Community Growth - what is important?

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Being able to visualize what your customers and prospects have to do to become community members is crucial to growing your community. Before someone engages with your community, they have to learn about the existence of the community, they have to be convinced there is something to gain from becoming a member, and they need to be persuaded that joining your community is a good idea. While all this may vary for each individual, there are people out there that are willing to engage with your brand, but do not know about your community. Taking all this into consideration, how do you grow your community?

There are three main steps to community growth:

Step 1: Reaching out
Growing your community begins with reaching out to those who do not yet know about your community. You must begin by spreading the word about your community and making sure that people who can benefit from your community's content will be able to find it quickly and with as little hassle as possible.
In other words, you must begin by asking: how do I make potential members aware of my community and convince them that they can gain from signing up? This should be done by reaching out using different channels and through different messages.

Why different channels?

Not every individual you are trying to target uses the same channel(s). In fact, we know that people actually tend to have a preference for a certain channel. Some are more active on Facebook and go to your company Facebook-page, others use Instagram, yet another group will go to your company homepage, and many others use Google to find directly what they are looking for. This is why it using different channels to reach out to people is crucial for your long term acquisition. Keep in mind too that search engines are also indirect channels that will help you grow your community. This means that creating content that search engines love should also be seen as part of your long term acquisition efforts.

Why different messages?

One of the things we have learned about community traffic is that the source of such traffic matters. For instance, traffic coming through social media tends to have lower bounce rates than traffic coming from organic searches, and traffic coming from website integrations tends to have longer times on site. This tells us that there is a relationship between channel use and motivations, and people that visit your Facebook-page have other motivations than those who visit your company website or from those you have targeted through a newsletter. This, fortunately, does not mean that you need to create different messages for each person you want to target. Community growth does not require personalized messages, but simply a few variations based on what we know are the 3 basic motivations for people to visit and join your community:
  1. Functional motivation
  2. Self-efficacy and Belonging

Functional motivation

The first is functional motivation, which is the most common reason for people to visit your community. Functional motivation means that individuals are motivated by their need for relevant information, such as support or reviews and customer opinions on your products and services. People in this category set are therefore looking for a personal and practical gain and see in your community the perfect way to do so.

Self efficacy and Belonging

Next to those looking for practical gain are those that have a motivation to participate. They want to participate because they consider themselves experts on your products or services. This motivation is called self-efficacy. For example, someone with high self-efficacy about iPhones or mobile phones in general, is someone who strongly believes can tell me everything about configuring and optimizing my iPhone. Self-efficacy is a sign of confidence about the knowledge I have and confidence in that such knowledge can benefit others.

Lastly, people can also be motivated by a sense of belonging. This means that people are motivated because they want to meet and engage with peers that have similar interests or experiences. This category set is often related to the emotional connection that people can have with your brand. For example, a big fan of Nike that loves their Just do it! slogan, because they feel it characterizes their own attitude or personality, will identify with Nike as a brand. In this case their choice to join the Nike community would be that they expect to find there people who share that same attachment to the brand and that same Just do it! attitude. In other words they feel that they belong to that community, because they expect to find people who share the same interests and experiences as they do.Now, you know how to reach out to potential new members. This was just step 1 in a successful acquisition strategy. Continue reading about step 2: Connecting!

Step 2: Connecting

You have already learned about how to reach out to your (potential) audience. The second step in growing your community is connecting. Connecting with your audience is all about creating relevant, persuasive, and timely communications about your community. Or in other words, presenting your community members with the right content, at the right time. Here's how!

Why relevant?

Your content and communication should be as relevant as possible. In other words, as tailored as possible to your target audience. You may rightly so wonder, what if different types of people receive my communications? In this case, the pitfall comes when we give in to the temptation of trying to talk to everyone at the same time. In most cases, your audience (e.g., your customers) are already segmented in, for example, 3 types or personas. When for instance sending out a mailing, it may be wise to use this segmentation to create three versions of your email rather than sending one, generic email to your entire audience.

Our own analysis tells us that, when it comes to different forms of below the line communication, relevance outperforms reach. Click-through-rates can be 4 to 5 times higher in communications tailored to specific segments or personas. This implies your results will be better when sending a tailored, targeted message to 200,000 people, than when sending a generic message to 1,000,000 people.

Why persuasive?

Connecting with potential community members through social media and direct mailing requires you to write direct messages and provide clear benefits of visiting the community. Once they visit, they must be able to easily find a reason to join your community. In order for your message to be persuasive, we have the following best practices:

Focus on a single message

Even if you can think of many different reasons why potential members would benefit from joining your community, your communications should be about just one of those reasons. This will ensure that you send out one clear message, which makes your message more persuasive.

Have a clear call-to-action

If you are for instance creating a social media post about your community, it should provide clear guidance on what you want your audience to do. It might be something such as "Visit our community" or "Ask a question" or "Share something". As long as the CTA is clear, your message will have higher conversion rates.

Be attentive of the channel of delivery

If you are creating an integration in your support page, for instance in the form of a link or a banner, the message you place here is important as well. Make sure it is relevant to the user at that moment, and on that particular page of your website to increase the chances of directing people to your community.

Why timely?

Being timely in your community is the key to connecting. A thorough understanding of context and ability to respond in a timely manner will positively affect the performance of your communication.

Why is that? People use each communication channel with their needs and expectations in mind. They will also typically use some channels more than others, as we talked about in step 1. Timely communications therefore mean being aware of what content performs well in what channel, and adding a layer of context to it.

Here's an example: Say you know the most visited part of your support page is the FAQ section. A timely message would then be to let people who visit the FAQ know that your community contains even more FAQs and support.

Another example relates to the use of communications about service outages or failures, which can be an opportunity for you. Namely, when you position your community as the best way for people to keep track of what is going on, when issues will be resolved, and whether it affects all geographical locations in the same way. Now, you know how to connect to your members. This marks step 2 in a successful acquisition strategy. Continue reading about step 3: Motivating!

Step 3: Motivating

You already know how to reach out to your audience, and why creating relevant, persuasive and timely communications will allow you to effectively connect with potential users. The better you connect, the more you will grow your community. The last step in maximizing your community growth is motivating. Motivating people to join and participate on your community is key to community success. In this article, we explain how.

Why your community?

To be able to motivate people to join and participate in your community, you should have a clear and extensive list of reasons to do so. Possible reasons can be..
  • Your community is the BEST source of relevant and complete information about your products and services
  • Your community is the BEST source of trustworthy reviews about your products and services
  • Your community provides teasers and news on new products before any other channel
  • Your community provides the most up to date information about outages and service failures
  • Your community is a place where experts can get rewards for sharing their knowledge
  • Your community is the place where you gather feedback to improve your products and services
  • Participating in your community gives exclusive access to private areas and content
  • Your community is a place where peers who share a passion can meet
  • Your community is a place where your customers can win exclusive tickets to events
After having created several messages for your reasons, you will be able to create relevant communications and allows you to be less repetitive. You can use these reasons in different messages to visit, join and participate in your community. Most importantly, it will allow you to create posts that don't simply take visitors to your community homepage, but rather takes them directly to a relevant topic.

Why so many reasons?

The longer your list of reasons, the greater the number of messages you will be able to create for them. For you, this means you will be able to effectively promote your community weeks and months after it has gone live.

In addition, it means that, if your know the audience in your different channels well, you will be able to differentiate messages across your channels. This will give your acquisition efforts an extra boost and will help you grow your community even faster. Now, you know all the steps in a successful acquisition strategy: reaching out, connecting, and motivating.

Want to know more about acquiring and activating community members? Keep exploring our Knowledge Base!

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