When you open the gates to your community you *might* be starting with zero members, and every new member will be very exciting! After-all, at this stage, you’ve likely spent an exceptional amount of time researching, planning, and strategizing for this moment. Now the hard work begins – engaging and onboarding your new community members!
Their initial experience will determine how likely they are to return, and in a community your goal should be targeted at getting people to come back for repeated engagement. Much like a slow rolling snowball gaining speed as it begins to roll downhill, it is more challenging to go from 0 to 100 members than it is to go from 100 to 1000 which will benefit from that initial momentum. Here are a couple of critical components to think through as you build from the ground up to get that flywheel spinning…
Don’t Skip Out on Fully Onboarding
Think back to a time when you joined a new club, or started a new job – what was your first day like? Were you made to feel welcome? Were you introduced to people? Perhaps you got a tour of the building? Whatever happy memory you have of feeling that sense of belonging should be replicated in your online community. In your community roadmap this should be stop #2 after getting signed up.
After they’re signed up, profile set up, and are ready to go, what should be the first message they receive via email and on the platform? Perhaps a note from the community leader thanking them for joining and what they can expect. And/or a message from you orienting them to where things are on the platform and what they might want to try first. Whatever you decide, make someone feel welcome and encourage them to dive in and engage with their interests. Think of all the steps it would take for someone to feel comfortable navigating this new place and would that take a day, a week, or a month? It’s not a bad exercise to map out your new user experience.
In the very beginning, consider asking your colleagues to help you with this and to connect with new people as they join ultimately supplementing the work that you’re doing. This not only helps adoption for the members, but within your company as well. This will help balance the load, increase member connections, and alleviate you being everywhere. As more people join, make sure you are introducing members to each other! That individual 1:1 connection will mean everything.
At the end of the day, the steps you take now to onboard someone will lead to them building your community into their lifestyle. This should be a positive and memorable experience.
Use a Content Calendar
In the beginning you will need to feed the community the majority of the content, your job is to be the catalyst to drive this engagement off the ground. Post interesting articles related to your topic, “How-To” guides for your brand or community platform, and engaging/interactive things like prompts or questions (though don’t start out with these until you’ve got a good group going). Staying organized is the best tool a community manager has, so identifying a system that works for you in planning content on your platform, social channels, and email will be very important. You can keep it as simple as you’d like by using a spreadsheet, to something more complex like a calendar app.
Infusing newness into the platform will keep it looking fresh and alive.
Get that Response Rate Up
Initially the community manager will be the face of the community. An important first step is to make sure every question that is posted publicly in your community gets a good answer. And not just a good answer, but a quick answer. Your response must answer the question well. A bad answer is worse than no answer at all according to a study by Sprout Social on customer service online. If you do not respond to a user, some will give you the benefit of the doubt and possibly re-ask their question elsewhere, but let’s not take that risk because just as many may never come back, or even worse, be disparaging on other more public channels.
Answer as best you can, even if it’s to say “I’m not sure, but let me check on that for you!” which will let them know that their question hasn’t gone off into the void and that they’re being listened to. Or tag someone in your company who might which encourages another voice in the mix.
Create Exciting Things to Do!
Have you ever signed up for something online, gone through all the pain of getting everything set up, only to find that it’s pretty much a ghost town? It’s so disheartening isn’t it? You were new, you were excited, and the platform just didn’t live up to its expectations because it didn’t take the time to give you that next thing to do. You probably never went back.
This is an easy fix to plan for in the commitment curve and community roadmap. What can they sign up for? What videos can they watch? Who can they set up time with to chat about a particular topic? What event or webinar is upcoming that they need to RSVP? Can they give product feedback and have early access to something?
As members join you can also ask them if there’s anything they’d like to see or what brought them here in the first place and try to appeal to that need going forward.
Launching a community is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure to bring the energy, connect with people and connect them to each other, and keep going. If you make a plan, feed your community, and take all of these steps eventually your snowball will begin to roll downhill at an exponential rate. Members will not only flock to your community, but they will take over some of your initial tasks because you have empowered them to do so.
Consider A 3-Stage Launch Strategy
When launching a community, you should build your momentum UP to a community, you don’t just “start” as a community 😉
A 3-Stage launch strategy is a helpful tool tool to build the necessary trajectory and momentum to take you past your first 100 members that’ll empower you to keep engaging your community over time.
Reach out to Honeycommb today to get started and chat with our team about how to onboard your first 100 members and make sure you’re set up for success from Day 1: Book a Demo to see what we can build together for your people!