Stay Connected

Congrats! You’re subscribed

  • Facebook Classic
  • LinkedIn App Icon
  • Google+ App Icon
  • Twitter Classic

Building a Community for Your Startup

One of the reasons that community building is receiving greater attention in today’s fast paced world is because it is a source of strength that cannot be easily copied, as compared to product, design and even brand. Although there is no one way to go about it, here is a roadmap that can assist in understanding community goals, what building community involves and how to keep it going.

Align community building with business goals

Through engagement, members will come together around a shared interest connected to your product or brand. Define building your community around one goal that it will serve, such as growing revenue, creating awareness, product growth or support.[1] Each goal should have metrics attached to it to measure the success of a community program. Metrics include repeated visits, total visit time, responses to posts, profile views and more.

Start with “Influencers”

By examining users who contact your support queue, you can gain insights on whom you have interfaced with multiple times and even know them on a first-name basis. Mark these users as “influencers.” To engage influencers, or “super users,” it is best to set up a sustainable program that executive management is firmly committed to and supports.


DID YOU KNOW? According to the 1-9-90 rule “1 percent of your population will create content, 9 percent will comment or engage with it, and 90 percent will just browse.”[2]

-The Huffington Post ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One way to employ the 1-9-90 rule is to create a forum for tips where users can vote on whether a tip stays on or should be taken down. Simplifying the review process by keeping required fields to a minimum will increase participation. Creating this tool will empower your users and will “gamify” the review voting process. Applying the 1-9-90 rule, you may expect 1 percent will write tips, 9 percent will vote and the rest will enjoy browsing. Additional forms of engagement include webinars, face-to-face roundtables and conferences.

Cultivate Secret Groups

In the initial stages, you may want to reach out within the company for employees to create engagement. Later on, you can test out the community through a Secret Facebook Group (rather than private Facebook pages that may not attract the users you want|). The “Secret Facebook Group “is one of the most overlooked features in Facebook. It is not indexed in search results. It’s a place where you can cultivate a group with common goals and vision that can provide real-time sources and insights.

That being said, relying too much on Facebook may not be your best bet to create momentum for your product. Sites such as StartupList or BetaList might give you the edge you need. Both are tools startups employ to target early adopters StartupList even makes it easy to find startups by indexing them according to regions around the world.

Incentivize the members of your community

Sustaining community is achieved through a mixture of recognition, rewards, and growth opportunities. Recognition can come in the form of a section on the homepage or a separate page on your site dedicated to a reviewer of the week or month. It is important to fit membership incentives to your community and to practice caution with cash or financial incentives. These may undermine a user’s intrinsic motivations. An example of an alternative reward is to set up a weekly or monthly competition and offer vouchers from local businesses as prizes. Another option is to offer users a personalized visit to the company. Users will value “peaking behind the curtain” and making the connection offline. If you are thinking of growth opportunities, offering “expertise badges” that reflect a user's level and skill in helping the community as well as solving problems is a fun way to promote learning and a sense of progression. TripAdvisor, for example, has 6 levels of badges.

Keep the connections going through newsletters, emails, blog posts and scheduling events like live Q&As throughout the year. These celebrate the community. You can also utilize events to expose users to new product features. Influencers can then test out the latest components and provide valuable feedback before introducing them to the general public. Be sure to keep a record of the growth and churn of your community, track the frequency and quality (positive/negative) of actions taken by members and keep optimizing your content and offers. Some community management apps that may help you along the way include Simply Measured, Facebook Insights, and Sysomos.

[1] An Inside Look at Foursquare’s Strategy for Building a 40,000-Member Superuser Community

[2] How to Build Your Startup’s Online Community and Why That Matters/Huffington Post