Encouraging User Participation - Some Ideas, More welcome


During the past year my user base on my forum has gone from 1,000 to about 4,000 total users. During that same time the average number of messages per day has gone from about 250 to 600 messages per day.

What has been strange and disappointing is that the number of user logins per day has remained basically flat at about 200 people per day. This actually concerns me a lot I’ve heard that the average facebook user returns 1 time a day to the site - so our participation rate is really anemic compared to typical social media it seems, and actually getting worse over time.

Obviously the email reminders are not working too well and I’m posting here to see if we can brainstorm on some other ideas to encourage user engagement.

Some ideas I’m throwing out are the following - comments, and add-on ideas welcome. These ideas are both to increase conversions (from visitors to logged in users), and also increase the revisits and participation / engagement in the forum.

1. Slightly Random (e.g. bounded in time or triggered by usage conditions), pop-up messages/overlays to non-logged in users. Eg. If a new visitor reads more than 5 topics over a 10 or 15 minute time period they get a pop-up invite to join the forum and post their own topic - and briefly summarize the compelling reasons (customized by the admin of the group to make it specific to his / her forum) to get more involved than just reading / lurking.

2. Periodic reminders for people to like or reply to messages - for logged in users, to get them to participate more in the conversations and become more engaged - which I think might be more likely to result in more visits (the more involved users are, the more likely they are to return to the site). This would be targeted at users who have logged in more than X times over a given time period (e.g. 2 times in the past week, and who haven’t replied or liked anything more than 2 times).

3. Automatically Customized “feeds” (e.g. message topics shown to the user) based on what topics they like the most, and obviously temporal (most recent on top). The goal here is to make the message feed more relevant to each user, so they are more likely to be more engaged and to participate.

4. Mobile App Wrapper/webview app for our forums - lots has been discussed on this topic so I’ll leave it at that. I’m working on my own mobile wrapper for my forums, but it would be nice if the web version were somehow optimized to make it easier for these wrappers to do push notifications.

Other ideas - please add. No need to criticise these ideas yet - please just add to them and modify the ideas as fit. The goal here initially is to brainstorm… Thanks for your postings.


How do you envision this being different / more effective than what is already in place?


I love number 3. :slight_smile:

As an aside though – it seems unlikely that members with an account are visiting in a not-logged-in state, so if you’re seeing consistent growth in posts but not active members, don’t you need to focus on acquisition, rather than stimulating engagement amongst existing members?


Ah - having never visited my forums not logged in - I did not know that existed.

The only change I’d make is to make this message customizable (if its not already) so we can customize it for our own forums and how we understand our user base.

Thanks for posting this.

Yes - I sort of mixed two issues in my original post - that of

  1. increasing conversion, and
  2. increasing active participation / returns to the forum

They can really be addressed independently or together. I’m not sure how it might be possible to know if users are coming back and not logging in. I guess the default for the software is to save the username and password so that they don’t log in - so perhaps that is not an issue.

The real question is how do we ramp up engagement , participation and return visits.

Can anyone else share their experience in terms of how daily active users as a percent of total users, has changed over time.

Another issue may be the large number of spam accounts that get registered (at least on my forums). I’m not sure if they count in the registered userbase or now - as if they haven’t read messages or looked at topics or spent much time on the site - I know Discourse treats them differently.

With long term behaviour change. If you focus on shallow engagement you’ll fight this battle forever. You need to establish what it is that currently blocks the behaviour that you want to change, and fix that.

For instance: do people join when they have a problem, and leave when they have a solution, never to return? In that case, you could consider gamification (depending on the nature of your community) to hook them, or find ways to enourage people to build and nurture connections with others.

We actually run training on advanced engagement if you’re interested.


Just to make sure we are talking about the same here, you are talking about the “User Visit” metric in the admin dashboard, right?

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This already is customizable :slight_smile:

Admin -> Customise -> Text content -> Then search for the text you’re wanting to change.


The idea of auto-watching, or suggesting topics to watch (& receive emails) seems a natural here.

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As others have noted #1 already exists.

One thing I do want to get to is automatic system acknowledgment of new users who do well on the site, e.g. post a few things and get a few likes. This is what I call the “rookie of the week” email – it congratulates them, notes that the community is enjoying what they’re posting, and thanks them for joining with a little bit of a flourish.


Right - I’m equating “daily active users” to the “user visits” metric. And the total registered users as the /about metric of “new users” of “All time” as the total users. So basically, for us 5% of our visitors are visiting daily, whereas a year ago it was 200/1000, or 20%. So we’re seeing 75% dropoff in what might be called the user visit rate.

That would be very helpful I think.

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Do you mind if I share some graphs here from your instance for visits etc (totally anon data) ?

No problem - that sounds good.

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Give me a moment, finishing the “graph” component :slight_smile:

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I think personalizing the digest is something I’d like to focus on a bit.

Also, some systems make a thread “watched” for a user once they are mentioned. That might be dangerous for some communities, but I can see it being useful for others (potentially the one I’ve been working on most recently).

That’d allow you to “tag in” a user for an entire conversation until they opt out.


Looking at @BCHK’s site I am definitely seeing a trend of increased user visits:

Stuff moved up from 160 or so last year to around 200 now. It is trending up.

Looking at posting:

We saw a big jump in August sept, but it has been quite flat since.

The graphs seem to indicate that stuff is working well, despite more or less flat level of posting since August, more users are logging in.

###Compare this to the same graphs on meta:

Meta user visits is pretty flat, with big dips on weekends

Posting on meta is also fairly flat, we are doing more or less the same activity as last year.

###Last let’s look at graphs on a site that is gaining lots of traction


These graphs show excellent insights @sam. Are we able self-serve these for our own sites (currently on a trial with you but planning to move to a paid subscription any day now)? I notice we can only do bar charts currently?

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@sam just replaced the bar charts with the graphs. They’ll be available to all our customers within a week :wink:


Look at it from 2013 onward, it was very much up when I did that. (Also it doesn’t seem to work, when I select 2014 or 2013 I keep getting 2015 as the start date?)