Optimize onboarding to maximize community activation

We’ve also spoken to community builders who’ve nailed onboarding. Let’s design the perfect onboarding experience, drawing insights from these interactions.
Priyanshu Anand
October 9, 2023

Optimize onboarding to maximize community activation

We’ve also spoken to community builders who’ve nailed onboarding. Let’s design the perfect onboarding experience, drawing insights from these interactions.
Priyanshu Anand
June 21, 2023

In the fast-paced world of business, communities have become the epicentre for knowledge, sharing invaluable insights, and networking opportunities. Joining a community or being an early member is like walking into a social gathering and not being aware of what’s where. It can be awkward not knowing anyone followed by a feeling of “maybe I should leave”, which isn’t a good sign. What if there was someone who greets you, welcomes, and introduces you to a couple of folks? Now that tension isn’t there, you’re comfortable and confident enough to explore and interact with folks on your own.

This is sort of what onboarding really is. Effectively onboarding new members is crucial. It sets the stage up for a member to be engaged right from the beginning and there’s a usually golden period that persists between curiosity and disinterest.  Effective onboarding is the only way to convert curiosity into action. The sooner you deliver value, the sooner members get activated, and on a much bigger scale, this increases the total percentage of active members in the community. What’s more, the value that’s realized sooner has a lingering effect on members and gradually results in better retention too.

At the same time, it’s important to realize that there’s a lot going on in communities, and not everything is essential for a newcomer. You have to break things down into priorities and share them little by little. Your onboarding should be precise such as to not overwhelm a member when they join the community. What helps as a first touchpoint is to just introduce yourself and say “Hey, here’s a familiar face” so the person at least feels acquainted.

We’ve also spoken to community builders who’ve nailed onboarding. Let’s design the perfect onboarding experience, drawing insights from these interactions.

Onboarding > Growth

When Steve Klein, Community Manager at LaunchNotes, started building the Launch Awesome community, there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on the functional side of things. Initially, they took to LinkedIn and Twitter, asking folks to be a part of the community. About 200 or so people joined over a few weeks, but only about 10 of them really replied or posted a message in a span of 6 months. This is when Steve realized that onboarding comes before growth.

Sure, it might seem unscalable to focus on onboarding rather than numbers but sometimes you have to go the extra mile trying to do things that don’t scale, and surprisingly enough, growth will happen as a byproduct of doing things that lay down the foundation.

Designing a good onboarding experience

Step 1: A landing page that clearly communicates your community’s vision and mission

Having a landing page for your community is like having an enticing summary at the back of a book. It’s what excites someone to take the next step which is to join the community. Also, this is the first touchpoint of your onboarding flow, and also the first opportunity to make a great first impression. Let’s look at a few things to keep in mind while designing a landing page that converts -

  • Don’t focus on “come join our community” but rather on “why you should join our community”. People care about what they want rather than what you want.
  • Give a brief glimpse of your community. This could include recent events, people’s conversations, small wins, or anything unique that makes your community stand out.
  • Have a form that interested folks can fill out before they join the community. This establishes a sense of exclusivity which is more valuable than an open community.
  • Include social proof and testimonials from folks who’re a part of the community.

LaunchNotes’ community landing page is a great example to draw inspiration from.

LaunchNotes Community Onboarding Landing Page

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with your community members

Introduce yourself so members can recognize you as a familiar face; become someone people can rely on or go to when they need something. A great way to nail that introduction or the first touchpoint is to send a friendly email as soon as they fill up the request to join form.

This is how you pick subtle moments throughout the onboarding journey to gradually acquaint yourself with the member and build a certain sense of trust that creates a familiarity bias, making them more comfortable approaching you when they become a part of the community.

You can use tools like Zapier, Mailerlite, etc. to set up an automated response that goes out as soon as a person submits the request.

Step 3: Nailing your first community interaction with multiple touchpoints

It’s recommended that you follow a 30-day onboarding flow because it’s detailed but at the same time not too intrusive. People also don’t like to be constantly bugged, so it’s good practice to break down your interactions over a period of time. This way, you can also steer clear of overwhelming members with information overload while maintaining friendly interactions with them over a considerable time period.

A great example of onboarding can be something like this -

  1. When a member joins the community, use this opportunity to give them an overview of the community and what helps the most is tying it to a singular goal that they can focus on instead of multiple things.
  • In Threado’s community, our first ask is for members to introduce themselves and talk a bit about who they are. It’s a great icebreaker.
  • A lot of Discord communities request users to react to a message or perform a certain action to assign them roles. You can try this too.

New member onboarding with split condition

  1. Give the members a couple of days (on the 3rd day of their joining) to complete the goal and do a check after that to see if they’ve completed it.
  • If they have - share with them relevant resources, channels, and events.
  • If they haven’t - politely ask them again to start by introducing themselves.

  1. On the 6th day of their joining, do another check to see if they’ve completed the first goal -
  • If they have - share more relevant resources, links to upcoming events, helpful content pieces, etc.
  • If they haven’t - subtly nudge them again to introduce themselves and share some relevant resources as well

Same new member onboarding elaborated

  1. On the 15th day, do a simple check-in to see how are things going. Are they enjoying being a part of the community? Are there any challenges they’re facing? If necessary, even offer to set up 1-on-1 calls with them.

  1. On the 30th day, check in to see if monthly milestones have been completed.

Onboarding flow completed with a 30-day checkin

A great onboarding experience improves key metrics too for your community -

  • Communities have seen better retention.
  • Reportedly, there were 3x improvements in member activation rate.
  • Community managers have been able to identify more potential champions and advocates.

And some things go beyond metrics. When you engineer a value that delights and excites members, you’re also engineering serendipity.

Start your 21 day free trial

Shreman Shrestha, the Community Lead at Friends of Lenny’s, also has a fragmented approach to member onboarding. He focuses on not overwhelming the members but at the same time prioritizes a goal-oriented approach that is much more likely to become actionable.

“It’s important to not just ‘feed’ information so I like to be extremely careful to not overwhelm or overtalk. You want them to gradually feel the community, you want them to gradually do a few core things maybe over a period of time. And slowly let them discover the community on their own. That’s very important”, said Shreman. “I’ve been a part of a lot of Slack communities myself where I’m not very active because I feel it’s just not worth my time. I don’t want others to feel that way when they come to my community!”

Hear from Shreman himself as walks us through his entire onboarding workflow in-depth, and shows us why it works.

Onboarding is the first step to member success

Looking at the big picture stuff, onboarding is a small but impactful part of community building as it focuses on creating value for members as soon as possible. This value is what catalyzes a member’s participation in the community. Onboarding basically bridges the gap that lingers between inactivity and contribution. Facilitating meaningful connections and making members feel like they’re home are surefire ways to establish their trust early on.

The pursuit of ‘perfect’ onboarding is neverending. You can always one-up yourself and experiment with ways to make onboarding even more personalized and intricate. Consider mentor programs or peer groups that can elevate deeper personal connections. This can also be a concept of ‘objective-based’ onboarding that concentrates all the attention on singular goals and might be much more likely to engage members right off the bat.

Remember, onboarding can be a lever that facilitates growth and community impact in the long run. It can lead to a domino effect - one small thing affecting something larger than you could’ve imagined.

Start your 21 day free trial

Start your 21 day free trial


Blog Posts

Table of contents

Update cookies preferences