How To Get More People To Join Your Online Community

August 31, 2009Comments Off

The biggest challenge for most people is getting more members to join your community. Sometimes the problem is a lack of time, sometimes a lack of knowledge.

With this in mind I’ve put together the best ideas for growing your membership. I hope this helps:

  • Utilize basic tactics to grow your community. There is really basic stuff you should be using to grow your community. Make sure you’re doing this.
  • Work on your invites. There are simple do’s and don’ts to inviting people to join your community. Make sure you know what these are. There are some effective ways to invite people and increase your invite success rate.
  • Encourage members to grow their own following. Every member is a gateway to dozens of new members. Ask members to invite their friends. Develop ego-centric tasks (e.g. vote for my idea in the community) which encourage every member to spread the word.
  • Create unique areas within your community for the people you want to join. If you want someone to join your community, or a group of people, create a place just for them within the community. You can even put them in charge. They’ll find it hard to resist.
  • Plan activities which stimulate referrals. Seth did this when he gave buyers of Tribes 2 copies, one for them, one for a friend. Why not create an ebook, which collects the best expertise of members. Give members a code which will let their friends download it for free. This is known as the school play tactic and there are some good examples.
  • Talk about people you want to join. Nobody can resist being talked about. You create conversations about a single person or a group of people, then drop them an e-mail and let them know where they’re being discussed.
  • Encourage people to talk about jobs within the topic. Everyone wants job advice right now. Create a list or 'rumour mill’ of available or prospective jobs in the industry (as well as best places to work) and you’ll soon find floods of new visitors.
  • Create a place for newcomers. Your community doesn’t need to be just for diehards. You probably have as many nervous newcomers. Create a place for them, be welcoming, try some simple guides and advice from the pros.
  • Give members 1 invite per month to use. Close your community and only let members invite 1 person a month. That’s scarcity. If they don’t use it they lose it for next month (and if they cheat, all the better). If this works it’s 100% growth per month.
  • Preview and Review events. Make sure you write about relevant events. Take a sports approach to it. Interview relevant people about what they expect, get people to make predictions, (both fun and serious), encourage meets and award an official ‘top member of the event’ award.
  • Target the media. The media need well written news report. Pitch stories to them. Write about case studies in the industry. Get to know the journalists in your field. Offer guest columns by members.
  • Know where to find potential members. Know where to find relevant members. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, comments, your customer service team, book reviews, conference lists etc.
  • Seize a big issue. When something big arises in your community’s topic, jump all over it. Start a petition. Advocate for/against the cause. Become the hub of latest information and analysis – event speculation.
  • Customer Service Apologies. Everyone that complains about your product receives a free invite to the community. We’re sorry, have this for free.
  • Borrow from related communities. Communities aren’t a zero sum game. You can be a member of several at once. Borrow members from communities related to yours, but be nice about it.
  • Headhunt members. Stop waiting for members to join and proactively headhunt them. Go for people you think might specifically add value to your community. Send 5 invites a day.
  • Tell your employees to join. Why would your employees not want to talk to their fans? Be sure that they do, there are some great ways to get employees engaged in your community.
  • Cater to your competitors. If your competitor doesn’t have an online community, create a place for their users to talk to each other.
  • Free invite with every purchase. Include a free invite to your community with every purchase. Simple stuff.
  • Don’t limit membership to the website. Go beyond the website and target people to be part of your broader community through Facebook, LinkedIn, or simply by using a Twitter hashtag every now and then.
  • Write a free report. Use the best advice from your community to create a free report. Don’t force people to join to receive it, but use it as a promotional tool to spread like wildfire and stimulate thousands of discussions.
  • Target questions. People are probably asking questions about your topic somewhere on the web. Find where those questions are, answer them and include an invite for more info.
  • Introduce a community hashtag. Hashtags are great promotional tools. Be sure your community has one. Every time it’s used, your community is being promoted to hundreds of people.
  • Partner with a huge organization. Which association, business or media outlet in your topic doesn’t have it’s own online community. Offer them a partnership, they get to give their members a community at no effort to them (unless you want to charge) and you thousands of new members.
  • Hold a competition. Don’t host a competition between existing members, but against other communities or other groups. It garners much more attention.
  • Give every member a badge. Ad-age does this brilliantly. Ning makes it simple too. Give every member a badge to display on their profiles elsewhere (t-shirts work even better).

I hope this helps. Be sure to add any of your own ideas to the list.

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