Community Engagement Programs; Templates and Ideas




I recently had a conversation with a contact about Community Programming and the "usual suspects" that communities employ. The question was more or less: "What options do I have for programming? What exists and how do I know which program is right for my community?" 

My first response to this is to say that I am a firm believer that creating a brand new, brain-child, programming campaign is the most effective approach to serving a particular need in your community. It is the best way to ensure that your programming is keyed into member needs and tailored to the goals you have on your unique roadmap. That being said, we all need a jumping off point. I have compiled here a laundry list of the usual programming suspects I see, facilitate, or participate in across my community work.

Ultimately, every community will run their programs a little differently, even if they are calling them by the same name. My best recommendation for those looking for programming inspiration and guidance is to take the laundry list below and tailor the descriptions to your specific needs.

Member Spotlight

  • This is a profile of one member's work (typically in the form of a blog or discussion post) written by the community manager. It highlights one member and outlines what makes them interesting, valuable, knowledgeable, etc. 

  • Objective: Reward members for desired community behaviors; Model ideal community behavior to others; Stimulate extrinsic motivations for public recognition


Member Spotting

  • An active board of member achievements "in the wild", i.e. A member published a paper to a journal, a member spoke at an industry event, a member was nominated for an award, and so on. Typically this is an ongoing discussion thread that both the community manager and members contribute to.

  • Objective: Build member comfort in the community; Recognize accomplishments; Develop connections between members.


Static Ask Me Anything

  • In a static AMA, the community manager pre-records a video or audio interview with the host and then posts it in the community. Community members may then comment on the file if they wish. 

  • Objective: Members learn about and create connections with one another; Members develop comfort in community


Weekly ICYMI

  • "In Case You Missed It". A weekly wrap up highlighting 3-5 top community contributions that happened over the course of the week. This is typically in a discussion post shared by the community manager or could also be an email newsletter. 

  • Objective: Reward members for desired community behaviors; Model ideal community behavior to others; Stimulate extrinsic motivations for public recognition; Direct members towards posts with unanswered questions; Highlight important community announcements 


Tip Tuesday

  • A hashtag campaign focused on a weekly tip for members. This could be used to share tips about subject matter (i.e. Did you know that Community Managers are movers and shakers? This week's Tip Tuesday is research about how frequently the average community manager changes jobs ...[link to article]") OR to help members understand the community platform itself (i.e. Tip Tuesday has arrived! Did you know that you can now add a banner photo to your profile page? To upload yours, go to your profile and .... [instructions]). 

  • Objectives: Share subject matter resources for members to consume; Demonstrate community value; Introduce member to community navigation; Support technical literacy.


Office Hours

  • Weekly open meeting time (in a chat channel or on a conference line) where members can stop by on an ad hoc basis and chat about their current work. 

  • Objective: Create space for members to contribute their lessons learned; Support member challenges as they arise.


Photo Sharing Contest

  • This is another hashtag campaign program. It could actualize as "Cutest baby picture", "Most recent vacation picture", or "Photo of your work space". Tap into extrinsic motivations by offering the winner a small schwag prize.

  • Objective: Allow members to contribute to the community in a low-pressure way; Create personal connections between members.


Scavenger Hunt

  • This program is especially good for newly-launched communities. It is composed of daily/weekly/monthly "adventures" with points assigned to various tasks and is designed to help members explore the community and content in new ways. Example: "Use the directory feature to sort members by city and find someone who works in the same one you do. Worth 20 points." 

  • Objective: Help members become familiar with community features; Highlight underused value channels; Drive profile completion.


WOL

  • "Work Out Loud". This program asks members to share their top three goals for the week. Typically executed in one designated thread per week. We do this in TheCR Network. Click here to see the archives of this program. 

  • Objective: Facilitate member collisions; Create connections between members; Allow members to become comfortable engaging in the community in a low-risk environment. 


Book Clubs

  • Exactly like a regular book club, only executed virtually. Members can vote on the book that they want to read as a group and come together after a set period of time to discuss. The book review can be executed via conference call or in a discussion thread.

  • Objective: Connect members to one another over common interests; Document & share insights/knowledge. 


TBT or FBF

  • "Throw Back Thursday" and "Flash Back Friday" hashtag campaigns. These programs asks members to use the hashtag to share a specific item indicated by the community manager. For example: "This week's #TBT is about your career! Share a description of what your job was 5 years ago!" or maybe "This week for #FBF, please share a community resource you read a long time ago but is still evergreen".

  • Objective: Help members get to know one another; Facilitate sharing of personal information; Build trust and connections


(Subject Matter XYZ) Clinic

  • This program can be tailored to the subject matter of the community. One member host is designated to share a particularly gnarly challenge that they are struggling with. The community manager then facilitates flash-mob style collaboration around solving it out loud with the entire community. 

  • Objective: Habitualize question answering in the community; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value.


Question of the Week

  • In this program, the community manager selects one question -- it could be one they make up around community subject matter, one submitted by a member on the backchannel, or one they source from elsewhere in the community -- and highlights it as a question that they would like all members to mobilize around answering. 

  • Objective: Habitualize question answering in the community; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value.


Dynamic Ask Me Anything

  • For this program, the community manager sets up a member host to whom questions will be asked in a public discussion thread which would remain 'live' for a set period of time (6 hours, 3 days, one week, etc.). All other community members are then encouraged to post questions in the comments of that thread. The host then answers them live as they roll in.

  • Objective: Members learn about and create connections with one another; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value.


Ask an Expert

  • Very similar to a static or dynamic AMA program. The host is an SME (bonus points if the SME is someone community members would not otherwise have access to). 

  • Objective: Members learn about and create connections with one another; Build trust in the community's ability to deliver value.


What are your thoughts? 

Did I forget any common programs? Do you execute any of these programs in different ways? I encourage you to add your programs to the list in the comments!