Building a Community: Start-up 101
How do I build a Community from scratch?
The biggest problem out there is, that people don’t listen. Startups focus on getting bigger and bigger most of the time and when they are established they feel like they can just go and throw some money to the Social Media Department.
BÄÄM! OUT OF NOWHERE! COMMUNITY!
Nope, doesn’t work like that, sorry. Instead they should focus on having strong relationships with their customers and getting them to engage in discussions. I had the honour to experience a practice like this for myself with a great example called “Meshfire”.
Meshfire’s CMO is Amber Osborne (Twitter @MissDestructo), one of the Forbes Top 50 Social CMO’s. When I first encountered Meshfire it was a pretty young start-up in Seattle with a great tool and a vision. And as a Social Media Manager myself, I – of course – tried it out as new tools and techniques are interesting and always welcome.
So I joined Meshfire’s customer base and the first impression was amazing. I was welcomed by an introduction video and a tutorial done by the CMO herself. That kind of hooked me up and got me to engage with the company where Amber took the customer relationship to the next level through friending me on Facebook. She invited me to the Meshfire group where the so called “Firestarters” are being invited to, to engage with the company and help making a better product and generate a great experience for the customer base.
Why is this a “good practice”?
Easy question. Cause you’re making it interesting for the customer! Generating a great customer experience helps you with building a strong customer relationship and not only rewards you with happy customers as it also provides you valuable feedback from a selected base of engaged customers. Let me split this into 3 easy steps:
- Contact the customer via phone, twitter, mail or whatever seems suitable for your brand. Ask them about themselves and what they think about your product. Furthermore you should ask them about the experience they’ve had with your company and what they’d suggest you to do better. Build up a relationship.
- Invite them to a private Facebook group only for your customers / VIP customers.
- Introduce them to the group and help them to get involved in the discussions around the product.
- Do this over and over again.
Of course you can’t call or contact them all. But that’s not my point. You can pick a few people from your community who are already engaging with your company and the product. Twitter for example is a great place to find people for that purpose. I for myself became a Firestarter through Twitter as I was mentioning the company, asking questions, providing feedback and being interested about the product.
As I mentioned before one of the biggest start-up problems is, that they want to go too big, too fast. You can’t build bridges over night or throw some nice rewards, badges and exclusive yolo shit at them to get them engaged. If you want true engagement you shouldn’t rely on tempting them with nice rewards as they also stretch your budget more than you might be able to give. Following those steps above won’t guarantee you a growth over night but it’ll definitely help you to improve your product what – in the end – will help you grow your customer base.
I still have a shitload of money I want to spend!
Okay, you’re a start-up and you feel like you’re established so you want to do something with your money. I can totally understand that.
But instead of going out there with a big marketing campaign and TV and poster commercials and god knows what, keep it simple. You’re a start-up which is trying to build up a community on scratch. Why don’t you try to invite your local customers / potential customers for meetups and some drinks? Or invest it into a good community manager and a social media manager to work together closely?
The point I’m trying to pitch you guys here is, that building communities from scratch isn’t a miracle but isn’t working as a magic overnight procedure either. It’s time consuming and needs constant care and engagement with passion.
But when you’ve done, you’ll not only feel proud about yourself, you’ll also have something to work with.