Communities aren’t new. In fact, throughout history, we’ve naturally formed communities around likeminded topics. But as our lives rely on the online world more and more, so do our communities. So, how to grow a community?
Individuals, influencers, and businesses alike dream of growing an engaged audience within their online community but the resources that help people grow their communities are thin.
You see, there are plenty of top ten lists that present you with a range of different ideas for how to grow a successful community online but few really talk about how actually community managers grew their community and the specific tactics they used.
Until now. We reached out to a range of experts within the online community space to find out the exact strategies they’ve used to grow an engaged community audience.
In this post, we’re going to let you peek inside the growth strategies of some of the best online communities around.
How to grow a community?
Growing a community is hard. Initially, you’re unlikely to have an audience. This means you not only have to decide what you want your community to be about, but you need to find people who are willing to get involved.
Two common issues unfold. The first, for those who don’t yet have a community and the second for those who have a community but want to grow it further.
If you don’t currently have an online community, you’ll have to use your inferences and research to decide what you want your community to be about. What if the topics or concept you’ve chosen aren’t what your preferred audience want to learn about? You’ll spend ages putting together content resources that fall upon deaf ears.
What’s more, once you do get the attention of potential community members, you need to make sure there is enough quality content within your online community that keeps them there.
If you already have a small community and want to find out ways to grow it, you’re in a slightly better position in that you can speak with current community members to find out, first, why they joined the community in the first place and second, what type of content they’d like to see moving forward.
You see, when you have access to your target audience, you have a direct conversation loop you can get feedback and future ideas from. You can then use this to entice other people to join your community.
But often, with smaller communities, the only feedback you receive is “we love the community, but we wish there were more people here to have conversations with.” Although this is useful feedback, it doesn’t help you in terms of how to grow your community, it just tells you that you need to – but you already know this.
How to grow a community like a PRO (community expert opinion)
To get a fair idea of different strategies, we tried to speak to as many different types of community owners as possible. This way we’d have a broad idea of different community growth strategies and wouldn’t limit ourselves to only learning about one industry’s growth tactics.
Fantastic results, but how did he achieve this? Through providing great content. David was fortunate in that he wanted to create his online community around a topic he knew a lot about. It’s important to note that David also runs a consultancy. So while this does give him inside knowledge and initial contacts – it goes without saying that you’re in a much better position to grow a community in an industry you know a lot about.
He reached out to people he already knew and proposed the idea of a community where people can share their ideas and seek help from others.
His work is mainly online, which means his contacts are too. Because of this, people were very receptive to the idea of online space (away from their day-to-day work) where they could solicit feedback, help, and support from others in the same industry as them.
David cites his success in creating a community that was positioned around help, support and most importantly, valuable information. The information shared within his community wasn’t easily accessed anywhere else online. Meaning, there was an intrinsic need for people in the marketing space to join the community.
Without prompting, people started to talk about his community online on other forums like Reddit and Twitter. This encouraged other people to check it out. And the loop continues. More and more people joined, saw the value and wanted to share their new resources with others.
This strategy worked because David wasn’t focused on growing the community to insane numbers straight away.
He wanted to focus on value. If you have 10 people all providing valuable content every single day, it’s much more valuable than having 100 people sharing weak content that doesn’t offer anyone any extra insight.
Once the community had formed and established its role within the marketing industry, David was in a much better position to talk about what he’d build on external platforms like podcasts, interviews and guest posts.
But David isn’t the only community owner we spoke to about growth. If you want to see the other growth strategies community managers use, check out the full report here.
What this means for online communities moving forwards
There is an increasing amount of noise in the online world and people are quickly becoming protective over what content they consume.
Because of this, the best growth strategy you can employ for your online community is a slow and steady growth that focuses on quality over quantity. Despite what you might think, people don’t mind if your community is small. They care more about whether the content they consume within your community will provide value for them.
Even if you don’t have a community yet, there are ways to make your community stand out, you just need to work a little harder with your research.
Use social media to find out what people are talking about. Pay particular attention to the types of questions they ask. Because when people reach out to their network to ask a question it usually means they can’t find this information online.
Create a list of all the topics, concepts and questions you come across and work out a content strategy for how you can share the answers to these questions within your community. From there, reach out to everyone you’ve found who has had questions and tell them about your community. Offer them the insight they can’t find anywhere else and you’ll find growth happens more organically than you originally thought.