Community is a must if you want to build and grow a startup. If you’re not sure yet, just look around, there are many great examples of communities by tech startups like Hubspot, Atlassian, Salesforce, Airbnb, Asana, and many others. These companies have succeeded because in the early stages of their product they created a truly thriving environment of like-minded people. A community can bring you a core-member group that is highly engaged and advocates for your product.
Community is a way to create value for your audience. This is an opportunity to promote products and serves as a valuable resource when you need to understand which features you should create in the first place, whether the product helps users, what you should change, etc.
It is important to understand the difference between audience and community. When you form an audience, you focus on one person as a representative of the target audience. However, when creating a community, your attention shifts from one person to a group whose members help each other by sharing expertise and personal experiences.
Typically, when a business creates value for its audience within the community, the dynamics of relations change, and the value of the product is soon being created by the users themselves. This is the strength of the community and the main reason for its creation.
People join a community (and stay!) for three key reasons:
People don’t want to feel isolated and that’s why they naturally seek out a community of like-minded people. We want to be a part of a group that shares our interests and gives us a sense of belonging.
If you are struggling with defining your community then imagine that you’re an early adopter of your product and ask yourself these questions:
The user needs to understand how he/she can contribute to the community and what type of participation is welcomed here. Interaction between members is the main driver of the community. First, users consume content, then start commenting on it and, finally, become content creators.
Rewards are what make users stay in the community. It allows people to get their dopamine fix and feel that they didn’t waste their time contributing, sharing, commenting, and creating content in your community.
There are two types of rewards:
It’s important to give users both rewards types. For example, let’s say that someone answers another users’ questions quite often. He’ll want to feel like he earns respect in the community for his expertise. Perhaps he is rewarded for his contributions through gift cards. This ensures he stays a part of the community.
If you are thinking “Why should we create a community in the first place?” you’re on the right path. Before investing your time in the community, it’s important to focus on specific objectives and results that it can bring.
Here are the four key objectives that a community can drive:
|Customer Support||Create a space where power users can help newbies understand your product|
|Collect product feedback from users|
|Acquisition||Attract new users|| |
|Customer Success||Improve customer satisfaction|
You should talk to your potential community members and determine their needs and motivation. Do some user research to understand how your chosen business goals align with those of potential community members. Here’s how you can do that:
1. Contact 10-20 users of your product. Select a group of users that already have some interaction with your product. For example, they reached out to support or left feedback on your product.
2. Schedule multiple short meetings. Make a list of questions that you will ask potential attendees. During interviews with your users, aim to find out: 1) What is their hope for this community? 2) How can you help them solve a problem or achieve their goal?
3. Reach out to them after a call. First of all, you should thank them for their time and meaningful feedback. Second, if possible, give them a bonus (it could be a promo code or a gift card). Third, ask them if they want to be the first community contributor.
4. Determine community values based on your research.
5. As the community grows, regularly interact with both longtime contributors and newcomers to stay on top of user satisfaction.
Example of questions:
There are several platform options where you can create a community for your startup.
Branded communities are managed from the internal administration panel at their own URL. With Tribally and other similar platforms, you can build your own community. Advantages include:
Social Network Community
Facebook, Discord, and Reddit are popular platforms where you can build a community. Benefits: First, they are free; secondly, your community can be found through a search if a user is looking for something similar to your product. But there are disadvantages:
When you launch a community you should know that users won’t start posting, commenting, and sharing right away. Sounds great, but that’s not how things often go.
Your goal on this step is to give people examples of how they can contribute to your community. Don’t worry if they aren’t organic. It’s completely okay to start an activity with fake accounts until real users will be comfortable enough to start interacting. By boosting activity you will slowly drag the interest and create a foundation for future organic activity.
Community Engagement Strategy in 5 Steps
1. Educate About Your Product
First, you should understand your customers’ problems. What is their struggle? How can you make their life better and easier with your product? Head over to your support team and do some research. What problems do users address you? What is it that they don’t understand about your product?
Here are some content ideas for you:
A great example of a Q&A session by the Atlassian Community
2. Offer Something Exclusive
This is a great tactic to give your community a sense of uniqueness. Offer your users some useful content (that you’ve never posted anywhere else) and surprise them with some delightful experiences. You can:
An example by Webflow Community on inviting
a small group of users to beta test their new feature
3. Add Gamification
Gamification is your way to level up the customer experience. It can be points, rewards, achievements, etc. Integrating gaming tactics into your community can be a great way to improve customer success. Here are a few tips to achieve that:
Giveaway by Webex Community
4. Collect Customer Feedback
The key to this step is to make it as easy as possible for a customer to leave feedback. Users don’t like to write long and detailed stories about your product ( if they are not angry, of course).
Do this by:
An example of collecting feedback by OutSystems Community
5. Connect With Your Community
Strong customer relationships are the foundation of a successful community. Startups fighting for their client’s trust and loyalty. Customers truly believe in a brand if they feel important and visible and that their interests are taken into account. That is why it is important for you to communicate with the audience, be aware of how it is changing, and build trust. Here’s how:
Example of Welcome post by Dynatrace Community
You need to find users who sincerely love your product and actively recommend it to their friends. These are people you trust and know that you can ask them to start activity in your community. It’s an important step at this stage of building a community, as these customers set the standard of quality and tone for all future members.
We explored how startups can build an online community to boost content generation, user engagement, and customer success. Now it’s time for you to put these steps into action. To help you understand where to start, we’ve prepared for you a plan for the next couple of weeks.
If you follow these recommendations your community will eventually become a place of your brand advocates that share the same interests and truly love your product.
Have no doubt and go for it, community builder!
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