Here are some practices we’ve seen work well with other organizations to help them (and their members) get the most out of their apps:
- Distributing your app to members
- Ask someone to be the “community manager” of the app and its discussions
- Recruit a few members to help encourage interactions
- Setting the right tone
- Make it about members at least as much as it’s about the organization
1. Distributing your app to members
The best way to maximize the install rate among members is to make it as convenient as possible for them to install the app.
The most convenient way for members to install the app, we’ve found, is to click on a link (from their phones or tablets) that takes them directly to the app’s listing.
Tell them to search the store
Alternatively, you can tell members to simply search the stores for the name of the group, but we only recommend this when you’re in-person with your members, or in print. (Direct links are usually more effective than search instructions when members are online.)
You can find the install links and search terms in the email we sent you when your trial was approved and available in the App Store and Play Store. Having trouble finding the email? No problem - just drop us a line at email@example.com and we'll send over the details again.
Help them install an app at a major event (e.g. an “app install booth”)
Some members (especially those who are older and less tech-savvy) often find it very helpful if someone helps them install the app. For example, we’ve seen “app installation booths” work very well at major events, where a volunteer helps members install the app.
Additional distribution tips
- Don’t hesitate to mention the app on several occasions. It can take a few follow-up reminders before people take action and install the app.
- Take advantage of “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). Create the sense that the app is where valuable member-to-member and member-to-organization interactions will take place in between real-life events. We recommend bulk importing your member list and enabling the Member Email Digest, a periodic email that gets sent to all members (whether or not they've installed the app). It contains posts and events from the app - so even people without smartphones and tablets stay in the loop. You can activate it on the App Settings tab of the admin dashboard.
- It can be useful to make an announcement during a major event asking people to take a moment to install the app on their devices, and that you’re available to come around and help them do it.
You can also embed these "Download in the store" buttons on your website (or elsewhere):
Apple App Store button HTML code:
<a href="APP STORE LINK>
<img alt="Download on the App Store" src="http://groupahead.com/images/app-badges/App_Store_Badge_US-UK_135x40.png" />
Google Play Store button HTML code:
<a href="PLAY STORE LINK">
<img alt="Get it on Google Play" src="http://groupahead.com/images/app-badges/en_generic_rgb_wo_45.png" />
2. Ask someone to be the “community manager” of the app and its discussions
We've learned it works well to ask one person to be the “community manager” who takes ownership over the app by:
a) Helping to create interesting content, and
b) Helping to establish the norms of what a normal post "should" look like
Often, for the first few weeks or months of a new “discussion space”, it might be the community manager who is the primary one posting content. That’s okay. Keep at it. It might take a while before others feel comfortable posting, too.
3. Recruit a few members to help encourage interactions
In addition to a community manager, we recommend asking a small set of people to post & reply frequently for the first month - which also helps them feel invested in its success.
Tamsin Toefy of Arup Group writes:
“When we've started new internal communities in the past, we've often primed individuals to respond to posts; talking to people we know in the community and asking them to help initiate interaction by responding, sharing / liking etc. This immediately gets others invested in the success of the community and starts to spread the responsibility for the community. So our efforts have been behind the scenes helping others have visibility in the community.”
4. Set the right tone
It’s entirely up to you (and the members you recruit) to establish what posts are “supposed” to look like in your app. You can’t simply launch the app and take a “wait and see” approach to see what other members do with it.
Along those lines, we recommend not making your first five posts all organizational announcements or advertisements. That’ll send a clear message to members that “the app is only for the leaders to send announcements”.
Here are a few kinds of posts you might want to consider:
- Be social - post a fun update - a photo you took at a recent event, a recent inside joke, etc
- Ask for help - the sort of questions you imagine others might need help with: "Hey, can anyone recommend the best place to buy X?"
- Ask for advice on a real-life organizational problem you’re facing - This not only gets people talking and sharing ideas that could be useful to you, but helps increase their commitment to the organization.
5. Make the app about members at least as much as it’s about the organization
Members often join organizations because they care about the people in the group - not just the organization itself.
So, perhaps our most important tip is that groups see the most interaction from members within the app when the content is about the members themselves.
Richard Millington, an online community expert, wrote an article explaining this:
More than anything else, your members want the community to be about themselves and the people they care about.
A decade ago now, I made a discovery.
I wrote a post about a member who was getting married.
The response rate was far higher than any post that month. Everyone wanted to congratulate the member, ask questions about the wedding, tease him about the wedding night.
We repeated this several times. I wrote a post about a member that had a baby. Same response. It was far bigger than any other informational post.
Soon, we had members writing in with their own news. Job changes, babies, marriages, moving home, climbing Mount Everest, other achievements, even new girlfriends (we drew the line here).
Jeremiah Owyang understood this when he [wrote] about people on the move. Soon, everyone wanted to be featured on this page.
Mark Pinsent and co created a thriving community of London Tech PR professionals by making fun of members.
We began including this as a community news roundup. Then we expanded this to be the main news and put the traditional topic news in a roundup.
If you're struggling to get activity in the community, try writing about what your members are doing. Reach out to a few members to ask what they're working on. Ask what they have recently achieved. Create a weekly or monthly segment focused on members job changes, achievements, or life changes (marriages, babies etc...)
Make the community about your members and their peer groups. Trust me, the response will be huge.