You’ve spent the better part of a year working on the launch of your new community. You’ve ensured that your theme is where you want it and you’ve had the soft-launch. Heck you’ve even had the big launch of your community! You’re happy and excited, but then you are interrupted by a sinking thought - “Oh geez, how will I keep this going?!” A sense of panic sets in as you wonder how you’ll continue to promote your community.
I won’t tell you it’s easy, but it’s also not a time to panic--we’ve got you covered. The following are 5 key elements involved in promoting your community.
1- Don’t chase the “gain new users” number - focus on WIIFT
A major error is to set a metric about “gaining new members”. Please don’t do that. At first, it seems like an easy metric - especially when you open the doors. The new user number will just grow. However, overtime, you will find it’s harder for that growth to continue.
This is why you want to take a “What’s in it for them” (WIIFT) mentality. The “them” in this case are the people in the community. Think about creating content and making the community such a great space that people are finding the things they need. Why? Because they will tell people. They will share. They will produce content. They will find it helpful. These are things that will help you in your promotion efforts.
You should be focused on creating great experiences and content. The things you want to measure are things like:
Did this content solve a problem?
Are people finding the community helpful?
What are your community members' satisfaction levels?
Are you, as the community builder, seeing more comments per discussion (people engaged in conversation)?
Time on site
Pages per visit
Now, I’m not saying we don’t want to look at the new user number; while it’s definitely “nice to know”, focusing most of your efforts on this metric will take away from what really matters.. And what matters is the value that your community is providing to your audience.
2 - Create a community newsletter - but don’t automate it
How many newsletters do you get? I know I get a lot. You know the ones that go in the garbage? The automated newsletters - where the community platform has generic content from the community with no rhyme or reason. These newsletters never seem to speak to me. The ones I do read tend to be well curated. You have two options with community newsletters and I have seen both work well. It depends on your objectives.
There is the community specific newsletter. I used to create a custom newsletter for one of my communities that saw an open rate of 75%, and I am not alone. In our Success Community, we have numerous customers sharing similar results in curated newsletters targeting their community. You know what else? When newsletter content is great, people will share and forward these newsletters. This serves as a good example of my previous point; focusing on content and providing value is the key to success.
The other option is adding community content to existing company newsletters that go out. This is where you highlight your community content that may be of interest to the wider audience of people getting your company correspondence. A community corner. While this may not result in the highest open rate, the audience will generally be larger, and thus if the content is of value, it will attract more people to join.
There are no hard and fast rules of how often content should be sent. Each community is different…but you know what’s nice about having a community? You can ask! They can certainly give you feedback. Use that poll feature, ask them what they want to see and how often. If you’re trying to attract more like-minded community people, why not ask the people already consuming the content!?
3- Leverage other channels
If you’re a company of most sizes, your marketing team has many channels. Can you use Social Media to promote deeper content? Is it even clear on your website that there’s a community to join? Can you work with marketing to add banners to tell your customers? What about email signatures? What other touch points can you leverage? Here are some others ways to let your customers know about your community:
After someone makes a purchase, send them a message to join the community to share their excitement with others or learn how others are using that product
Be sure to let your customers know that there is a community they can check out when they call your 1-800 number
Have your support team remind customers that there’s a community that can provide support and inspiration.
Have your customer success team remind your customers about this space when they speak with them
4- Advertising & Co-Marketing
Before you get scared - let me be clear, I am not suggesting annoying popups. I am suggesting you look at placing your community and it’s content in places that resonate. The world of advertising is complex, and I am sure someone on your team can help, but there are so many ways you can target people who will have an interest in your community.
Are you a community for product managers? Maybe buy ads in a product marketing newsletter or a product focused website.
I’ve had great success in the past from working on sponsorships with adjacent businesses, promoting each other through banners. There is something called co-marketing where you and another brand come together to market your brands. This could be anything from a virtual event to co-branded content, such as an ebook.
Think of a graphic software for designers and a trackpad company working together. Or a recipe site and a BBQ site. There are lots of ways to further get your community in the face of like audiences.
5- Create a Great Experience
I am a big fan of software like Hotjar and others where you can see how people experience your community. Take a look at how people engage with your signup process. Is your form complex and long? Does it confuse potential members where they hesitate on a question? Do you have sign up options such as social logins? Do you have SSO (single sign on) to existing company credentials to reduce friction? Nothing is worse than finally getting people to your site just to see them bounce away because it’s not easy to sign up or they find little value.
Another aspect of this is considering whether everything needs to be private. If you can create areas that are open and people can see the kinds of things going on inside the community, you can likely attract people who are interested.
Maybe you are like me, but I always pause when I can’t see into the community. It’s so much nicer to see what the community vibe is and if this is the kind of space I want to spend my time. You don’t need to give away everything, but let them know this is the space for them.
Hopefully these ideas can help you, but keep in mind that this is in no way an exhaustive list. In the end, promoting a community is not complicated if you build it with the right intentions. Focus on the people; listen to them and deliver them the value that they’re looking for, and you’ll be just fine.