Hacking your community growth: The full guide
You have organized a community event. You reserved an amazing space, brought super-interesting speakers, bought refreshments and marketed the event enough time ahead.
The event was successful, feedback was great. But you saw the same familiar faces, there was a feeling that the community is regressing, and something should change here. Not enough community members arrived and the community is small, anyway.
Or you might have started a new community, and you are still not sure how to attract people that might be interested in the community to join you.
Either way, finding new community members and encouraging their motivation to join and participate in the activities, is a task in itself. Whether the community was just founded and you wish to create the core group of community’s members, or you wish to bring new blood, you have lots more to do.
Let’s see how we can arouse more curiosity among the community’s target audience and invite them to join. The following guide will help you in hacking your community growth.
Who would you like to invite to the community?
The first question you should ask yourself is: Who are your target audiences?
And also: Why would they want to join the community?
The answer is inherent in the value that your community offers.
First, define the value for your target audiences and then move on.
Following that, you should understand: What drives them every day? Where are they hanging around so you could invite them to the community?
Creating a persona for each target audience can help you. A “persona” in the community industry is a target audience’s detailed description. It includes demographics such as age, gender, and geographic location, but also the fields of interests, needs, their role in the community, and others. As I suggest to the community members that I work with: think of a person you know who might be a potential target audience and build the persona around them.
Inviting new community members
Now that you know what the value you offer to the community members is and why they’ll be interested to join, you can start the craft of invitation.
Pay attention to the fact that there’s not such a big difference between inviting people to an in-person community, a virtual, or a hybrid one. Obviously, in a community that meets only in New York, it will be hard to encourage participation of community members who live in San Francisco. And that’s why it’s not clear that those in San Francisco are your target audience. However, if we’ll put the geographic distance aside, it’s important to reach out where the community members are and speak their language.
Here are practical ways to find and invite potential community members:
Invite them through the platforms and spaces that they are already active in.
Make a list of existing forums, communities, and virtual groups whose target audience are their members or those participating in them. Later, you can create an invitation to your community or its activity.
Tip: ask the platform managers or admins for permission before you publish any invitation. Moreover, you could suggest a collaboration with other communities.
Organize a launch or an introduction event.
An event where prospect members can be exposed to the community, its goals, activities, and its atmosphere is a great way to invite potential new members. Someone who joins such an event and gets to know the community during one, two, or three hours and has a positive experience would probably like to participate another time.
In order to make sure this experience will be pleasant indeed, make sure that the event, in-person or online, will be interesting and there will be a networking activity to connect the participants. And of course, talk about the community and how to join and take part.
Reach out the target audience directly.
Most of the social media platforms offer searching options: according to demographics such as country or profession, common interests, hashtags, and more. Use the search tools to find those who might be interested to join. Write an invitation that raises curiosity and opens the door to a conversation where you share more about the community.
And another tip. If it’s a community that isn’t limited to a specific organization, start with your own network of contacts. Talk about the community to your colleagues, friends, and those you know.
Share success stories.
Has your community helped an employee to advance professionally? Supported a community member with a personal challenge? Taught something new?
The next practice is relevant whether the community is closed (i.e. a community restricted to an organization’s employees department), or if it’s an open community (i.e., a virtual group that is open to whomever is curious).
One of the effective ways to tell about the community is through the community members themselves rather than you or your team.
Ask current community members to share with you: What is the reason they joined? Why do they take part? Why should others take part in the activities?
By the way, success stories are relevant for internal-organization communities, since you could, on the way, get the buy-ins from other stakeholders related to the communities: The CEO, other managers, partners, sponsors, and so on.
Build an initial program to create the community members’ core group.
If you’re creating a community from zero, it’s worth thinking of creating a program to initiate the initial core of community members.
The program will be designed for a limited number of participants, and afterworth they could implement what they have achieved. You could organize a series of meetings in the community field, in an exclusive format as well, to create a deep connection among the participants and a sense of belonging.
Such programs include professional mentoring programs, ambassador programs for employees in a specific field, leadership seminars for students, and even community building’s trainings 🙂
Read here about the mentoring program I co-created in MEMAco, and here about the Innovation Leaders program that I lead in the ASPER HUJI Center of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Hebrew University.
What’s the most suitable way?
Take a moment and think, what would make you join a space which isn’t familiar to you?
Many times it’s simply because a friend, colleague, or even a family member suggested it to you. Word-to-mouth is an ancient method – but one that still works in both in-person communities and online ones.
People like to join a welcoming space where they feel a connection and acceptance. Whether it’s a professional space, a community around “lighter” topics, or just for fun.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t spam — Do continuously create awareness to the community.
Marketers are talking about the rule of seven. This rule was created within the film industry in the 30s and talks about the number of times that a potential target audience needs to be exposed to the product or service until they purchase it.
Even if your community is a social, non-profit community that was made to lead a significant change, this rule still applies. Your community should stay in the awareness of all thoses relevant. On the other hand, you don’t want to make your target audience “tired” of hearing about your community. Share what’s relevant and not too frequent.
Don’t push — Do invite and create an open conversation.
Honestly share the reason why others should join the community. But if you’ll tackle unwillingness or even an objection, don’t push. End the conversation in a positive way. You might meet each other again later on the community’s journey.
Don’t “sell” the community — Do encourage motivation.
Community leaders sometimes use methods such as competitions with prizes to increase community engagement and invite new members. Consider well whether this method is the right one.
Why? You’ll probably receive a great response to such activities. But the community might fade out or the new community members won’t have any intention to take part in the activities and contribute. Therefore, beware of “lowering” the community’s value.
Giveaways and benefits can be an important tool, to acknowledge engaged members and motivate new ones to join. However, if they won’t have an additional value, or will take place too often, your efforts will be for nothing.
You invited new members to the community — what’s now?
New members have joined? Congratulations!
Now you should introduce them to the community. Additionally, tell them about the community rules and its activities. And share how they can get involved. Just like a new employee joins a company and goes in the onboarding process, the same goes for the new community members.
Not sure who is your target audience or how to invite them to the community? Let’s talk and I’ll help you.