Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Integrating an online community engagement strategy

When I wrote my first online community engagement strategy for Telstra's Wireplay service in 1997, one of the factors I considered was how to 'complete the loop' - integrate inbound and outbound online channels to reach, engage and promote interaction across the widest possible audience.

In those days we used mass media, product sponsorship and events as the drivers to build audience reach and awareness and online forums, IRC chat, newsgroups and email to interact online and generate repeat traffic.

It was an effective combination - although limited by 2009 standards.

Today there are more online channels alternatives when building an integrated marketing or engagement strategy, however the principle remains the same,
  • Use media (inc online) channels to drive initial traffic to the site
  • Make the on site barriers to engagement and interaction as low as possible, provide rewards for activity and a variety of ways to engage/interact to suit different comfort and skills levels
  • Promote return traffic through alerts and email news
  • Build audience by providing reasons for visitors to refer your site to others
  • Increase your reach by providing options to integrate your content into other sites
However I'm disappointed to see that many Australian organisations are struggling to get beyond the first, second or third steps above.

Sometimes their strategy was to spend their month on building and launching an online engagement site, then hope people like it enough to spread the word themselves - the build it and they will come approach.

Sometimes organisations treat the delivery of a website as the end of the project - rather than the start.

And sometimes the value of word-of-mouth promotion and an outreach strategy is not recognised - some organisations still believe that the mass media is the most powerful traffic driver.

Fortunately for those of you struggling to enlighten organisations who believe any of the above, IAS B2B has published an integrated channel strategy diagram which provides an excellent illustration of how to effectively design an online community engagement approach.

I've included an image below, and you can download the integrated online strategy diagram PDF here (103kb).

At first glance the diagram can appear a little daunting - which is possibly why Marc Keating has made an accompanying video to explain it in depth.


  1. Hi Craig

    Well said, I never fail to be amazed by people who think if it is on the web the community will magically find it without help. Fortunately we are finding that people are getting better and more resourceful in finding ways to get the message out.

    Thanks for the Online Strategy diagram - that's very useful.


  2. Hi Craig, Thanks for the coverage of the diagram and video. Great to see that you agree with an integrated strategy approach. I believe that the Web has to be at the heart of any communication/business strategy and linked to all channels and communities.