Getting Members Is Easy; KEEPING Them Is The Hard Part

Since the very first day that we opened the website for “membership”, getting new members to sign up for free accounts has been easy.  If I recall, the first day we added the log-in/sign up links we had 25 registered members within an hour or two.  This trend has continued and to date we’ve had over 45,000 members join.

Keeping those members, or getting them to come back has been a bit more difficult.  Out of those ~45,000 member signups, only about 15,000 have been active in the last 12 months.  Because this return/retention rate was so low I started look more closely at the habbits of new-siggner-uppers to see if there was anything I could to do to increase the retention rate.

Here is the breakdown of what’s been happening with new member sign-ups:

  • They create an account then vanish (~5%)
  • They create an account, browse a few more pages, then vanish (~85%)
  • They create an account, post a comment, then vanish (>1%)
  • They create an account, validate it, return, and become active members (~10%)
  • They create an account, and purchase a premium membership (~0.1%)

My goal, contrary to what some may think makes more sense, is not to increase premium membership purchases, but is instead to increase return/active members.  I believe that in the long run, an active member making posts and helping other members will help to generate more traffic, word-of-mouth, etc, which translates into higher potential advertising income.  This long-term, content-building is far more valuable to me than a one-time purchase.  Of course if I had my choice I would prefer both – but since that is not realistic I am putting my focus on the long-term growth (active members) instead of a quick buck (paid members).

These are a few things we’ve been doing to encourage returns and member-activity:

  • Remind members how to validate their account:  Using the LoginToboggin module we re-direct all new members to a “how to validate your account” page immedialty after sign-up.  This pages explains that they can’t really do much at the site if they dont validate their account via the email message we send, what to do if they ‘accidentally’ provided a fake email address, how to check their junk-mail folder if they do not receive their validation email message, and lastly how they can manually validate their account if all else fails.
  • Follow-ups/reminders for those that never return after signing up:  At the time of signup the new member gets an automatic account-validation message emailed to them.  If they do not return and validate their account, we send several more reminders over the next few days to encourage them to return.  The Drupal Account Reminder module can do this automatically but if you use LoginToboggin to allow immediate logins, you will have to re-send the validation reminders manually.  Seeing what accounts have not yet been validated is simple by viewing the Drupal member-list, and re-sending the validation is easily done from the member’s account page (although a bit time consuming).
  • Encourage introduction posts from new members:  We’re using the LoginToboggin module to re-direct members to our welcome/introductions forum immediatly after they validate their account.  New members that overcome their shyness and post an introduction are always very warmly welcomed by other members and usually become at least semi-active at the site.  Others may take a bit longer.
  • Encourage more posts by ‘giving more’:  We’ve been giving members badges or “bling” based on points for making posts for about two years now, and the members really love it.  We recently increased the amount of “points” that new forum-posts and new blog entries receive and let all members know.  This gets them more badges more sooner.  We use the Drupal User_Badges module for this.

By doing just these few simple things new-user validations (and returns) has increased by nearly 50%, and new-member activity is also noticiably higher.  The big key is just to get them to come back.. Once they come back and validate their account, they are usually here to stay..

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