One area that needs to be revisited every so often, is the “welcome” to new members. The early days when someone first joins are when habits, tone and value of the community culture, loyalty and stickiness are going to be set. So don’t miss an opportunity to welcome your new member, give them positive values to adhere to and things to do.

While I think this is the best online community signup ever, there’s more that you can do to make it easy for Visitors to move to Newcomers in the social network membership cycle. And registrations are important for identity in online communities. In fact one of the flaws of blogs is that they do not encourage sustainable identities thus leaving no “report card” of activity if the member turns out to be a troll. Note the last paragraph on identity and registration in online communities how Japan has moved from anonymous communities like 2CH to totally closed, invitation only, fully registered ones like Mixi. It’s really no surprise as mass social network audiences learn what really suits them.

Welcome Emails:

EMAILS: Signup emails that simply say “here’s your password” or only have “please click the verification link” are a wasted opportunity to connect. Why not list off the things they could do? Or once a month, update the welcome email with a campaign (competition or event that month) and some “did you know” statistics and facts for the members that join that month. Otherwise the answer to “what do I do here” might very well be “I dunno” and they wander off to another online community.

What to do next:

LANDING PAGE: This is where your FAQ, Tutorial or Welcome to Newcomers area shines. They get tips on “First 3 things to do on this site” or “The most popular subjects today are” and so on. Leading newcomers down a path a little is fine – but don’t do too much or they slip into passive reading, not active contributing mode. The first few connections a new person makes on a community dictates how they behave and sets their (mis) conceptions for how the community is run.

Ravelry knitting welcome pageThe Ravelry social network getting started page doesn’t have to be on your own community site, lots of Facebook pages also have “newcomer landing pages”.

Supre Facebook page

Note, this Facebook page for Supre doesn’t appear to NON-newcomers, only those who are visitors and not yet “liking” the Facebook fan page. Of course it doesn’t work for engagement – it looks like the front page of a (passive) magazine cover, rather than a “come inside and meet the family” community fan page. Still, fashion is a bit more about the Cover than the Inside, no? 😛

Visitors vs Newcomers

A visitor hasn’t yet signed up, and should be in “read only” mode. Newcomers have signed up and are in “contribute mode” but also “I’m scared I’m going to make the oldtimers cross” mode. And that’s pretty easy to do. Giving them special areas and making it clear that “stupid questions” are allowed, keeps the Elders from being too grumpy with seeing “how do I…” for the 10 millionth time.

What other things could we do to make newcomers feel welcome on forums and online communities? Without excommunicating them from the hurly burly online? Any ideas out  there? :p