Young communities that do not have a lot of members or activity need to put a focus on growth. This is often the case for startup communities who need large numbers to get to the point where the community produces an ROI.
What I like to do, and what has shown to be effective, is to tap into already existing fanbases or followings. I do this by working with existing expert influencers and related businesses, who are NOT competitors.
You can use this strategy alone or along with others, I’ve seen a lot of communities work with social media ads or cold emailing. If you’ve got the skills to pull that off, it will only increase your growth.
Here are the tactics that have worked for me and the communities I’ve run.
Invite Experts to Host AMAs
Experts who have their own practices, or clientele, often like to get exposure to even small communities to discuss their expertise and help them get more followers, email subscribers, even sales or consulting clients.
Featuring these experts or influencers on your site for an interview will help you get more activity out of your own members, as well as attract new members to your community.
The trick for making this work is to find an influencer with a similar size following. Email list size is usually a better comparison than social media profiles, but Facebook Groups and Slack work well too.
Approach them asking if they would be interested in doing an AMA in your community. You’ll want to point out your community size, the marketing methods you’ll use to attract people to participate, and the results you’ve gotten with other AMA’s.
Specifically, they may want to know how they can promote their own services/websites/products to your community, and those are terms you’ll have to discuss.
The clincher though is to get them to agree to market the event as well. You’ll want them to either post in their own groups, email their lists, and post on social media. Since you are already marketing them, they should be open to doing this.
The secret to getting people on board is to start with similar size audiences, if you immediately jump in to get the biggest fish in the industry, chances are they won’t participate, but if you work up to it, you’ll have more to offer that big fish later on and they’ll be interested in making the event work for you as well.
Related Businesses Ideas (Events)
As you build up your community by working with influencers, you’ll undoubtedly rack up a list of dream companies to do events with. Then, when you have at least 10,000 members in your community you can start approaching companies to put together online events for your members.
For instance, at Inbound.org we had an SEO Day where search tool companies participated in multiple AMA’s, promotions, demos, and topic threads all about search engine optimization. We also held a similar event with Unbounce for Conversion Day.
In exchange for having access to sharing their products and promotions with our community they participated in answering questions, sharing content articles, and promoting the event on social media and in emails. Both the community and the companies involved benefited.
Here are some ideas for your events:
- AMA’s with experts on various topics the company is related to, for instance the CEO, Founder, VP, etc.
- New demo videos to share, with all questions answered during that day.
- Sign up promotion exclusive to community members.
- Twitter chat with company influencer with predetermined topic questions.
- Facebook Live event with giveaways – free subscriptions, free books, web courses, etc.
- How to tutorials from experts.
- Swag giveaways to members who are present during live drawings.
Don’t Overwhelm Your Community
One thing you want to watch out for here is overwhelming your community with events. Give them time in between the events to build up interest for the next one. It’s a good idea to start with one event a month or even one a week and measure and track attendance and participation.
Which brings me to another point, for these events to work for your community you’ll need a few things:
1) participation from your audience, so make sure you can offer that before you schedule an event with someone
2) a large enough audience
3) an understanding of what is important to your community
Since you are the Community Manager, it’s your job to make sure your community is happy to attend these events and is getting value out of them.
Social Media Presence
A social media presence can be a valuable asset to your community. It helps you meet your community members where they are already active for other reasons.
By building up this asset, you’ll be able to bring members in to participate on demand, and you’ll get exposure to new potential members and partners for your growth goals.
Another asset that will help your growth is your weekly newsletter. While it isn’t likely your members will forward it around, they can mention it to others. However, the biggest benefit here is that it will help you prevent churn and have a baseline for activity in your community.
It’s hard to grow when you are losing members and a weekly newsletter brings people back to your community to catch up on the things they’ve missed. Please do not overlook the importance of creating an engaging newsletter for your members.
Content, Blogging, Articles, Guest Posts
I’m a big fan of content marketing. I have worked with dozens of marketing agencies over the years to help their clients use content marketing in several industries. It can be very successful for attracting people to your community.
I recommend getting active in your industry, turn those relationships into opportunities to share the great content from your community. Put it on blogs, get on webinars and podcasts, and mention your community and company. This will help you build your brand and attract new members over and over.
Last but not least, build an ambassador program for your most active and influential members. They multiple your efforts 10x over because you can build their passion for your community into avenues of growth. They are active in groups, social accounts and blogs where you are not or can not. They understand the value of being in your community and want to help others see it as well.
Some of the ambassadors I’ve worked with before are still great friends who celebrate the work we did together. This is your army, train them, and give them the opportunity to help you grow.
Growth will start out slow, but it can snowball over time if you keep adding to it. Start with just one of these tactics and build it up while you plan for another. Your membership will grow and you’ll see more growth with less effort. It’s a wonderful thing to watch and a lot of fun on the way.