiences and building stronger communities with active participation from each member. 

With this in mind, let’s now look at how to activate those new members.👇 

☑️Checklist & integration stages - activating new members

The process of onboarding new members into your community doesn't end with a warm welcome message and tour. The next stages involve activating these newcomers, helping them become active participants in the community. This is where checklists and integration come into play.

Step 1: Create checklists to help activate users

A checklist is like a friendly guide that shows new members what to do next, like a roadmap to community success. So whether they want to update their profile, post a comment, or join a discussion they know exactly what to do. 

With clear steps to follow, engaging with your community becomes a breeze.

Step 2: Segment & integrate according to user preferences

Checklists are great, but why stop there? Let's get personal. To do this, you could segment new members based on their interests or preferences, or geographical area. For instance, if you run a fitness-focused community, you could create spaces for yoga lovers, weightlifters, and runners. Then, automatically add newbies to the right spaces, so they can dive into discussions they might enjoy.

This personalized approach boosts user experience and keeps members engaged. It's like finding the perfect workout playlist - tailored to your taste.

Step 3: Highlight useful resources

When users first join a new community they need friendly reminders to make interacting in the community a habit. A bit like going to the gym, they need to build it into their routine. So share helpful resources and provide friendly reminders to encourage participation. And share value to remind them why they are coming back. 

💡Remember: Activation success means making it easy for newbies to get involved. Guide them towards meaningful actions that align with their goals and your community's objectives. 

Speaking of getting our members to come back to the community there is no better reminder than notifications. (More on this next). 

📌Notification Stage - encourage continued engagement

The notification stage is crucial for keeping your community members engaged and active. But remember, there's a fine line between encouraging engagement and spamming with notifications.

Step 1: Create personalized notification strategies

Encourage engagement without being intrusive by creating personalized notification strategies. For example, you could send reminders or updates based on each user's activity or interests. 

You can even integrate your community management tool with an email delivery tool like MailChimp to send automated emails to members, like newsletters, inactivity reminders, and welcome emails.

Notifications - email and browser
Reach members wherever they are with email and desktop notifications.

Step 2: Incorporate a private messaging feature

Furthermore, you could enhance user experience by incorporating a private messaging feature. This way, users can have personal interactions and build stronger relationships within the community.

Use this feature to send welcome messages to newcomers or thank-you notes for active contributors. It's the little things that make people feel valued and appreciated. 

Step 3: Don’t spam your members

Personalized messaging is great, but always be mindful of how many notifications you send. Nothing will turn people off more than too many messages popping up every day. 

Step 4: Use a content calendar

As a final tip, you might want to use something like a content calendar so that your community doesn’t become inactive over time. It’s good to have a regular cadence of events, activities, and content. For example, weekly/monthly wins - where you highlight the top posts from the community, monthly member showcases, or a top contributor post. 

Bettermode’s leaderboard functionality
Leaderboard to showcase top contributors

Keep members engaged at every stage of customer onboarding 

Onboarding new members is a journey that begins from the moment they join your community. By providing a thoughtful welcome, a handy tour, checklists, and ongoing notifications, you can make this journey smooth and engaging. Most importantly, focus on building personal connections and showing the value your community offers.

Remember, first impressions matter. Craft a stellar onboarding experience, and you’ll activate newcomers while reinforcing community culture. In short, give members the tools and encouragement they need to fully participate from day one.

When done right, onboarding sets the stage for member retention and ongoing involvement. It transforms sign-ups into active contributors who drive community growth.

So be proactive and intentional with your onboarding strategy. Show members you care through small personal touches and clear communication. Help them navigate your platform, connect with each other, and find ways to engage. With these best practices, you can empower new members to become valuable assets within your community. 

To make this all as effortless as possible you can get started with Bettermode now, or if you still have unanswered questions, take a look at the most frequently asked questions below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I reach out to new members during onboarding?

It's best to space out your communications during onboarding. Send a welcome message right away when they join, follow up after a couple of days, and check in again after their first week or two. Avoid bombarding new members with too many messages at once.

What's the most important onboarding goal?

The main goal is to activate new members and encourage participation. Give clear directions, highlight opportunities to engage, and build personal connections to get them to contribute to your community.

How can I track the effectiveness of my onboarding process?

Look at key metrics like open and click rates on onboarding emails, posts from new members, and how long new users stay active. This can help you identify what's working and what needs improvement in your onboarding flow.

Kerry Leech
Content Contributor

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