HAVE A GOAL
Make sure to have a clear goal in mind when you are building your online community. For someone who already works another job, maximizing every minute you spend working must make a difference. You know what benefits you want from your community – input on developing your app, raving fans who will promote your app – but what does it look like for you? What actions by your community does that translate into?
For example, people in your online community might…
- Share your app’s link everywhere on Facebook or twitter.
- Recommend your app over a work email to colleagues.
- Hop online every day to interact with the gaming community around your game.
- Help newer members of your community figure out how to integrate your app into their daily routine
Determine how you want users to be involved.
Make sure you’re building a community where it’s not just you talking at users, but users are all talking to each other. This should be one of the goals of your community. Let users know you have forums or social media accounts where they can engage with each other.
Helpful interaction, like helpful tweets at people, is a good stating point, but you can’t make that into a full community. For this to be successful, you first need people who are all excited about your app. Make sure your app is worth being excited about.
Once you’ve got your goals for your online community defined, you actually have to build this community. When building an online community, start with somewhere where your brand is already making people excited. If people are excited on Facebook, involve the Facebook community. If people on Instagram are Instagramming your app everywhere, get involved with the community there. Creating an online community always begins with being involved in the current one.
The best place to grow your online community from is where the current one already is.
Here are some techniques you can use for growing your online community beyond that initial base of users.
Answering Questions Online
One easy way to get your company name out there and interacting with people is to answer their questions online. Use the search function available in most forums and social media to seacrh for questions in your industry, and then answer them. By getting out and offering genuine advice, you’re going to be seen as a helpful company and brand. Places you can find these questions are:
- Websites on your press mailing list. Check your press mailing list for small and medium sized websites which have their own forums, and answer questions you find there. You can also answer questions in their comment section.
- Search questions you know the answer to on Reddit, and answer entries that are less than three months old. Make your answer thorough, resource-ridden, and awesome – include link to your app or product wherever relevant. This is so it gets upvoted and seen hundreds of times.
- Search for questions you know the answer to on Quora. They are a question-and-answer website, and highly upvoted answers can drive hundreds of thousands of people to your website, and can consistently drive thousands of people a month for six to eight months. This is long-term traffic you want.
The kinds of forums you’re on on the Internet can affect your image – this means not wasting time on forum websites with GUI’s from the 90’s or early 2000’s, or websites with no active users.
Find a couple sites that it would be good to involved on, and visit them frequently. One post here or there won’t be noticed, but regular activity is always rewarded, so focus your attention on a few key websites.
Another great benefit to making your name known on the Internet and participating is that you will rise in the search engines and therefore garner more visibility. The more great responses you provide, the better your SEO.
Give Away Content
If possible, produce some secondary content that is accessible to a user if they get on your social media or website. This means they would have to visit your website or social media in order to download this free content. This is traditionally a tactic used to acquire emails, by providing the free content in exchange for an email – but this can also be done with pay with a tweet, if you’re more concerned about social media than emails. (Which you should be more concerned about depends on your model user’s typical habits).
For educational apps, this free content could be lesson plans, or a parent-child study plan. For an emailing app, this could be a guide to getting to Inbox Zero. For this book, it came in the form of a .PDF with iPad and iPhone mockups that you can download and use for free.
You would spend hours creating an amazing product, and then give it away for a couple of reasons:
- It primes your user. This is marketing-speak for saying it introduces your app to your user, so they’re more ready to download it the next time they see it. Regardless of the product, the more often someone sees it, the more inclined they are to buy – this is the logic behind you seeing the same SafeAuto ad every commercial break on TV. If they’re exposed to mention of your app now, they’re more likely to buy it later.
- You get something in return. You either get a share on social media, or you get an email from someone in your audience – helping you to either get more downloads now or potentially go viral. This can be great for building a community.
- People’s barriers to sharing your free product, or providing an email, are much lower when folks know they’re getting a free thing in return. It gets your foot in the door, so to say.
Partner with Press & Media
You can partner with press & media to run promotions for your app. These pages may be blogs that connect readers to resources like your app, or they may be professional organizations for people in a career that would use your app – don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to email people with your offer.
The press & media you would partner with is the press & media on your Press Mailing List. When you are running discounts or giveaways, these are the people you reach out to to publicize to. They would then share your promotions with their readers (on their websites and social media pages), and tag your social media in posts for maximum exposure.
Share any links about you they post in kind, so that your traffic is driven to their website in exchange.
Guest Post on Other Websites
One of the ways you can partner with competitors or press this is by guest posting on other companies or blogs’ websites about your topic of expertise. Subtly link to your app (or better, free content they can download by providing their email), but make sure to keep the focus on providing good information. Links to you and your content should be relevant and useful to them, regardless of the fact that you’re trying to promote it.
Don’t hide that you’re the developer of your app or any content you link to, as that is very unethical. Your readers deserve full disclosure.
Automate Everything You Can
Once you’ve determined what you want your users to do, make it as easy as possible for them to do so. The harder it is for them to do something to help you, the less they are going to do it. Find ways to automate what you want them to do for them as much as possible.
Some examples are…
- If you want them to email colleagues, write the email for them and embed a mailto link.
- If you want users to share on pinterest, provide a photo and a pinterest share button with content already filled in.
How to do this depends entirely on what you determined the goals of your online community to be. Do research on ways you can make it as easy as possible for users to do what it is you want them to do.
Ask for What You Want
Don’t be afraid to ask for the involvement from your users in the community. If you want them to share their link, add a share button and request that they share the link. If you want them to send an email, ask them to do so. If you want them to email you back, request it at the bottom of your newsletter. Readers can’t do what you want if they don’t know what it is that you want.
Here is a list of tips and tricks to get your tweets shared more.
This is an especially good idea if your app has some sort of sharing mechanism, such as sharing photos or creating content. If sharing is a part of your actual app, requesting a social share becomes even more important to your strategy.
Use these tips and tricks to go out and rally your users into an online community.