A 4 Stage Model for Member Engagement


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If you build it, he will come.” – Field of Dreams

Each member of an online community or professional network participates in the community or network at one of four stages of activity: being online, doing online, acting online and finally, thinking online. Each of these stages represents a greater level of member participation, involvement with community content and, especially, with other members.

Here is a Four-Stage Engagement Model for Online Community which simplifies the member engagement process. Rather than trying to craft communications and incentives for individual members, or using a single, standard approach for all members, the model helps group leaders and community managers categorize their memberships and create a package of communications and activities tailored to each stage.

Stage 1: Being Online

Characteristics:  Members who are new to the online community or are infrequent participants. They may be hesitant to visit or contribute. They may feel unsure about the technology or uncertain about community expectations. They need training, support resources, mentors and models to follow.

Engagement resources: Launch guides, welcome kits, “official greeters”, suggested content resources.

Stage 2: Doing Online

 Characteristics: Members who are somewhat invested in the community with limited contributions and member connections online. Members who visit occasionally and primarily interact with existing content. They rarely post documents or make comments. They are consuming but not making significant contributions to the community. A goal for this member stage is expand their participation into new or unfamiliar areas. They need encouragement to increase participation and experiment.

Engagement resources:
Basic user recognition incentives and rewards; best-practice examples to support more participation and experimentation; receive mentor-ship experiences.

Stage 3: Acting Online

Characteristics: Members who are persistently active in the community and in contributing to its success over time.  Enablement for increasing participation for the community’s most active and engaged members. They are the problem-solvers and inventors of new discussions and contributions or uses for tools. They are also the most invested in the community based both on successful outcomes and well-established connections with other members.

Engagement resources: Leadership and governance opportunities; advisory board members; best practice award recipients; advanced member recognition incentives and rewards including site performance metrics; mentors.

At each stage, different tools and techniques can capture the member’s attention and support or sustain their current activity, and encourage participation at the next level of involvement. The end state is a member who is active and very involved with the community, who visits regularly, makes useful contributions, collaborates widely, establishes multiple connections and offers help and guidance to other members. This member is a “model” participant, a mentor to others and, perhaps without realizing it, is a recognized leader within the community. No all member will progress through the cycles to stage 4.  Many will remain at stage 2 or stage 3 and that is OK – as with any group (online or offline)  not all members become community leaders. The goal is to create and increase opportunities for member engagement, and to help members succeed in their experience at every stage. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Vanessa DiMauro
Vanessa DiMauro is CEO of Leader Networks, a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and B2B online community building. DiMauro is a popular speaker, researcher and author. She has founded numerous online communities, and has developed award winning social business strategies for some of the most influential organizations in the world. Her work is frequently covered by leading publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.


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