Building a community around your startup can be one of the cheapest ways to create momentum for your product. A community is much more than a one-time marketing campaign, and can help you throughout your company’s life cycle if you take the time to grow it right.
Here are some tips for getting started.
Look before You Leap
First, take stock of who is already talking about your product or industry and where they’re doing it. At first you need to seek out “pockets of users who are excited about your product or service.” If users are already talking about your product on various social media like facebook, that’s a good place to start building.
Be familiar with Your Users
To get familiar with users, use Face book search to see who is posting about your company, competitor or about a topic that is relevant to your company. You can use that to follow people, start a conversation and engage with them. This way you can start to build a relevant following from the ground up.
Build Social Intro Your Product
If you want people to share, make it really easy on them. When they sign up, give them a checkbox to sign up for your newsletter. Ask them to follow you on Twitter and like you on Face book as part of your on boarding process. Suggest opportunities for them to tweet or share with their friends. You’ll be amazed how many people will take the step to follow or share just because you took the time to ask.
Think in Terms of activists, Not Just Numbers
Getting fifty more followers (or even 5,000) doesn’t mean much in itself. Think about building a quality follower and fan base that is engaging with and sharing your content. Your goal should be to turn your user base into advocates who help spread the word about your startup in a way you could never do on your own.
Expect It to Take Time
Real community doesn’t happen overnight. Every community will go through an ‘awkward phase’ where conversations feel a little forced and people aren’t initiating conversations on their own. It will pass. Keep building your community one person at a time, and it will eventually begin to flow naturally. The returns on your effort increase exponentially as you grow a real community.
Attach and assist Your Community Members
Having Twitter followers or likes doesn’t mean you have a community. it’s good to engage your users personally, but that’s not scalable. That’s why it’s so important to connect them with each other.”
By focusing on building a place where community members talk to each other, not just you, you’re on the way to building a scalable community that can sustain itself. Make sure your community finds value from their involvement — focus on building that value and your community will not only stick around, but become a huge supporter of your company.
Take Chances and Experiment
In some ways, a small community can be a blessing. It gives you the ability to try new things with very little fear of failure or of pissing a lot of people off. You should always be trying new things, but there’s no better time for your off-the-wall ideas than when you don’t have much to lose.
Have a Personality
Think about some of your favorite brands online. Are they boring and dry, or do they have a distinct personality or brand voice?
Now is the time to build your own brand voice and have fun with it. They quickly exceeded the number of signups they were hoping to get because people were excited to share and be a part of what they were building.
Put numbers behind what you’re doing and track them back to your company’s goals. Note which of your efforts get the best response and try to do more like them.
A vibrant community helps you attract new users, keep current users engaged, and provide valuable feedback to help improve your product. At the beginning, getting any share will be a victory. If done right, however, you’ll find yourself quickly and exponentially growing past those initial milestones.