I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the best way to increase participation on your neighborhood website is to post information as frequently as possible.
Not only do you encourage other residents to post, but you encourage more residents to register.
As I was going through our website activity reports, I saw an increase in activity in Hampton Place so I started digging to find out why. It turns out that they have a new board member (Marc O’Leary) who recently took it upon himself to increase communication in their neighborhood.
Below is a traffic report that shows the difference Marc is making. Note the spikes in traffic over the last 30 days.
Not only is he posting more frequently, but he is posting relevant and useful information, and it prompted me to put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help other board members generate more participation in their own neighborhood.
Below is my list. Feel free to add to this list or comment below. What do you do that works? At the end of the article I have provided some screenshots of Marc’s articles and articles from a couple other neighborhoods too. Hopefully you can use these to spur activity in your neighborhood.
What to do:
- Post a news article at least once per week. If you get in the habit of posting frequently, you get the neighborhood on a new communication schedule and everybody starts participating in real-time. Don’t wait until the end of the month to sit down and post a bunch of stuff. Do it now. Spend 10 minutes writing one article.
- Charge your fellow board members with posting something once per week. The Treasurer should post financial updates – not just balance sheets but a couple sentences of the financial outlook that humans find interesting. The secretary should post the meeting minutes, and the social committee should be in charge of posting events, and so on and so forth.
- Post relevant and timely information. Find something that will be helpful to your community and something that is timely. One quick example. Nottingham Forest South sent out a bulletin today announcing that the pool will be closed tomorrow. Yes, that’s right. They gave one day’s notice. In the past, this is something that would have been sent out two weeks in advance. Post information immediately.
- Post personal information. Sometimes board members feel like they have to post meeting minutes and financial reports. This is good information but let’s be honest, it’s pretty boring. The problem is that residents cannot emulate this behavior. If you post something personal they can post something personal too. We just went through graduation season and a lot of people shared the news that their son/daughter had graduated.
- Ask for feedback.If you are looking for participation. Nottingham by the Green does a great job of this. They have a “Monthly Chime In” where they ask residents to chime in on a particular topic. June’s Chime in was “How important are our entrances to you?”. So far, they have 21 comments.
- When a resident calls with a problem say, “Post it on the website”. As a board member you hear a lot of complaints and you’re expected to act on them. Well now you don’t have to. You have setup a communication tool in your community that every resident can use so the next time they call complaining about cars driving to fast through the neighborhood, tell them to post a news article on the website politely requesting that everyone slow down.
What not to do:
- Do not post your paper newsletter to the website. There are several problems here. First, the paper newsletter cannot be read natively in the browser. You have to use a third-party application, like Adobe Reader or Microsoft Word to read the newsletter. This requires that people download the file (which is usually very large) instead of just loading the text on the page. So it takes longer because you’re downloading a large file and because you’re opening another application. Second, users cannot comment on information in the paper newsletter and you’re losing the benefit of two-way communication that you get by posting information online. Third, when you upload your paper newsletter you’re probably not posting news articles directly to the website, so residents don’t learn to use the site as their primary news source.
Example #1: This is a great example of how to encourage your current residents to get other residents to register. He provides an update on the progress of registration and gives people a very easy assignment to follow, which gets people involved.
Example #2: This is a great example of what the board typically has to communicate: codes and covenants, rules and regulations, and in this case, city ordiances that everyone needs to follow. I picked this article as an example for a couple of reasons. One, it’s common. Everyone has to post this sort of stuff but Marc does it in a way that is striaght-forward and neighborly. He writes with a tone that says, hey, I’m your neighbor and here are the rules. It’s not just a copy-and-paste job. Second, note the first comment. He wrote it because he got a call from a concerned neighbor. I love this. Marc didn’t just answer the question for the “concerned neighbor”, he answered it for the whole neighborhood. The only thing that he might have been able to do better is have the concerned neighbor write the article for themselves. This isn’t always possible though. Third, look at the comment string. This clearly hit a chord with some people, meaning that it is a problem and people arent’ aware of the rules. So he picked relevant information to post. And finally, note the use of clip art/photos in every post. Nice touch.
Example #3: This is great. Here’s an example of how you can use the news articles to teach your residents how to make the most of the website.
Example #4:Want more participation? Ask for it. I love Deb’s idea of having a monthly “Chime In”. They are not all shown in the screenshot below but she got 21 comments for this article.
I have a gazillion other examples that are just as good, but I’ll save them for another post. If you’re one of the three people that made it all the way to the bottom of this post, congratulations. You are incredibly intelligent and have a longer than normal attention span.
If you have a suggestion of your own, please post a comment below.