Last week, I wrote about the practice of creating fake accounts to seed a community and why you should never lie to your community.
But, “getting a community going is hard,” some might say. “You need activity to entice people to join,” they might also say. “If I can’t lie to my potential members, what can I do?”
In short? Actual work.
It isn’t easy to get a community going. That’s true. It’s also true that one of the factors that determines the attractiveness of your community is the activity that people see when they first visit it. There is nothing wrong with seeding, as long as you treat your members with respect. Let’s talk strategy.
Just because you shouldn’t post as 200 different people doesn’t mean that you can’t post as one person – you. Participating has numerous benefits and activity is just one of them. Some people are concerned about dominating the conversation and that’s fine. But, you can participate without dominating.
Get Your Team Involved
If you are starting a community for a company, members will usually like to see people from the company in the community. Ask them to get involved and to participate. Try to guide them in what they should share. Give them examples and direction, if they need it.
Friends and Family
Even if you don’t have a team, you do have friends and family, right? They can help. If possible, you want to identify the people that have the strongest interest in the subject matter of your community. If you are starting a video game forum and your sister loves video games, that is a good match. If your brother hates them, then that isn’t a good match.
These people know you and will be willing to help you. It’s not the hard sell you would have to make to a total stranger.
Contact People That Could Add Value
No matter the space that you are looking to cover, there are likely people that you know of that could add tremendous value to your community. Maybe they are not a friend or a person that you know well, but someone who has knowledge that you respect. It can’t hurt to ask them, as long as it is done in a very low pressure, non-spammy way.
As Derek Powazek says, don’t invite just major influencers. Powazek cites Robert Scoble, a well known technology enthusiast. But, for every Robert, there are a thousand passionate technology people who don’t have his massive audience or the droves of people demanding a chunk of his time. They might be more interested in an invitation to your community. Those invitations should be made privately and respectfully.
Use Your Current Outlets to Recruit People
Another way to find people is to look at the current areas where you engage and have permission to post a message advertising your new community. This could be your blog, your Facebook page, Google+ profile, your email newsletter or something like that. Tell people what you are doing and ask if anyone is interested in joining in. It should not be a shared space, like an online forum, but a space where people have to opt-in to you. Spamming other communities makes you a poacher and poachers are the bad guys.
Another great point Powazek makes is that you should curate your early members. That’s a great way to sum up the proper way to go about seeding. Curation. Invite the right people, tell them what you are doing, why you are inviting them and how much their participation would mean to you.
When you do get those first few people, appreciate them, encourage them and spotlight them. Online communities by 1 person at a time. Never forget that.
It’s not easy to start a community and not everyone will be successful. But, through the methods we’ve discussed today, you can greatly improve your chances of getting your community off the ground in a way that won’t come back to bite you later.