We often meet with organizations who want to have 1000 active members within 3 months and 10,000 within a year.
Very, very, few communities have 1000+ active members. The majority we’ve studied tend to have a few hundred active members (and this is after several years).
It is possible to grow fast, however, but only if you fall into one of three categories.
- Have a Huge, Existing, Audience. If you have 100m customers, you should be able to get a 100,000 strong community through well-written announcements. Most customer support communities fall into this category. You don’t have to be especially good, just be big and let the law of big numbers do the rest.
- Remarkable, viral, growth. You’re creating a community with such a remarkable, viral, concept that it naturally takes off. People are eager to share it and help it grow. This almost always means developing a customer, bespoke, platform. Figure 1 and ProductHunt are both great, recent, examples.
- Pay for promotion. If you have a big budget, you can buy members with targeted ads, promotions, events, competitions, and more. Engaging them won’t be easy, but assuming you have a strong concept you might be able to hook them into a powerful community.
If you have none of the above, fast growth isn’t going to happen. Instead, you need to focus on making sure the concept is as sticky as possible. The problem with most communities today is churn. 95% of newly registered members won’t be actively participating in three months’ time.
If you can cut churn by just 5%, you will see an exponential impact in the level of activity and value (more people bring in more people over time). This leads to the most common way to grow a community.
- Capture the members who do visit. This means you need to ensure someone coming to resolve a problem is surprised by something that encourages them to participate again. A member getting an answer to their question isn’t enough, you have to find a reason to get them to make a second contribution in another topic.
If you can solve this problem, you will hit steady, reliable, growth.
It won’t be 10,000 members within a year, but it should be enough to keep most executives happy.