Strategies for getting started

(JoeBuhlig) #1

I’m really new to community leadership and seeking some advice for acquiring some early adopters in a forum I recently launched. I have two but one of those is geared towards an audience I already had and it took off immediately. The other is a different story.

My initial strategy has been to create new topics that expound on an article I’ve found in the industry (agriculture in the US) and then share it via social. I’m always sure to tag the original author in the posts to let them know about the free publicity. But this hasn’t had much success.

What other strategies have you used to find those first users and get going?

Founding members and getting the word out
Starting a brand new community? This topic is for you
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Great topic.

You’ll find some good resources here – most specifically the article about finding your founding members.

Essentially you need to build a list of 50-150 relevant people, and start working hard to create relationships with them. Once they trust you, invite them to the community as a founding member.

I launched the UX Mastery community from scratch a couple of years ago. We already had a solid social media following and a mailing list. I reached out to ~50 of those people personally (ones that had crossed my path enough that I felt I had a relationship with them) and invited them to join. I then sent out ~5k emails to our list, and pushed via social media. That worked well, and the community continues to grow. The trick was engaging and retaining those initial people with whom I had the relationship in the first place. Once we had our first 50 engaged users, I created a group called Founding Members, which created a strong sense of pride and they worked really hard towards the survival of the community.

Late last year you were at a similar stage to this @CarlyHulls. I think you also launched from scratch last year @lizcrampton. How are things going now and do you have any advice for Joe?

Further reading:
Finding and working with early adopters
First connections with potential community founders

(JoeBuhlig) #3

Thanks for the resources!

(Alessio Fattorini) #4

I did the same last year starting from scratch. My advice is “reaching out people personally is the key”. Very time-consuming but generic calls aren’t so effective, however during a one-to-one hangout people usually can’t say no :slight_smile:

(Anton) #5

When we started with our Ukrainian goat farmers community, there were just 3 of us:

  • one goat farmer, who’s also my family’s member, so we had established relationships already
  • another goat farmer, who’s her friend
  • and me, a programmer with zero knowledge about how to build communities, but with great eager to learn

In 1.5 years we’re just 125k views and 12k unique visitors a month with 580 registered users, but for Ukraine and for such a small niche it sounds not so bad. How did we make it happen?

We applied every thing we could come up with.

  • Uniqueness that everyone wants to try. We used Discourse as our platform to be unique. Not everyone likes the platform, but no one in Ukraine used it either at the moment of launch. We told people that we’re using a super new software with tons of new features, and that attracted them to at least give it a try.

  • Let them stay tuned. Lots of quality materials from our own knowledge. We never copied from other websites. We then asked people to join to receive weekly newsletter just to stay tuned. People don’t like miss things. They want to be stay tuned. So we told them if they apply, they’ll get a weekly update with unique materials.

  • Marketplace. We created a marketplace for goats and products made of milk. We then contacted people by their ads in other websites and asked them to also publish the same ads in our marketplace for free. Who rejects to publish their ads for free?

  • Clients of goat farmers. We invited every single client who bought something from us, e.g. milk or cheese. With the same arguments listed above.

  • Give people moderator role. We soon invited 3 goat farmers that we knew and we proposed them to be moderators. People like this feeling of being a moderator. So they accepted. Not that they’re all still moderators now, they didn’t fit, but they stayed for a while in the role and brought their friends to the forum.

  • Personal pages. This is something that retains people. Once one creates a personal page about their farm, they can’t stop adding news and updates and photos there. It’s like their diary. Of course, creating pages was and is still free, and with no or few limitations (as many text and as many photos and as many messages as you want, and as often as you want). Eventually, others started to head in to read news about the farms, ask questions etc.

  • Contents. We are running 3 contests right now, and we used at least one contest in any moment. They were all dead simple.

  • Translations. We translate some unique English materials that are not available anywhere else in Ukrainian / Russian language. We did it from the very start.

All this helped to grow slowly but steadily. We now experience more than half visits coming from organic search. Hope it helps to come up with some ideas!

(JoeBuhlig) #6

After reading through your feedback and the resources linked, I have good path forward from here. I was on the edge of some of these ideas but unsure of value they could have. Huge thanks! :+1:

(Nick Emmett) #7

Plenty of great ideas suggested already here, especially around being able to recognise who your founding members could be, reaching out and building those relationships.

In your original post @JoeBuhlig you talk about how you’ve initially been creating posts based on industry articles that you’ve come across, but to no real success. Why do you think these haven’t been successful in engaging people? Wrong content? or wrong discussions around them?

I’d be interested to hear about your WHY. What’s the deal with this community, why would people come? What do you hope to achieve with it? For me these are really important questions, that need asking right at the same time, in fact before you even consider inviting people to be a part of your community and to engage there. When I took over as Community manager where I work now, this was literally my first question to the guy who had been leading the project and was looking to hire me. What do we want to achieve with this Community?

(JoeBuhlig) #8

These are excellent (and challenging) questions. I have to admit that I’m unsure of the answers right now. The community is geared towards US farmers and I started it because there’s only one community that exists with any success for that demographic. Inside that community there’s a lot of negativity in responses as well as a desire to move to a modern forum. Those two were my main motivators in getting started. I may have jumped the gun but I figured it was better to get started than sit around thinking about it.

(Nick Emmett) #9

Hi @JoeBuhlig, it can definitely be a tricky thing to work out the answers, but I believe in finding the answers, you’ll put yourself in a better position to be able to start giving your members what they’re looking for. Definitely worth spending some time establishing, and definitely feel free to use us here in helping to work it out with you. Have you asked any of the existing members what they come for, or what they would want to engage about?
Keep coming back and keeping us in the loop!

(JoeBuhlig) #10

I haven’t. But I will now. :wink: I’ll do my best to keep you posted.

(Liz Crampton) #11

Sorry for slow response here. Totally agree with @ale_fattorini on the above - I had in-person meetings with all of my founding members, which made a massive difference. If you can meet in person, definitely do that and get to know them.

I found sharing info about how much we were growing as well, gave them a feeling of momentum and a sense of responsibility in a way, around growing the community too. Once members started seeing the benefits of communities, they started inviting their friends to join, which was a good way to expand.

Sounds like you’ve got lots of great ideas though- good luck!