Starting an online community is a daunting task. There’s a lot of help on how to set-up your community, deal with problems, and manage it. But not enough attention is paid to how to seed your community with initial content. And as a user nothing is worse than joining a community, just to find out that it’s empty. Let’s shine some light on this often overlooked step of how to seed your community for success.
Seeding your community with initial content isn’t just creating categories, and sticky posts, in the hopes that your new members start discussions. Seeding a community is an art that can make or break early community experiences for new members. The initial content sets the tone for the entire community.
Here are 5 tactics to get up and running with content so that users feel at home on day one:
Categories that make sense for your community
The structure of your content is crucial. You’ll want structures and hierarchies that reflect how users will use your community. If a user has to stop and think about what section their post belongs, you've lost them. The best way to make this happen is to create your categories around the key discussion themes you believe users will want to have.
Let’s say you’re creating a community for support and learning. Create a section for support by product, and then a section for learning grouped by product. This will let people navigate to the part of the community that makes sense for their particular need. If your community is one for gaming, you’ll want to create individual communities per game, then discussions around single-player mode, mods, online play, expansions, etc...
The tendency is to create too many categories. But less is more when you’re starting out. It’s easier to move discussion and topics over to a new section down the road than it is to start removing them if they’re not getting the expected traction.
Give your power users early access
The best advice to seed your community before launching it is to set-up a longer beta or private invite-only period. This will help you in a couple of ways: First, you’ll be getting your best users and customer on board in the beginning — They’ll also be able to give you feedback on your community so you can tweak it before launching.
Second, they'll be the ones to seed your community with high-value content — These discussions will be a good starting point for new members.
Remember the 90:9:1 rule which states that 90% of people will only view, 9% participate, and 1% create the discussions. For your community, you want to the 1% and 9% already participating and creating content before you open it up to everyone else. If you don’t have any users, and your community is your end product, consider privately reaching out to influencers, notable users in other communities, or using social media to gain a little traction before launching. Most people are willing to help out, especially if you make an appeal to their ego.
Use your knowledge base & support team
If you’re using your community for support, you can get started by creating posts based on the articles in your knowledge base. It’s not a copy/paste ordeal — Make it look like a conversation, usernames and all. Unlike your support docs, these questions should be more specific, so add context.
The data you have from support tickets should be another place to mine for content. Same as the above, take the most commonly raised topics, and use them as seed the community.
Have your support team send clients to the community as well so that you can build those positive behaviors within your customer base. Support communities can help reduce the number of tickets you have, only if your customers see that their questions are being answered, and feel like they can get a response to solve their issue.
Use blogs for inspiration
Odds are that you have a blog already. If not, what are you waiting for! Popular blog content is a great starting point to great discussions around.
Pull in the most popular blog post topics, and use them as a starting point for discussions. Your customers are already telling you what topics they find the most important via your blog analytics. You can even use the posts in question to continue to debate. Many blogging sites successfully launch their communities by pushing the comment and discussions to their forums.
Quick response times
This last piece of advice comes after the community is launched, but it’s still important. When you’re community has just launched, it’s critical that you get your internal team to answer and respond to posts quickly.
You want to show new members (and future ones) that the community is active. The best way to do is to respond to topics and discussions posted by new members. Get employees from the product team, engineering team, marketing team and of course, support team to lend a hand. New members will see that their posts are being read, and they’ll be encouraged to come and post more.
Thoughts on starting up a community
Starting a new community is hard. Driving traffic is the biggest challenge you’ll face. But, if new users get to your community and it’s empty, then you’ll never have success, regardless of how strong your acquisition model is.
Think of your new community as a new home. If you’ve ever been into an empty house, it’s cold, uninviting, and looks much smaller than it is. People often lack imagination and vision. So it’s your job to provide them with the right nudge to get started.
Get ahead of an empty community by seeding it with its initial content, and you'll be one step closer to success. Plus, your members will notice and appreciate the efforts.
Considering building a community for your product? Get in touch with us today to learn how we've helped other build and successfully launch their communities.
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