The Top Reasons for Low Community Engagement (and How to Fix It)

5 min readSep 16, 2022

There’s nothing worse than the excitement of setting up and launching a new community, or even being years into running one, only to have someone question the engagement levels and suggest that your beloved community is suffering from low engagement.

Good engagement is key for research success, but having high numbers of participants taking part in the community, doesn’t necessarily mean good engagement. As well as having good numbers of participants taking part, you also want them to give good considered responses as well as being quick to respond to your questions.

Reason 1: High Expectations ≠ Low Engagement

Before exploring why low engagement levels can be seen in online communities, and more importantly how to fix them, I first want to throw a bit of a curve ball and ask a question: do you really have low engagement, or are expectations too high? High expectations can be seen as the first “reason” for low community engagement, which is why it is crucial to ask this question.

We would all love for all community members to take part in all activities, all the time, but realistically that isn’t going to happen and that is important to keep in mind. People are motivated to engage by different things; some members want to take part for the more social aspect of a community, others demonstrate more altruistic traits, others are more driven by financial incentive, others by gamification. On top of that, you have different personality traits that impact on the type of activities they will respond to most.

Unless you have run a range of different activities, using different things to motivate your community members, you cannot say for definite that you have low engagement; what you may in fact have is a community who aren’t motivated or responsive to what you have been asking them to get involved in.

There’s nothing worse than setting up a great online research community and then facing low participant engagement — how do insight experts stop low engagement?

Who your community members are, I would say, is probably one of the most important things to think about when thinking about when you are considering whether you genuinely do have low engagement. Communities made up of decision makers from large organisations who focus on business issues will respond differently to those from smaller businesses in a similar community, and both of these groups will respond very differently to someone taking part in a consumer-filled community. If you are expecting to see the same response rates across all 3 examples, then ultimately, you are likely to be disappointed. B2B communities will see lower levels of engagement than a consumer research community, but it doesn’t mean it is low engagement.

Once you’ve ruled out a mismatch of expectations, and you definitely are seeing low engagement, then there’s a chance, its caused by either something that has, or, hasn’t been done within the community.

Reason 2: Lack of Feedback and Two-Way Communication

As highlighted in Gareth Bowden’s recent blog two-way communication is a vital part of running a successful research community. Failing to complete the feedback loop to give this two-way communication can be another reason for low engagement rate.

A common motivator for people to take part in online research communities belonging to specific brands is the desire to help and see improvement from that brand. If they don’t feel like they are being heard, or aren’t seeing any changes or improvement in their experiences as a customer, then it’s likely to have the opposite effect, and demotivate them.

Whilst everyone in market research knows, you can’t necessarily tell the customer about every business decision being made off the back of their feedback, a consumer doesn’t have this level of foresight. Share something with them and complete the feedback loop. Even if you can’t tell them everything, acknowledge their views, thank them and if possible, tell them what the business will do with the additional knowledge. If it doesn’t necessarily feel like a big announcement for you, it all adds up for them and demonstrates that you are listening to their views.

Reason 3: Lack of Engaging Research Content

As I’ve already touched on, different things appeal to different people, and content topics are very much an example of this. Restricting members to only talking about set topics, and closing off any discussions that are outside of this are a likely way to put people off from taking part in your community, it makes them feel that you are only interested in hearing what you want to hear, and not the genuine opinion of the consumer.

There are three key reasons why insight experts might experience low community engagement, and there are ways to fix them.

Staying on the content vein, too much content can be as bad for engagement levels as too little content. Overwhelming community members with too much content, or too many emails can have a dramatic impact on your engagement levels, and even worse, can push your churn level up. Too little content means that the members don’t know when the next research opportunity will happen, and too infrequent communications means that the community doesn’t stay at a forefront of minds.

Issues relating to content and communications are a relatively easy thing to fix. Create a content calendar, schedule what dates you have activities to go out. Fill the gaps when you don’t necessarily have pressing research content with more engagement-based content across a range of topics, list when you are sending communications and then you’ll get an overview of what’s happening and when on your community, and you’ll see whether it feels like too much, or too little. We find that posting engagement type content on a set day, and a set time, over time members start to know when new activities will be available, and start to log in expecting them. This isn’t something that will happen overnight, but more gradually over time, as long as you are consistent in your postings.

On top of that, allow your members to start their own discussions, even if they do feel a little abstract from your ultimate aims for the community. Not only can it help engagement levels, you can start to discover more about what makes your members tick and you could even find out something you never expected to learn.

This blog was originally published on the FlexMR Insights Blog and can be accessed here.




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