By now you should appreciate the importance of onboarding users. But beyond onboarding, you should think of engagement – long-term engagement – as a process.
For example, let’s say you have a user-generated content site that only wins big if you can convince a lot of people to submit a lot of content. It’s a fairly big ask, even for the small percentage of crazy people that are obsessed with the subject matter. You could push users to submit content right away, making the big ask, but you’ll likely confuse or scare them. They’re not ready to commit the first time they come across your site; they need to be wooed first.
Instead, you should engage these users in a lighter way before making the big ask. They need a light touch way of interacting and creating value (for you and themselves) before they decide to invest more time. Maybe you ask them to “like” or vote on some of the content that exists on the site first, before asking them to create content of their own. Clicking a single button is pretty easy for a user, and it’s something they already know how to do (from other sites / apps).
Provide opportunities for early users to engage in common ways, so there’s no learning curve and they get an immediate reward. Look at all the “features” on your site or in your product and figure out how one leads to the next. Each step along the way has to create value for you and for the user.