School plays work because they include every child. They include every child so every parent buys a ticket. These parents convince friends and relatives to come. Like any social event, once everyone seems to be going, everyone else goes.
That’s thinking 3 moves ahead, you can really ramp this up on the internet.
Create an eBook project, 100 community members each get a page to share their best advice. Everyone featured will be eager to promote the eBook, you can advise them how. Encourage them to post it on their Facebook profile to their 150 friends.
That’s over 15,000 people. Now be sure to add a line in the eBook such as “tell us and fellow readers over Twitter which chapter you liked best. #ebooktitle”. That’s 15,000 people who are now promoting your eBook to their 70 followers on Twitter.
You’ve just reached over 100,000 people.
Jon organised a community event in Cheltenham last month. The event was to decide how to improve the lower end of the high-street. No-one showed up. It didn’t sound fun. It didn’t kick start the community.
It’s nearly impossible to build a community if your members aren’t having fun. If you make your community fun people will participate more. They invite others. They work hard to make it better.
So encourage the fun, silly, things in your community. Have awards for craziest avatars. Build forums for the off-topic stuff. Let the casual chatter thrive, it’s mostly what friends discuss anyhow. Focusing on the fun, is a good way to bring people together.
If you run an agency, building a community around your business is a
brilliant idea. It adds value, develops a lock-in and you can invite prospective
clients. It might become a new sales funnel in itself.
But it requires you taking some steps. Here are 10 steps that might help.
- Begin By Building An Online Hub of Quick Tips. Tips that
you usually wouldn't charge for. Highlight things that have worked well in other
industries. Suggest ideas that would work well in the near future. Pitch a few
- Create A Tip Sheet Invite. Compile a short-tip sheet for
your clients. Put in 5 practical tips they can use immediately, and invite them
to register for the community to see the rest.
- Ask Clients To Post Their Top 5 Problems This Month. You
and your community's other members can solve them. Make a culture of helping
each other solve your top 5 problems each month. It's worth the time investment.
- Introduce Clients To Each Other. Be clever. Don't say
"Bob, I'd like you to meet Joe". Say "Bob, I think Joe might be
able to answer your tax questions".
- Highlight The Work You're Doing For Other Campaigns. Post
about the work you're doing for each client. If a client likes what they see,
they can ask for it too.
- Welcome Newcomers. Invite any perspective clients, or
perhaps a few business friends, to join the community. Perspective clients get a
taste of what you can offer, and your business friends increase the value of
- Develop Fun Events, Like Client Of The Month. Don't base
this on your favourite clients, but rather the client that has had the most
successful month. Why not given them a small trophy for it too?
- Start Debates About Your Services. "What more would you
like us to do for you?". That's a good way to start. Let them tailor-make
an agency that suits them.
- Let Clients Invite Friends. Keep the invitations scarce,
but once the community starts going – encourage clients to invite their friends.
It might be a great source of new business.
- Commit. A slapdash effort will do far more harm than good.
Make a real commitment to this for 3 – 4 months. Either find a staff member who
can spend at least 50% of their time on it, or hire a specialist.
If this sounds like an expensive or time-intensive process, imagine having
clients that can't be swayed by competitors and find news business for you. It's wort it.
Don't build a big online community if 5 smaller ones are better.
If you sell a diverse range of products, your customers are going to be very
different. You shouldn't try to unite them all under one big community umbrella.
It'll be harder work and they will have less common interests.
Instead, build communities around each product group. Keep them very tight,
very focused and offer as much value as you can.
At Team AMD Gamer, we created a 15-minute movie featuring highlights of the
most popular gamers. We hosted the movie exclusively on our site. The most
popular players all linked to the movie. 17,000 people joined our online
community in 72 hours.
The next week we asked members for ideas about the next movie. Who should be
in it? What should it feature? We called upon amateur editors to submit clips. We developed monthly
awards for the top players (and the worst).
We asked popular community members to form a committee to decide who was good enough to be
accepted into the next film. Members returned often to see who might be in the
next movie. Clips that didn't make the cut became promotional material, we
released them as teasers (members only).
Nearly the entire second movie was open-sourced. It was much less work. The
second movie gained just under 41,000 downloads, and included two ads.
You can use a big tactic to get registrations. The real magic is to keep
these newcomers coming back without betraying them. Develop the tactic into it's
own community, it should bolt on to what you already have.
Invite your members to submit questions for a quiz about your online
Have half the questions about the topic matter of your community, and half
about the people in your community. Members can answer individually or in teams. Teams split the prizes.
It's a good way to tighten the group, and gives newcomers a decent insight into your community.
Because stealing isn't very nice.
Competitors have done the hard work for you. They've educated members about
the tools and benefits of joining online communities. Targeting competitors is a
speedy way to grow your community.
Here's a few tips and tricks:
- Write About Rival Communities. If you talk about a major
event, key members or debates taking place at rival communities – people will
want to know what you're saying. Ask them or their expert opinions.
- Start A Cause/Attack A Common Enemy. Find something you and
your rivals believe in, and lead the charge. A common enemy helps too. Become
the unifying tip of the sword.
- Be A Big Participator. Spend a lot of time participating in
the sites of rival communities. You'll make lots of friends, stay close to the
issue that matter and be the hub of the eco-system.
- Or Send Your Members To Participate, Often. Send your
members to participate in relevant issues. They carry the debates and more
members back with them.
- Interview The Founder. You interview them, they promote it
on their community, it builds a relationship and sends traffic your way.
- Message Conversation Starters. Who starts the most debated
conversations? Why not message them and see if they will start the same on your
community too? Add another perspective.
- Challenge Them To A Competition. Competitions work.
- Headhunt Big Influencers. People love being headhunted.
Make the big influencers as rival communities an offer they can't refuse. Maybe
as head forum moderator? Chief Columnist?
- Focus On One Important Issue. Pick an important topical
issue on one community, and develop content, debates and actions around it.
- Form Alliances. Not quite as successful as enemies, but
having alliances with communities in similar fields can work. It has to be
related but not directly head-to-head. Cover the same issues from time to time.
- Secure Exclusives. Like being in the publishing industry,
secure exclusives that your competition can't match. It helps if your client can
offer something. Maybe a sneak preview of new products or live chats with the CEO?
- Special Offers To Certain Members. Anyone joins this week
from [rival community] will be sent a free, relevant, ebook, or gain special
bonus points. One week only.
- Votes/Polls. Rank the top ten communities for your
- Sub-Groups Of Members. Start a sub-group in your community
for members from your rival community. [Rival community] expats group. Put a big
influencer in charge.
Don't be surprised if your competitors start copying your ideas. You just
have to work harder.
You have at least 10 members who are more popular than everyone else. They
know it's true, even if they're modest.
So shine a spotlight on them. Ask them how they did it.
Each week, ask one of your more popular members how they became so popular.
They'll enjoy sharing their story and it's great advice for other members to follow. They might even participate more.
Take this further, have members write up 101 guides about joining the
community or how to make money from your community. Meta is good.
The First Comment syndrome is a strange phenomena.
A group of your community strive to post the first comment to a blog or news
post. They see a post, write "First comment!"
and post. This is usually followed by two more "First comments!" within
What do you do when a small group of people want to post the first comment,
and the rest find it irritating?
First, take it as a compliment. You're clearly doing a great job if people
are eager to post the first comment.
Second, pick the common offenders and let them lay down some ground rules.
The first comment must appear within 5 minutes or not at all. It must be a
minimum of 3 sentences about the news story, and you get a bonus point if people
reply to your comment…
That's a start.
Google Analytics is good, but it is not superman. It can't measure everything
that matters in your online community.
It can't tell you how many discussions are positive, or how many
super-members you have. It can't tell you how many members are creating content
and how many are merely lurking. It can't tell you which groups are inviting
friends and if those friends are engaging in the community. It can't tell you if
you're fostering relationships that matter.
For some of this stuff, you need to track it yourself. Do you need to track
every member? Of course not. You need to track enough to know what's improving
and what's not. You need a quick poll that reflects the general trends.
I'd pick one new member per day, and see how s/he is doing 1, 2 and 3 months later. Keep it simple and keep it brief.
Make your community valuable and your invites scarce. That's a good way to
Many community members, if offered an invite, still wont use it. They will
get another one next month though right?
What can you do about that?
Tell members to use their invites or lose them. Either they use their invite
this month, or they wont get any next month.If they do bring someone into the
community, they get twice as many next month.
Now your inactive members have a fear or loss to contend with. Your active
members have twice as much to gain (and lose).