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Community, Email Marketing

It’s not marketing – it’s making friends at scale ft. @bythepartygirl

Most bloggers use Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to cultivate their audiences. But lifestyle and party blogger Ashley McAllister has a knack for making friends (and clients) through email subscriptions – something very few bloggers, or businesses, get right.

Canadians party differently than their Stateside counterparts, according to Ashley McAllister, blogger at The Party Girl and Etsy store owner. Americans seem to take things further, creating epic events out of weekend girls’ brunches and balloon-festooned birthday parties for toddlers. Part of the reason, she suspects, is that Americans have so many more resources, including multiple craft stores and Target. Canada has Michaels… and the internet.

Before Amazon, life for a party girl was a lot harder. Especially in a small town just outside of Toronto. Ashley says, “I felt like all of this really cool stuff was out of reach.”

But that seems to have only made Ashley more creative. This woman can make a cake topper out of just about anything.

In a country where the population, outside of a handful of urban centers, is spread out over 3.8 million miles, it can be hard to find people who share your passions. Especially when the dominant culture is a bit more understated.

“There are people up here like me. But I couldn’t find them.”

That began to change with Instagram.

“You see images people are sharing and that creates a following, and as people see images of what other people are doing, that style of party throwing is growing here. Having a theme and different elements and DIY projects. I didn’t used to see that very much. DIY wasn’t that big here except maybe for weddings, and that’s changing.

“But there has been a bit of a gap up here. People thought the DIY projects were out of range.”

The Party Girl blog began as a desire to share her crafts with friends and family, but the more she crafted, the more she felt there was a gap to fill.

“I thought maybe there are other people out there who would like to see this type of thing, or feel like they could do it if they saw someone else do it. The blog began as a way to create that community, where people could see what other people were doing and see that it isn’t crazy, that they weren’t alone, and that it’s not insane to DIY everything for your wedding or bridal shower.”

And it’s in creating community where Ashley McAllister truly shines.

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Community, Product Management

“Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré on creating a customer-centric community for your product” ft. @Autopilotus

Building a community around your product can be both a quick win and longer term customer retention strategy.

They’re easy to create—as simple as a setting up a Slack channel or Facebook group. Plus, they’re a powerful asset not only for customers, but also for your marketing, support, success, and product teams.

Above all else, they’re a way to prove that you really are customer-centric—because the whole point is that you’re right there to answer their questions, share ideas with them, listen to their suggestions, and give them a place to communicate with each other about how they’re using your product.

ProdPad has been having great success with their Slack channel. Their UX team uses it to share mockups and sketches for things they’re working on, find suitable users for research and interviews, and collect voice-of-customer data. But that’s nothing compared to what it has done for their customer retention.

As ProdPad’s Head of Growth Nandini Jammi notes, “Slack has quietly become our strongest retention channel at ProdPad.”

“As time passed, we started seeing a pattern we really liked: Customers who join our Slack community were not cancelling their ProdPad plans at all. In fact, 99% of our cancellations were (and still are) coming from customers who weren’t part of our community.”

But they’re not seeing results because someone took 5 minutes to set up a Slack channel. They’re seeing results because of how they’re using it: They’re committed to transparency, have a policy of “never saying no” to a customer, and log every single conversation as customer feedback because it’s important to them.

“We can handle all kinds of feedback because we engage with it and actively work to find our solutions for our customers.”

How to create a customer-centric product community

1. Establish your philosophical framework

You need every member of your team to understand what your community is—and, just as importantly, what it isn’t. ProdPad’s community works because they’re 100% committed to transparency and welcome the customer into their process. Yes, you’re doing this to drive retention and referrals. But if you aren’t primarily doing this to help your customers succeed with your product, you won’t achieve either of those outcomes.

Another question to ask yourself is, what you want to accomplish with your community? Do you want to increase retention by supporting existing customers? Or, do you want to create a space that helps you attract and acquire ideal customers? For example, Pieter Levels, founder of NomadList, created a Slack community that was only loosely tied to NomadList, but cleverly targeted ideal users. It now has nearly 10,000 members, 3,000 of whom are active on a monthly basis.

Fun fact: Growth Hackers began as a community for Qualaroo, and Inbound.org began as a community for HubSpot. Don’t be surprised if your community takes on a life of its own!

2. Choose your platform

The type of community you choose depends on your intended users and your bandwidth. B2B SaaS companies might find that their target customers are already on Slack, making it a natural platform for their branded community. Other demographics barely know what Slack is, but are on Facebook all the time.

If it aligns with your goals and you’re able to allocate the resources, you can even develop your own community and give it a home on your website. If you go down that path, you’ll reap the rewards of increased brand awareness, SEO, and customer loyalty.

As with any kind of marketing, go where your target users already are.

3. Set up your community

To create a community on Slack or Facebook, follow these instructions:

If you plan to develop your own community, take inspiration from these DIY communities:

4. Set expectations

Part of customer success is setting expectations—and you’ll want to set expectations with your customers early on when creating a product community.

The expectations you’ll need to set will differ from platform to platform. For example, Facebook groups benefit from having a set of conduct rules pinned to the top of the page. That way people know what is and isn’t allowed. (Hint: Be prepared to enforce those rules by booting people out.)

Slack presents other challenges. Because Slack enables instant messaging, people tend to expect instant responses. If you have the bandwidth to respond right away, good for you! If you can’t, do like this company did and say so.

“To counter unrealistic availability expectations, we laid out a couple of ground rules together with our clients, such as nobody needs to always answer right away. Although more direct than email, everybody should see Slack as an asynchronous means of communication,” wrote Christian Weyer, Partner, Crispy Mountain.

5. Promote your community

Slack communities and Facebook groups both require users to be “invited” (or at least approved) by admins. The easiest way to discover users to invite is to promote a signup form.

Typeform is an easy, free service that creates simple forms. You’ll only need a few fields: name, email (so you can send the invite), links to online profiles, and why the person wants to join. Check out this guide to integrating Typeform and Slack.

This  is a segment from Autopilot’s blog, 11 Winning Retention Tactics from 11 Remarkable Marketers.

Read More on Autopilot


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Community

Crush It on Product Hunt: 10 Tips to Reach a Top 10 Spot

I’m a Product Hunt moderator. I also work as a SaaS consultant, growth marketer, and customer success evangelist. Throughout my career, I’ve seen great ideas fail to gain traction and mediocre ideas lift off.

Sometimes, the stars align and a company has both – a great product and incredible growth. These are the products that sell themselves. Think Slack, Buffer, and Zendesk.

Assuming you have a killer product like these companies, Product Hunt is “Tech’s New Tastemaker“ and a way to start your meteoric rise to the top.

How you can join the Hunt

Before we hop in, know that the Product Hunt community has a neighborhood watch program of sorts. Community members are often the ones who keep an eye on the boards. Trying to cheat the system won’t you get anywhere, but following these ten tips will…

Read More on Autopilot


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Community

The Ultimate Guide to Using Product Hunt for Your Startup by @NikkiElizDeMere

the-ultimate-guide-to-using-product-hunt

Product Hunt makes it easy for people to share the tech products and apps they’re into – what they love, what they use, what they’re excited about. It’s like highly targeted social media in which every user is tech-literate and interested in finding the latest smart solutions to their problems.

But more than that, Product Hunt has become a community of likeminded people who are willing to give insights into products, engage with other users, share tips and ideas, and bond with each other over shared interests. It’s a crazy combination of user-generated marketing and old-fashioned “geeking out.”

Does that sound like your target market? Then Product Hunt is where your startup needs to be.

However, just like you wouldn’t try writing a long blog post on Twitter, there are some protocols to keep in mind when interacting with this community. Here’s how to navigate the social waters so your startup company can join the Hunt.

Read More on TribeBoost


Let’s Get SaaSsy – I’m offering a limited number of SaaS consulting engagements.

Community

The 6 Secrets to Building a Thriving Community From Scratch by @roypovar

the-six-secrets-to-building-a-thriving-community

Image created by Yasmine Sedky (@yazsedky).

This is a guest blog entry by Roy Povarchik.

Building a community from scratch is a challenge every startup faces, but which not all startups fully understand.

Here’s what most people think a community manager’s life looks like:

“You wake up, hang out on Facebook all day long, answer some emails, say the word ‘Awesome,’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘Appreciate’ 200 times a day and send stickers. Send tons of stickers.”

While some of those action items do come into play, building a thriving community is much harder than you’d think.

Here’s a good way to try to grasp what building a community really feels like:

Imagine you have to engineer a person that will be persuasive, likable, able to throw a successful party, and can get people motivated. 

Then you have to prove all these characteristics again and again. From scratch. All day, every day.

Being a community manager means you have to get people to gather, create conversations, participate, acknowledge and engage around your brand while maintaining a consistent voice, and even personality, for your community.

Here’s how Sprout Social details the workflow of a community manager:

  • 40% having conversations with communities or prospects
  • 20% building visibility and credibility as “Sprout Sarah” by attending Twitter chats and moderating #SproutChat
  • 15% researching opportunities to connect with new people
  • 15% blogging on external sites
  • 10% analyzing efforts driving the most traffic
  • 10% making friends with everyone in the office (social butterfly)

Doesn’t seem so easy now, right?

The biggest challenge to building a community is that most of the advice out there sounds great, but it actually isn’t that helpful when you’re just starting out – when no one is engaging with you or cares that you’re alive.

Community Manager Workflow

Community Manager Workflow


Here are a few top tips community managers shared on Buffer:

  1. “Everything you do as a community builder should be about the community. Everything.”
  2. “Engage and check in with your community often. Actions speak louder than words.”
  3. “You have to set your metrics for success. Social platforms are similar, but can be used for very different things.”
  4.  “Relationships BETWEEN members. A space where people feel safe to contribute.”

Still, those are only things you can act on once you already have a community.

So how do you turn your communal online space from population YOU into a thriving community?

Here are 6 of my most actionable, hard-won tips to help you take the first steps into building a living, breathing, engaged and engaging community (and no one else is talking about them).

How To Start Your Very Own  Thriving Community

1. Base your community on a need, not a product.

I will make this point as bluntly as possible so we can get it out of our way: Nobody cares about your product.

It’s that simple. Crazy, right?

People join groups or communities for one reason alone – to address their own needs.

If you were able to read your potential community members’ sub-conscious, they would say one of two things:

  1. Will joining this community make me better at what I want to be better at?
  2. Will joining this community help me achieve something I want to achieve?

The simple truth is that people only want to do things that serve their interests and empower them.

But don’t just take my word for it. Run a simple test.

For the sake of the test, let’s pretend that you are the CMO of a SaaS company with a platform that produces conversion rate optimization test results (so you don’t have to do the math yourself). Lets call it “Convertify.” In order to start a discussion with your target audience, you decide to create two Facebook groups to bring them all together.

Open two Facebook groups:

  1. Call the first one “Convertify”.
  2. Call the second one: ‘SaaS Conversion Optimization professionals’

Post a simple “hello” status update to welcome your new visitors and post 2-3 useful links in the following week.

What you’ll see in the next two weeks is that, even though you’ve been posting the same content on both groups, the second one will get more “add me” requests.

Why? because it hints at a true benefit.

The second group answers both internal questions clearly:

  1. Will joining this community make me better at what I want to be better at?  Yes, I can learn from experts.
  2. Will joining this community help me achieve something I want to achieve? Yes, I want to be better at conversion optimization.

Target your communities around their needs. Not your product.

2. At the beginning, it’s all about one-on-one engagement

In his famous TED talk, Derek Sivers demonstrates how to start a movement through a video of a dancing guy in a music festival.

The thrust of the video (spoiler alert!) is that the most important member of a group is not the leader, but the first follower.

The first follower is the one that actually validates what the leader is doing, and seeds the beginning of a community.

Without the first follower, the leader isn’t a leader; he’s just a crazy guy talking to himself in a room.

This step is not about “engaging with your community members.”

It’s about choosing your first followers carefully and starting your conversation with them.

But how do you start?

If you’ve ever tried to build a community, you know that simply posting great content and asking questions doesn’t really do the trick.

You’ve been there: You invited people in, wrote a public status update and nothing happened.

Here’s the real secret no one is telling you:

You are not going to get your first significant follower just by trying to engage with everyone and hoping one will stick. No.

Do your research. Find target prospects you think will be beneficial to your community and start engaging with them on a one-on-one basis.

You can use email, Skype, Facebook Messenger, whatever you want. The initial nurturing of those first followers will probably take place in a private channel in one-on-one conversations.

Through personal engagement you will get a chance to really know them, bond over the real stuff and open a communication channel built on trust.

It's all about the one-on-one

It’s all about the one-on-one.

That personal connection is the only way to really know your audience and get them to genuinely care about your goal – your reason for building the community.

Now, you want to build that direct communication channel with as many relevant people as you can, but without sacrificing the quality of your conversations.

Let them in on your plans, decisions that need to be made etc. Really give them the VIP insiders treatment.

After a while, you can start asking them to Like, Upvote, help others or whatever it is your community will be about.

This is how you will get your initial community traction and encourage community ambassadors.

3. Help your community members to be successful

Remember:

“People will join your community only if it will make them better at what they want to be better at.”

It goes much deeper than simply choosing a name for your community.

You want to reach out publicly and privately to your community members and help them out in any way they need.

If it’s by posting relevant content that answers hot topics in your niche, encourage people to ask questions and make sure you get them the help they need.

Try getting users to share their challenges (if they talk to you in private, recommend they post it publicly) and do your best to answer them. Even if it requires more research on your end.

The reason people do the same things over and over again is because they know it will get them an expected result.

If they’ll know that engaging with your community will help them overcome challenges, or solve a problem, they will start engaging with your community more often.

More than that, when people feel that a community is extremely helpful to them, they will feel the urge to give back more.

Which brings us to the next section.

4. Refer your community members to one another

In his book: “Tribes: we need you to lead us,” Seth Godin defines a tribe as:

“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

This last part, “a way to communicate,” is the key to developing a real thriving community.

For a community to go big, its community members have to be able to expand beyond what the community manager is doing, which they can do by engaging with each other directly.

If you are waiting for it to happen organically, it will either take a lot of time, or it won’t happen at all.

In the last section, I wrote about “helping your community.”

Helping your community, doesn’t always mean you are the one giving all of the answers. Sometimes, it’s about referring one community member to another.

By doing so, you encourage greater engagement within your group while empowering group members who will feel more valuable as the “experts” of the moment. People engage more where they feel valued.

Get your community members to engage

Get your community members to engage.

You can do this just by letting someone know that another community member is really good at a certain topic and looping the other person in. You can refer to content they wrote or suggest they should talk, etc.

Once your community members engage with one another naturally, you will have a lot of conversations going on at once, and also a lot more initiatives that you didn’t initiate yourself.

Your job then becomes to moderate your highly functional group.

5. At first, hack user participation in early stages

Nothing ‘just happens’ right? It’s not how the world works.

Same goes for your community’s engagement growth.

This is where you combine all 4 previous sections.

To jump-start your community, you’re going to need to work behind the scenes to motivate your first followers to engage.

  • This can be done by finding a good piece of content and asking them to share it instead of you.
  • Or, perhaps someone asks a question that you can mention to another community member and privately ask them to reply.
  • It can be by giving credit for things that community members are doing and emphasizing their work more than yours etc.

Then new members will feel like they are joining something that is already established. They’ll have role models to learn how the group works, and they will start mimicking and elaborating on what they see. Fake it ’til you make it.

All of this takes a lot of time and effort. That’s why it’s a full time job.

6. Rules and restrictions are the key to a happy quality community

Having rules is what sets apart noisy unhealthy communities from ones with meaning that thrive.

The reason people keep coming back to a specific community is because they know they will gain a specific value from it.

It’s the same as building a business: the more focused you are, the more high paying clients you’ll get.

If you don’t have any rules, you’ll see that your group will lose focus really fast – and with focus goes value.

This is how groups become full of spam, or become dominated by members who only promote their interests rather than engaging with others.

The right rules will keep these negative tendencies in check. Even if your members aren’t happy about them at the beginning, they will learn to appreciate them.

Rules will help you manage the conversation, expectations and quality of your group – which in turn, will help you create more valuable engagement. You know how to continue by now, right?

Here are some rules that I find helpful:

  1. You can introduce yourself, but not promote yourself
  2. Always be polite
  3. If you have any financial interests, always give full disclosure
  4. Repeating topics should be in their own, designated threads
  5. If you can help, then help
  6. No off-topics

It’s very simple, nothing too weird or harsh, but will deliver a more focused, higher quality, community engagement.

In Conclusion

Building a community is a combination of being attentive to your audience, empowering them, finding the right niche, and promoting a lot of people’s skills.

Some might say that being a good community manager is something that can’t be taught.

I tend to agree.

But even if you have that quality in you, you will need the right tactics and time to build a thriving community.

Tell me: what kind of community are you trying to build?