Getting your online community off the ground and your first members through the door is an enormous milestone. Most communities collapse before this point and, if you’ve made it, you should be extremely pleased. However, the hard work is only just beginning!
The truth is that promoting your community after launch is every bit as important as the groundwork, research, development, and graft that went into building it up. Because an online community is anything but static. It is a shifting, ever-evolving entity which requires constant tinkering and an engaged member base. So where do you start? What are the most important elements to promoting your community after launch?
Focus on experiences, not raw member numbers
The biggest trap for new community managers is focusing on getting as many new members as possible. If you’ve done that pre-launch, we can forgive you. But now that you’re up and running, that kind of short-term thinking is dangerous and can kill your community. So your goal should be to create an incredible experience for your existing members. You can do that through content, relevant features, engaging conversations… All the community pillars you’re probably aware of already. If your community provides significant value, membership will grow. Your members will produce and share content; they’ll tell their friends and colleagues.
Consider interviewing members to find out what they expect to see in, or gain from, the community. Pay attention and react to what’s really happening and you will grow. If you have a robust system for identifying good fit members and bringing them in (such as referrals from longer-term members) that’s a different story. Absolutely put time into this, but not at the cost of neglecting the experience of current members.
Promote the community on all your channels
Your product or support community doesn’t need to run independently of your social media, website, or email presence. This is probably the safest (and cheapest) possible method to attract attention to your community and recruit interested members:
- Use your social media accounts to let prospects or customers know the community exists
- Share links to the community on the “Thank You” page after sign ups or purchases
- Direct users to the community from your customer support page (and explain how it can help them resolve their problem)
- Add links to the community in email signatures or relevant webpages
These are just a few simple, zero-effort ways to promote the community among people who have already shown some degree of interest in the company or product. Never underestimate the power of simply letting people know your community exists!
Identify potential collaborations
There is nothing worse than an ill-fitting, forced-through sponsorship for a product or community you have no interest in. However, sponsorship through an “adjacent” business whose customer base mirrors that of your community, if handled effectively, can be tremendous for growth and publicity. There are obvious pairings for most business communities out there. But while these aren’t always straightforward discussions, well-matched partnerships will work both ways and make life better for everyone involved.
Mine your current members for problems
The most effective way to increase the value of your platform is to get rid of all its problems. If you can speak with members in a candid way—whether that’s interviews, forum posts, polls, or another method—you can uncover myriad minor problems which accumulate for users. Fix those problems, improve the experience, and get less churn. Not only that, but being seen as a receptive and proactive community will impress members, encouraging them to spread the word—or in other words, improving the experience like we said in point one! We know that this isn’t directly “promoting” the company, but addressing issues will lead to increased organic promotion (from your happy members) and keep more users engaged—and there’s no point trying to reach new members with a platform that doesn’t satisfy the existing ones!
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