You don’t need too many of those VIP seeds to get your community up and running. Twenty can be enough, even a dozen. They just have to be chosen well.

Your First Community Members – Where to find your VIP seeds

You don’t need too many of those VIP seeds to get your community up and running. Twenty can be enough, even a dozen. They just have to be chosen well.

You don’t need too many of those VIP seeds to get your community up and running. Twenty can be enough, even a dozen. They just have to be chosen well.

Communities that thrive over the long term don’t start with a flash. They begin as a small gathering and grow into a fun party. The right way to start isn’t with a mass email and a broad appeal. It’s with exclusive invitations to a select few who you know will talk and communicate—and eventually attract a bunch of friends.

You don’t need too many of those VIP seeds to get your community up and running. Twenty can be enough, even a dozen. They just have to be chosen well.

The first place to look for them is among people you know. It’s likely that you’re already part of a community so tell your friends and the people you’ve met at conferences what you’re doing and invite them to participate.

It’s possible that those contacts alone will be enough to seed your community.

If you need to look further, hit bloggers. Avoid the top bloggers in your field. They already have a community. Try to bring in the mid-rankers, people who have a way to climb and will want to work with you to reach more people.

You can also contact commenters on those blogs. You know they have opinions so invite them to share those opinions in your community where they’ll be seen and discussed instead of hiding them away in a comment section.

Amazon book reviewers can share their knowledge with your members, and if you still need more people, contact the biggest contributors to targeted Facebook pages.

It shouldn’t take you long to sign up your first twenty members and because they’ll be knowledgeable and opinionated, they’ll be real contributors who build conversations and attract more people.

That’s all for now! In the next post, I’ll be talking about a community manager’s first job.


Social Community

Starting your online community

Social CommunityTogether with my team, I see my role as helping to make sure that your community grows and thrives.

In this blog series, I’ll share with you a series of tips that will enable you to get more out of PeepSo and help you to turn your users into a real society.

That’s the goal: not just to build your membership but to build a community in which people participate and to which they return.

Let’s start by talking about your very first members.

Choose them carefully.

It’s tempting when you’re building a new community to try to bring in as many people as possible. That’s the wrong approach.

They’ll arrive, they’ll look around, they’ll see nothing happening… and they’ll leave.

Before you throw open the door to the masses, build a small community that other people will want to join. Invite the movers and shakers of your topic into the community. Ask them to contribute content and get them talking to you and to each other.

When other people can see that a party filled with interesting people has already started, they’ll want to join in. They’ll also see that joining the party means participating, not lurking.

Quora succeeded in a Q&A space that had beaten both Google and Yahoo because its early members were VIPs. Choose your first members with the same degree of selectivity and you should find your membership and your engagement build naturally.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions or comments do feel free to post them on our community page here. In the next post, I’ll be looking at the differences between the various kinds of communities publishers build and what those differences mean for you.

Interview: Samantha van Vleet of Cassava Shop

Samantha van Vleet owns Cassava Shop, an organic non-GMO herbal supplement company based out of the United States. She also owns TTCTwins, a semi-private forum/network for people trying to conceive twins. Her company is a great example of how niche social networks can benefit small business owners, and even create business opportunities; we interviewed her about her experience running a niche network, and how it gave rise to a very successful online business.

samantha van vleet

Tell me a little bit about TTCTwins; why you started it, where it came from.

I have been fascinated with twins from the time I was little. I had a set of Cabbage Patch twin dolls and I always had them. I dragged them everywhere. Once I got older, I still thought the idea of twins was amazing. I looked online for places that discussed it, but there really weren’t many and the places that were available, weren’t so friendly. Women would be attacked and vilified for wanting twins because of the potential health risks involved and “no one should want that for themselves or their babies.” Yes, there are risks involved in having twins, but the decision to try for twins isn’t anyone but the couple who is trying’s. So in 2009 I decided to set up a simple forum and I posted the link two or three places. It grew insanely fast and quickly became the authority on the subject, simply because there was no other site dedicated to the subject. It became a safe haven for these women who wanted twins to find information, support and assistance without being judged for that desire.

Why did you decide to start your own membership site, rather than using existing social networks (eg, Facebook groups)?

For the same reason I was avoiding the other sites; the judgement and condemnation of choosing to try for twins. By creating a membership based site, you give members the ability to protect their privacy and conceal their identity much more so than they would be able to on Facebook. And with such a delicate subject, this is important. I wouldn’t want to post on Facebook under my full name, about my attempts to conceive twins where my family or friends could easily stumble upon it and identify me.

How did TTCTwins become, or give rise to, Cassava Shop?

Many of the women on TTCTwins were talking about yams increasing fertility. This sounded odd to me and a few members and I decided to research more on it. Turns out it was a very specific type of wild yam that had this twinning effect. A village in Africa had a twinning rate of 1 in 11 and it was believed to be due to the estrogen-like substances in the skins and peelings of sweet cassava, consumed daily by members of the tribe. Obviously, we all wanted some, however, at the time there was only one source for it. I had ordered a bottle, but it just seemed fishy to me. I started looking into it more and I just had an off feeling about it. I decided to make my own to see if it was even possible to replicate the powder in the capsules I had bought and still include the skins and peelings as advertised. There wasn’t. I later determined that those capsules were filled with gari, a cereal like product made from cassava that didn’t contain the beneficial skins and peelings. At first, I intended just to make them for myself, but when other members of the site learned about the gari in the other capsules, they were outraged. After all, who wants to take a supplement that doesn’t even contain the stuff it needs to work effectively? Members started asking me if I would make them a bottle as well. I agreed, and next thing I knew, I had emails nearly daily requesting bottles of sweet cassava supplements. My husband looked at me one day and asked “So, when are you turning this into a business?

Do you think niche social networks are better for small business owners, or prospective small business owners, than the larger social networks?

Absolutely. We use coupon codes to track where our sales are coming from (along with other tools) and I would say that 80% of our sales stem from TTCTwins. The reason is simple. We are the trusted authority. We have had competitors pop up since we started Cassava Shop, but they don’t have the advantage we do. We’re trusted. We’re the authority on the subject. We are the place everyone turns to for information on trying to conceive twins and one of the first results on Google.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start up their own niche interest group or private social network online?

Find something that isn’t out there yet and make it work. Focus in on a specific niche. Don’t be afraid of it being taboo or eccentric. Odds are, if you’re interested in it, there are surely other people who are too.

Case Study: Gamurs and Niche Social Networking

Last week, we talked about Christian niche social networking site Facegloria, and how it stands as proof that people are looking for a smaller, more streamlined social networking experience. Gamurs, a social networking site for gamers, is yet another success story; since launching around three weeks ago, they’ve attracted over 6,000 members (by comparison, Facebook gained 150,000 members in its first four months).

Gamurs: another niche social network success story.

Gamurs: another niche social network success story.

It’s intended to be a one-stop-shop for everything gaming; a place where members can find news, share with like-minded people, and talk about different games and platforms all in one place (filling a major market gap; existing offerings tend to focus on one platform or game). Most of their revenue so far has been raised through seed funding, but further down the line they’ll be looking at partnerships with developers and offering premium subscriptions.

Again, this is a great example of why we shouldn’t think of sites like Facebook and Twitter as the be-all and end-all of social networking; there’s a clear demand for a new kind of social networking experience, and sites like Facegloria and Gamurs are capitalising on it.

PeepSo can turn any site into a social network, opening up this experience and opportunity to everyone with a WordPress site; the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.