A Process Driven Approach To Keep Your Learning Community Engaged Without Burning Out

I’ve been asked about the “machine” we’ve built at LifterLMS to keep engaged with our current and prospective customers.

You know the great thing about that question?

It’s the word machine.

Personally I prefer the word system over machine. It sounds less mechanical and more human to me.

You’re in luck that this question about the system we use to keep engagement levels high in our business has been asked, because you’re going to get to leverage years decades of experience condensed down into nuggets of wisdom.

You have to to do the work to get going, but I promise you will experience relief in your state of overwhelm or uncertainty about how to engage your learners online or market effectively at scale.

Please don’t just read what I’m about to share. Take notes and take action!

It’s okay to start with one small step. Just keep going.

At the end of this post I’ll give you a specific daily action plan. To get the most out of the action plan, be sure to read the full post.

How to Accelerate Engagement with Your Current Learning Community Members

1) Leverage the Power of One-To-Many – This is a philosophical critical first step. If most of your communications are one-on-one, you will never be able to scale past a certain point. If your communications mostly consist of emails, phone calls, and/or personal meetings, you don’t have communication leverage. You’re just really busy.

You need to be able to communicate one-to-many. This doesn’t mean you have to be on a podium and broadcasting with no feedback allowed. You can absolutely have group discussions.

If you create a situation where you answer one question for one person and someone with the same problem hears that, you are on the road to scale.

Community Building for LifterLMS2) Leverage the Power of Community – You need to get in a position where other people are having conversations about your course without your direct involvement.

There are only so many hours in a day. You can’t scale your own time and voice past a certain point.

The most important thing about creating an active community is to to have a GREAT course.

You can’t force people to talk about your material if your course content, course experience, or value is low or average.

So you have an awesome course … How do you actually build a community around it?

There are so many different ways to build a community. What’s important is that you pick the method that works best for you and your audience.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Regularly scheduled Google Hangouts or Zoom group calls or webinars (We talk about Zoom here)
  • Private Facebook group
  • A live event or regular in person meetup of some kind
  • If you and your audience are more technically savvy, perhaps try an invitation only Slack channel
  • Encourage conversation in your LifterLMS lessons comments

Video Marketing with Chris Badgett and Joshua Millage of LMScast3) Leverage Video Marketing – If you’re not using video in your communications, you might be seriously missing out.

According to a study by Cisco, by 2019, online video will be responsible for four-fifths of global Internet traffic. The statistics for the U.S. are even more impressive, coming in at 85%.

I highly recommend you leverage video in your lessons.

Focus on the content before you get obsessed with the production quality.

As you’ve seen on our podcast for education entrepreneurs, LMScast, sometimes we engage with our customers on video and then share the episode with our community.

The most important reason for doing this is that as education entrepreneurs ourselves, we do not believe that we have all the answers. There are people in our community that have a lot to share and can add value to the conversation. If you have not seen it yet, check out our LMScast interview with LifterLMS community member Sebastian Cazacu about online course project management and product management.

Just keep in mind that online video is extremely scalable.

If you’re looking for ideas about how to add value to your community with online video, do this:

  1. Record 10 videos that answer your community’s most frequently asked questions
  2. Record 10 videos that address 10 questions that your community members should be asking, but aren’t
  3. Publish those videos to your YouTube channel and share them with your community

Just do it.

Don’t focus on the tech or the camera gear. Just open your laptop, use the built-in camera or prepare a few slides, and record your videos.

You can do this easily in one day if you commit.

4) Leverage Social Media – Social media is not a fad. When used properly, you can create the space for your learning community to connect and engage on platforms that they’re already using.

The elephant in the room is Facebook. According to a study by the Pew Research Institute, 71% of all online adults use Facebook. It’s quick and easy to set up a private Facebook group and invite your community, like we’ve done for our customers with the LifterLMS VIPs.

As a pro tip, you could also use your LifterLMS email engagements to send a personal message after someone registers on your learning site inviting them to join the community-only Facebook group.

Twitter is a great tool if your community uses it. It’s more open than a private Facebook group, but sometimes because of the character limit, people are more likely to engage, because there’s less of a commitment to create something large.

There are other social networks out there, but just make sure your community is on it before you invest in building your community there.

So what if you want to create your own Facebook-like social network as part of your LifterLMS platform? You can! It’s called BuddyPress. LifterLMS has an optional integration with BuddyPress that you can turn on. When you integrate LifterLMS with BuddyPress, course registration is handled through BuddyPress, and courses show up as part of the user’s profile. BuddyPress is amazingly powerful, and it’s free. It’s kind of like Facebook-in-a-box as a free WordPress plugin where you can turn features on and off as needed. It’s a modern, robust, and sophisticated social network software.

5) Leverage Email Marketing – It’s no-brainer, but many neglect email as a tool for staying engaged with their learners. There are so many different types of email that you should wrap your head around. We recorded a LMScast podcast about the different types of email. If you haven’t seen the episode yet, go watch or listen now. There are 4 main types of emails you need to focus on to keep engaged with your learners:

  • Marketing
  • Transactional
  • Learning Reinforcement
  • Onboarding

LifterLMS has some powerful email engagement features where you can send out personalized pre set up emails to your learners based on the following trigger points:

  • New registration
  • Lesson completion
  • Section completion
  • Course completion
  • Course track completion
  • Days since last login

Use some of these learning reinforcement emails to stay engaged with your learners as they move through the system.

I also highly recommend the LifterLMS MailChimp Extension to create email lists, or segments within the main list, for each of your courses. You could then broadcast messages, like notifying your learners about a new course coming soon or about a live or online event you’re creating.

Send the occasional broadcast message to your users about something that adds value to your learning community.

People like to know you’re actively working to continually add value to them.

Do things that don't scale with your LifterLMS like call a customer on your smart phone6) Do Things that Don’t Scale – Yes you read that right. To build a highly engaged learning community, it’s important to stop trying to automate and scale everything all the time.

Do things that don’t scale!

Let people know you’re not a machine. Listen to where they’re struggling. The feedback is priceless. Here are some things you could try with your learning community that don’t scale:

  • Call or email a new customer and thank them personally for investing in your program
  • If a learner appears stuck or in danger of abandoning your training, contact them and ask how you can help
  • Send a handwritten letter in the mail to someone in your community
  • Go above and beyond to help someone in your community to achieve the highest possible level of success
  • Make a mutually beneficial introduction between a member in your community and someone in your professional network.

How do you feel when you’re a customer, and someone delivers exceptional customer service, goes out of their way to help you, and shows authentic appreciation for your business?

How to Attract New Prospective Learners through Engagement

The high leverage areas to focus on for engagement with people outside your community are the same as for keeping engaged with your current learners. BUT the strategy and tactics are a little different!

1) Leverage the Power of One-To-Many – When you’re trying to get the word out about your online course, you need to find a megaphone.

It is true that absolutely amazing courses will require very little marketing, because the course will literally sell itself based on fanatical people who have come through your program and achieved extraordinary results.

But even the best courses need help getting initial traction.

Use the leverage areas below to expand your reach. Here are 3 examples of how we at LifterLMS create megaphones for one-to-many communications:

2) Leverage the Power of Community Are there already existing groups of people that you can interact with and float your platform’s vision with?

A great and underused place to do that is forums in your niche. If you do some marketing in someone else’s forum, be sure to help others and not just pitch your ideas and courses. If you want to get started with forums, just google “your niche” forum. Create an account and start engaging. This is a long-term play, so be sure to come back at least once a week if you want to get any value out of it.

I googled “Stay at Home Dad forum” and went to the first result that Google gave me. That forum for Stay at Home Dads had 455 members and over 200,000 posts as you’ll see in the screenshot:

forum marketing

Another community you can engage in and position yourself as an expert by answering questions people have around your topic is Quora.

There’s also nothing wrong with going to a local meetup or event on your topic to network and engage with potential customers and partners in person.

Get involved in existing communities or build your own!

3) Leverage Video Marketing – Video is so powerful for marketing and engaging with potential learners.

Once you get comfortable with the hardware, it’s relatively easy to crank out value adding videos regularly. They keywords in the previous sentence were value adding. Focus on adding value to the conversation inside your prospect’s mind as they explore your niche. People don’t want to be sold to all the time. Be generous with your value and give away some of your best course material for free on video somehow!

Show don’t tell.

If I’m using LifterLMS and open up a lesson as free in the lesson options (no registration required to view), you can be certain that if that lesson contains video, it’s going on YouTube.

THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HAVE A HIGH POWERED PASSIVE MARKETING ASSET THAT NEVER SLEEPS.

Here’s an example from a free lesson video that my wife, Samantha, and I put on YouTube a couple years ago. Look at the view count … Online Course Video Marketing

Video marketing does not have to be difficult.

Just get started!

Another amazing thing about video is that it allows you to start building rapport with your audience. What I mean by that is that video is the closest thing we have to in-person face-to-face interaction besides internet video calls. When people see your face they subconsciously connect with you at a deeper level if there’s resonance with your message. It’s also very important to connect back. Be sure to make the space to engage with any kind of comments on your videos. It’s important that people feel heard.

4) Leverage Social Media – Social media sites are full of people already having active conversations around your niche. You just need to find them and get involved.

They key with social media and building conversation around your online course platform is to make sure your message resonates with who you’re talking to.

The #1 mistake that people make with social media marketing is posting about their material in the wrong places.

An example of this would be posting daily about your online course platform in your personal Facebook feed. That may be good, and you might get a few new learners or referrals, but your personal network is not nearly as targeted as finding a specific Facebook or LinkedIn group to get involved with.

If my LMS platform is all about helping Stay at Home Dads lose weight, reduce stress, and improve health with online yoga courses, I should find a Facebook group full of Stay at Home Dads.

After a 30 second Facebook search, I found this group of 30,753 Stay at Home Dads:

Facebook groups for online course creators

This Facebook group would be a much better place to engage on Facebook about my learning community than my personal friends network.

I’m not saying you should never post to your personal friends network about your learning platform. Just save most of the conversation for the group of people that are actually your target audience.

You can take a similar approach to LinkedIn as well.

For Twitter, just search for your keywords and enter the conversation by replying to threads that you’re platform is relevant to.

You can also reach out to leaders in your niche on Twitter and start building relationships by having a conversation and reposting their best content.

Twitter also has something called hashtags, so you can tag your message with a specific hashtag or keyword that is relevant to your audience.

Here’s an example of a hashtag (#SAHD stands for Stay At Home Dad):

Twitter Marketing for Online Course Entrepreneurs

This may come as a shock to you, but personally I only spend 15-30 minutes on social media per day.

The keys are to:

  • Get in and get out
  • Add value
  • Stay on message
  • Don’t just post; engage in the conversation
  • Be authentic and generous
  • Don’t get addicted to social media!

5) Leverage Email Marketing – Email marketing is a classic way of engaging with your prospective learners.

Email is not going out of style, and it’s one of those tools that almost everyone checks just about daily.

The fundamentals are simple:

  • Offer something of value to build your email list
  • Talk to your people
  • Encourage your people to hit reply and engage with you

To build your email list, the basic thing you need is a reason for people to sign up.

Some people call it a lead magnet.

Don’t just say Join our Newsletter. That’s not very compelling.

Here are a few ideas to get you going on what you could give away to get people to subscribe:

  • An eBook
  • Entry in a giveaway contest
  • A short video course delivered by email
  • A PDF checklist
  • The opportunity to have a quick 15 minute call with you
  • A resource guide

Once your list starts growing, send them messages that add value!

I recommend a ratio of 1:10, which means for every sales “buy my stuff” type of email you send, you should have about 10 communications that are more about adding value and helping your people on their personal journey.

I’m also a big believer in encouraging people to hit reply on emails so they can engage with you directly.

People are smart. They know when they’re getting a mass broadcast. So you can add a personal touch and actually have a conversation with those who are the most engaged and willing to connect with you.

If you’re just getting started, I recommend using MailChimp to build your email list. You’ll love working with it, and then you can tap the power of the LifterLMS MailChimp Extension to keep your marketing and student email broadcasting needs all in one place.

6) Do Things that Don’t Scale – Just like I mentioned to you about encouraging people to reply to your email broadcasts, sometimes a little bit of effort on the personal touch goes a long way in helping your prospective learners build trust with you and decide to join your program.

It’s really important, if you care about engagement, to not get obsessed with some kind of fully autopilot machine that runs without you.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in scaling the human touch through automation, but there is a real place for one-on-one communication with people interested in joining your community.

It’s okay to take a call if someone really wants to talk with you about your program, even if you have other staff who do most of that.

Do things that don’t scale, but don’t do that sort of thing all the time, or you will not have enough time for innovation and working on the business side of your education project!

The Ultimate Productivity Hack …

Create content that serves your active learners AND your prospective learners.

I know the amount of tips, tools, and tactics in this article can be overwhelming depending on your experience level. That’s why it’s important to create content that can serve both sides.

Less is more as long, as it’s versatile.

Here are 2 simple examples of creating multi-use content from our experience at LifterLMS:

  1. The LifterLMS Demo videos serve our existing customers as a setup guide of sorts AND they serve our prospective customers as a way to showcase the features and benefits of purchasing LifterLMS. We also put the demo videos on YouTube to capture leads and engage with conversations over there.
  2. This very blog post you’re reading right now will go out to LifterLMS customers to add value and support them on their personal journey to grow their online course platform and empower their learners. It will also go out to prospective LifterLMS customers to deepen their understanding about how to build and grow a successful learning management system project.

If you make one video that is relevant to your learners and prospective students and upload it to YouTube, you:

  • are sending out a one-to-many broadcast
  • are building community when you engage in comments on your video
  • are leveraging the power of video marketing
  • can post it on social media and engage to leverage that channel
  • can send an email to your email list or even just people in your email contacts about the video that may get value from it
  • can reach out to people directly (which doesn’t scale) who you would like to get feedback from about your video

You can do all those things with one video that could benefit your learners and your prospects.

You could also accomplish all of that in under one hour with a little bit of focus.

Map Out Your Engagement Machine and Start Small

If you’re just getting started on building engagement, the key is to start small and develop a schedule. Don’t make the mistake of not scheduling your engagement plan out. When you step into your work day and wonder what you should do today to increase engagement … you’ve already lost the battle, because you will focus on the fun stuff and get pulled into reactive mode before you execute on the big picture.

Assuming you’re working alone, I recommend a daily one hour habit of engagement with your learners and prospective learners. This is a sample weekly system you could execute by yourself:

Monday

  • 15 minutes of social media engagement in your learning community group and external groups you are associated with
  • 45 minutes of creating a blog post that is relevant to your audience

Tuesday

  • 15 minutes of social media engagement in your learning community group and external groups you are associated with
  • 45 minutes of finishing, proofing, and publishing a blog post that is relevant to your audience

Wednesday

  • 15 minutes of social media engagement in your learning community group and external groups you are associated with
  • 45 minutes of creating a video that goes with your blog post and uploading it to YouTube

Thursday

  • 15 minutes of social media engagement in your learning community group and external groups you are associated with
  • 15 minutes adding your video to your blog post
  • 15 minutes of writing and sending an email to your email lists detailing why your piece of content is important with a link to your blog post
  • 15 minutes of publishing your blog post and the video by itself to your social media channels

Friday

  • 15 minutes of social media engagement in your learning community group and external groups you are associated with
  • 45 minutes of doing things that don’t scale! Send 4 personal emails to influencers, prospective learners, or organizations that share your audience about your blog post and why it’s of value to them to check it out.

If you have a team, like we do at LifterLMS, or more free time on your hands, you can do much more than the above schedule.

But never underestimate the power of what you can do by yourself in just one hour a day to increase student engagement and attract new learners.

Create an engagement system and commit!

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