The Quick Guide to Launch and Grow Your Community
by Jase August 02, 2018
The Quick Guide to Launch and Grow Your Community

You’ve set up a community, seeded it with initial content, and everything is ready to go. But how do you create and grow an audience for your community?

Let’s discuss some tactics and strategies to drive growth and traffic in your community. Depending on the type of community you’re building, not all of this advice will apply.

The launch

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After you’ve seeded your community with content, and invited beta users and employees to join, you’re ready for the launch. As with any new product launch, it’s great to make some noise to get initial users excited about joining the community.

Email

Email is a great way to get the word out about your community. If you’re launching a community based on an existing client base or to support a product an email campaign will be a powerful source of traffic in the beginning.

Sending out a launch email with an invite to join the community, popular discussions, and the type of content your customers can expect will be your best bet for building initial engagement. Make sure your email is about the benefit your users will get when joining this community. Let them know that their existing login credentials can get them access.

Avoid cliches like 'Guess what — We're launching a Community' or permissive statements such as 'Our new community allows you to communicate directly with XYZ.' Be direct with the value and what the community aims to do. 'Connect with design professionals and get support from your peers.' Great launch emails should tease and give high-level benefits.

Create multiple messages over the period of several weeks — People tend to gloss over emails. We’re not advocating spamming your userbase, rather a launch email, a reminder, and here’s what you are missing over 5 weeks can drive much more traffic than just a single email blast.

Offer something exclusive via the email campaign. Whether that’s an early access invite, special badge, or some other token to get existing users excited about joining.

Social media

Along with your email campaign, a timed social media campaign can drive a significant amount of traffic from your social pages to your new community. Again, just like email, you’ll need multiple posts spanning weeks to get the most amount of members to join.

If you’re seeing specific discussions or posts happening on your social pages, let your audience know that they can find similar posts within your community.

Spend some marketing dollars to boost posts on Facebook and Twitter. Typically, you can't count on your posts hitting your audience at the 'perfect' time. You'll need to be persistent, which means ads.

Press

A press release can be an interesting angle to take with your community launch. Often, it’s better to reach out to publications, sites, and blogs which are within the same field as your community. Larger scale press releases will only get major media coverage if large brands back them, and even then it’s hit or miss.

Community Management

A strong community manager can help drive a lot of growth. Hiring someone from the who has contacts within your industry, is well known (and liked) goes a long way to getting initial traction.

A great community manager will be able to keep discussions flowing in the right direction. Not to mention helping with the launch strategy and tactics.

Growing your audience

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User journey

Integrating the community into the customer user journey is a consistent source of growth. Don’t assume customers will find the community, or that if it’s in a welcome email, it will be noticed.

The idea here is to understand when the best time to push your community to new customers. Is it after they’ve reached the ‘Ah Ha’ moment? When they’ve submitted their first support ticket? or a few weeks after they’ve purchased your product? Experiment with community pushes at different intervals in the user journey to see where it works best for adoption. Don't be shy to do multiple pushes throughout the customer's lifecycle. An active forum with norms and practices can create a strong sense of belonging which is invaluable to your brand. Just ask Harley Davidson.

Involve your team

Utilize your support and product team to drive traffic to the community. If your support team notices that an issue is always popping up, empower them to make a sticky with the solution. Have the support team answer users' questions — This lets customers know that they can come to your community for help.

A lot of game companies have their Producers, and Leads go into forums to answer specific questions or address specific points. Why was a certain feature prioritized over another? What were considerations when building multiplayer options? Silence can be deafening, and your community quick to conjure up their reasons for why you did or didn't do something.

Use influencers

Creating an AMA with an insider from your industry is a great way to drive new traffic to your community — You can even use internal resources like marketing managers, product owners or the CEO. If people want to ask questions, they’ll need to register. Of course, you’ll want to keep a regular rotation of guests to keep users interested.

As your community grows, having AMAs and guest posts can be leveraged for webinars, blog content, eBooks and other UGC.

Fast response times

Regardless of the size or scope of a community, we cannot repeat the mantra enough — engage with your community every day. If posts go unanswered, you’ll lose users. Monitor unanswered posts and make sure that someone from your team or community answers them. If you have a mod team, challenge them to keep on top of posts. At the very least, to let users know similar discussions are happening in another thread.

Elevate your community

It’s a simple one — Don’t let your community anguish under the support section or on your sites footer. Try elevating its status to the main menu bar. Track to see if this is making an impact. We understand that a lot of community traffic is driven by search, it’s also important for your customers to be able to find it, easily, on your main site.

Paid Ads

Facebook ads, Google Ad Words, anything programmatic. Here’s a quick way to decide if it makes sense for your community.

Is your community a product (do users pay membership fees). If the answer is yes, then digital ads make sense for your business. On the other hand, if the community is supporting a broader product or brand, then we suggest steering clear of paid digital ads. Run an experiment and see how the results are.

Archive Old Posts

Archiving old information or discussion is often overlooked. Typically done due to technical limitations or to prevent SPAM, archiving or locking older or very long threads can be a great way to keep the conversation fresh. By giving threads an expiring date, you keep the SEO advantages, and newer users can get more up to date information.

A few things to avoid

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Don’t be too self-serving — People don’t like aggressive self-promotion. Remember the adage, ‘everyone likes to buy, no ones like to be sold’. Being pushy on social media, sites like Quora, Medium or Reddit will just alienate your target audience. Going into other forums and promoting your own is also a no-no.

Don’t be heavy-handed — Users should enjoy your community. The content and relationships they build with other users are what keeps them coming back. Avoid forcing people to use your community. This will serve to annoy those who are already there, and won’t help the quality of the content.

Avoid the one-off blast — It’s tempting to send out an email to all users when you’re noticing engagement or monthly active user numbers sliding. Don’t do this. First, most everyone can see through these tactics. Second, they’ll help engagement in the short term, but you’ll quickly see the numbers drop a few days afterward.

Always be growing

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Growing a community takes constant work. It's more than just a one time blast, or a specific marketing effort. You need to keep out bad actors, add new features as the community grows, encourage positive discussions, create norms and practices which community members can be a part of.

You can, however, help the process along by integrating the community into your platform. Sustaining growth in your community means exposing customers at the right time, and making sure their initial experience is amazing.

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