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[GUIDE] Launching a Community: Small is the New BIG

Blog » Customer Experience » [GUIDE] Launching a Community: Small is the New BIG

launching a community guide BLOG

Launching a community can feel like an overwhelming task, but here’s a secret: small is the new BIG.

To create a vibrant, engaged community, you don’t need to be everywhere or do everything. Instead, think small, think slow, and think connection.

Let’s dive in to our step-by-step guide for brands wanting to launch a community of customers.

Think Small

Launching a community is not the time or place for a ‘be everywhere’ strategy. Furthermore, your channel of choice is critical.

It’s okay to let go of extra channels and focus on where your audience truly engages. Trust me on this one!

Choosing Your Channel of Choice

To choose the right channel for your community, base channel selection on customer data. Rather than relying on gut feelings or marketing trends, you need to adopt a strategic approach that involves collecting and analyzing Voice of Customer (VoC) data.

Here are some steps and methods to gather this data effectively:

1. Customer Surveys

Create detailed surveys to understand where your customers spend their time online. Ask questions about their preferred social media platforms, forums, and other online spaces.

Ensure your surveys are short and focused to encourage completion.

2. Social Media Listening Tools

Utilize social media listening tools to monitor conversations about your brand, industry, and competitors.

These tools can provide insights into which platforms your audience is most active on and what topics they are discussing. Tools like Sprinklr, Sprout Social, and Agorapulse can be very helpful.

social listening step by step workbook sprout social b squared media

[Source]

Additionally, did you know we co-authored a free social listening workbook with Sprout Social? Check it out!

3. Website Analytics

Before launching your community, analyze your website traffic to see which social channels are driving the most visitors.

Google Analytics can show you where your traffic is coming from, helping you identify the most effective channels for your community.

4. Customer Feedback

Encourage direct feedback from your customers about where they prefer to engage with your brand.

This can be done through customer service interactions, feedback forms, and one-on-one interviews.

5. Competitor Analysis

Look at where your competitors are building their communities and how successful they are. This can provide insights into potential channels for your own community.

6. Pilot Programs

Run pilot programs on a few selected channels to test engagement and interaction levels.

Measure the success of these pilots by tracking metrics such as …

7. Focus Groups

Conduct focus groups with a diverse set of customers to gather qualitative data about their online behavior and preferences. This can provide deeper insights into the why behind their channel preferences.

8. Customer Journey Mapping

Create detailed customer journey maps to understand the various touchpoints your customers have with your brand. Identify where the most significant interactions occur and focus your community-building efforts on those channels.

Additionally, if you need help with this, consider our Care Squared Training, where we dive deep into mapping your customers’ digital journey.

DCJ

9. CRM and Sales Data

Leverage your CRM and sales data to identify patterns in customer behavior and preferences. This data can highlight which channels are most effective for engagement and conversion.

Putting It All Together

By using these methods to gather VoC data, you can make informed decisions about where to build your communities.

The goal is to meet customers where they already are, rather than trying to force them onto a new platform.

Think Slow

Most marketing teams dream of launching a full-blown, thriving community from day one. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t exist.

The real magic happens in the pre-launch phase. Below are three areas to focus on for pre-launch.

  1. Focus on building key relationships with known/identified brand advocates.
  2. Understand how willing they are to participate and clearly define their roles.
  3. Your pre-launch should center around your first wave of truly committed advocates, who will help build relationships with the next wave.

Remember, it’s more about being a steady presence than a brute-force attack.

Think: “We’re here to catch you when you need us,” rather than, “We’re going to tell you how to jump.”

Scripts for Your Pre-Launch

Once you’ve identified your “first wave” or founding members of your pre-launch or beta test community, connect with them and make the ask. Let them know you will be running a test before launching a community.

Tell them you want to work with them and other like-minded advocates to see if there is enough interest to start a community of your customers.

Here’s a script you can use to approach brand advocates and invite them to join the first wave of beta testers for your community:

Subject Line: Join Our Exclusive Beta Test Community!

Hi [Advocate’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well! My name is [Your Name] with [Your Brand]. We’ve noticed and truly appreciate your enthusiasm and support for our brand. Your insights and engagement have not gone unnoticed, and we value your perspective immensely.

We’re excited to share that we’re launching a new community platform designed to bring together our most passionate supporters. As someone who has consistently shown dedication to our brand, we would like to invite you to join our exclusive first wave of advocates to beta test this community.

What This Involves:

  • Early Access: Be among the first to experience and shape our new community platform.
  • Influence: Provide feedback that will directly impact the development and features of the community.
  • Connection: Connect with other like-minded brand advocates and share your experiences.
  • Exclusive Content: Access to exclusive content, updates, and potentially early releases or special offers.

What We Ask From You:

  • Participation: Engage in discussions, share your insights, and be an active member of the community.
  • Feedback: Provide honest feedback on your experience, any issues you encounter, and suggestions for improvement.
  • Promotion: Help us spread the word about our community once it officially launches.

How to Join:

If you’re interested in being part of this exciting opportunity, simply reply to this email and let us know. We will follow up with more details and an invitation to join the platform.

Thank you for your continued support and for considering this invitation. We look forward to building something incredible together with your help.

Sincerely,

[Your Full Name] [Your Position] [Your Contact Information] [Your Brand]”

This script helps you emphasize the value of their contribution and the exclusive nature of the opportunity, which can help encourage participation.

Obviously, you should personalize this template further to match your brand’s tone and the specific relationship you have with each advocate.

Think Conversation (Obviously My Favorite!)

Let’s assume your pre-launch went swimmingly. Now it’s time for the real launch.

Launching your community with content is the only place you need to think BIG. Conversations are the lifeblood of your community!

Here’s a simple strategy to get started:

  1. Put your first wave or founders on a rotating posting schedule along with your internal team.
  2. Make sure your team and your first wave are commenting on these posts to boost the potential for engagement.
  3. Internally, tag comments as they come in with sentiment, content topic types, product lines, etc.
  4. Identify additional topics based on the comment within conversations; add them to the posting schedule.
  5. Remember to circle back to “early” conversations as new members join. Have places where they can go for community rules and guidelines.

Finally, actively engage with your community and show appreciation for their contributions.

Don’t push for data or conversions too often — keep the conversation flowing, light, and organic.

Finally, when help is requested, get to it as quickly as possible with a solution. For example, like we did below in one community we manage for a client:

b squared media community care example

Think Connection

As I pointed out in my book, it’s: connection → conversation → conversion.

People join your community for a sense of belonging, to feel safe, and to feel special. For some brands, this means providing information first, exclusive deals, and the VIP treatment.

You are the VIO (Very Important Organizer) host who is all-knowing. Know where the answers are and who members should connect with based on their needs or wants.

Tag community members publicly when appropriate and share an anecdote on why this connection will meet their needs, wants, or desires. For example:

Hey Sarah, I think you’ll find Arjun’s insights on this topic really valuable because…[give context].”

Launching Your Community: Think Engagement & Growth

Beyond the core principles above, always keep an eye on engagement metrics and feedback. Continuously analyzing these data points will help you fine-tune your approach and ensure your community remains vibrant and engaging.

Here are some critical questions to guide your analysis:

1) Which Types of Posts Generate the Most Discussion?

Identify the topics, formats, and content types that spark the most conversations. Are your members more engaged with polls, Q&A sessions, product updates, user-generated content, or behind-the-scenes looks?

Use this information to create more of the content that resonates with your audience.

2. Who (Members) is Most Active?

Pinpoint your most engaged members. These individuals can become your community champions or additional moderators beyond your first wave.

Understanding who they are can help you recognize and reward their contributions, which in turn can motivate others to participate more actively.

3. What Time of Day Sees the Most Activity?

Determine when your community is most active. This will help you schedule posts and events to maximize engagement.

Consider time zones if your community is global to ensure you’re reaching as many members as possible at their peak activity times.

4. Which Platforms Drive the Most Engagement?

Hopefully, based on this post, you’ve decided to go small.

However, if your community spans multiple platforms (e.g., social media, forums, chat groups), identify which ones generate the highest levels of engagement. This can inform decisions about where to focus your efforts and resources.

5. What Are the Common Themes in Member Feedback?

Regularly review feedback from your members. Look for recurring themes, suggestions, and pain points.

This information is invaluable for making improvements and demonstrating that you’re listening to your community.

6. How Quickly Are Responses Given to Member Posts?

Monitor the response times for posts and questions from members.

Faster response times can improve member satisfaction and keep the conversation flowing.

1 1 Index 2023 Customer Care Chart 1 1 1

[Source]

7. What is the Overall Sentiment of the Community?

Gauge the general mood and sentiment of your community. Are members generally positive and supportive, or are there areas of discontent?

Sentiment analysis tools can help with this.

8. What Kind of Content Is Being Shared by Members?

Observe the types of content that members share within the community. This can give you insights into their interests and needs, and help you align your content strategy accordingly.

9. Which Engagement Tactics Are Most Effective?

Experiment with different engagement tactics such as contests, challenges, live events, and exclusive content.

Track which tactics yield the best results in terms of participation and enthusiasm.

10. Are New Members Integrating Well?

Assess how new members are adapting to the community.

  • Are they engaging and participating, or do they need more guidance and support?

Onboarding processes may need to be refined based on this feedback.

11. What Are the Retention Rates of Community Members?

Measure how long members stay active in the community after joining.

High churn rates might indicate the need for improved engagement strategies or more valuable content.

12. How Effective Are Community Guidelines and Moderation?

Evaluate how well your community guidelines are being followed and whether your moderation practices are effective. This helps maintain a positive and respectful environment for all members.

13. What Impact Does the Community Have on Brand Loyalty and Advocacy?

Track metrics that show how community involvement correlates with brand loyalty and advocacy.

  • Are active members more likely to become repeat customers or recommend your brand to others?

By continuously monitoring these metrics and asking the right questions, you can ensure your community remains dynamic, engaging, and valuable for both your members and your brand.

Final Thoughts

Launching a community is a journey, not a sprint.

Focus on fostering genuine relationships and creating a space where members feel valued and heard. Remember, small and slow wins the race.

With dedication and the right strategy, your community will grow into a powerful, engaged network.

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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
Conversations That Connect
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Category: Community, Customer Experience
Tags: brand advocates, brand community, channel of choice, community building, community building scripts, community engagement, community growth, community management, digital customer journey, launching a community,
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