2014-13-August-Welcome.jpgIt’s the first day of your new job. You’re so excited that you barely slept the night before.

And then you arrive at the front desk.

The office manager doesn’t recognize your face or name, so phone calls are made to determine where you should go. Your new boss is travelling this week and the rest of your team has yet to arrive. You're sent to the waiting area, and sit reading outdated issues of magazines.

Does this look like the start of a healthy, long-term relationship?

Consider an alternate reality:

  1. A large banner in the lobby welcomes you on your first day
  2. The HR director greets you at the door with oatmeal and fresh fruit (you mentioned your regular breakfast during the interview process)
  3. You watch a one minute video on how to complete your HR forms
  4. The HR manager walks you around the office and introduces you to everyone
  5. Over lunch, colleagues host a roundtable discussion about the different groups in the company, along with “who does what”
  6. After lunch, the HR manager provides you with intranet training, showing you how to make requests to different departments of the company

Sound better?

A healthy and long-term employer/employee relationship begins in the onboarding process. The same holds true for member engagement in online communities. When a new member joins your online community, the first hour, the first day and the first week are critical. Let’s consider tips for community managers to engage members during the onboarding process.

1. Publish a Welcome Message

Provide a “what you ought to know” article to help new members get the lay of the land. Use your online community platform’s publishing system to post it, then feature it prominently on new members’ initial logins.

Make it easy for new members to understand how they can make their first contribution. Whether it’s posting an update to the activity stream or submitting a new discussion topic, give them the ideas, then watch them perform.

Enable commenting on the welcome message, so that veteran members can chime in. Perhaps you forgot to mention a key element of the community. Commenters can fill in the gaps. When that happens, update the original post with the new information, giving credit to the person who provided it.

As with new employee orientation packets, you need to strike the right balance between providing useful information and providing too much information. You want to avoid the tl;dr (“too long; didn’t read”) phenomenon on your welcome message.

2. Facilitate Connections with Other Members

I once started a new job in which I’d be working closely with Dottie. During my first week, Dottie walked me around the office and introduced me to other people with whom I’d be interacting. She then sent out an email to these same people, to provide my contact number and the location of my desk. Finally, she scheduled one-on-one meetings for me to get acquainted with all of them. I hit the ground running and never looked back.