Jared Brown is a freelance developer, Purdue grad and co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking tool for remote teams. Unlike other time trackers, Hubstaff makes it possible for managers to verify that their team is working efficiently. It has dozens of time tracking integrations to handle payroll, accounting and invoicing all from one tool.
Recently, YEC spoke with Jared Brown about his experiences building a community for customers and stakeholders in his business, and what others interested could learn about the process. His best advice is below.
Leverage SEO Benefits
Building a strong community helps you grow your SEO power via an engaged audience. Your customers’ online interaction with your brand helps your website stay safe from changes in Google algorithms. You’re basically getting people to help you by sharing your content and linking back to it in a manner that benefits both you and the customer.
Grow an Active Community
A subscriber list is a set of passive assets you’ve collected over time, but a community is an active investment that you can grow to the point where it continually generates value with minimal effort. It’s the difference between having a pound of vegetables in a bag and a huge garden full of organic produce, teeming with life. Each one of them has their uses, but the community is a thriving and ongoing thing that will continually generate value on its own in many ways.
Stick With Your Core Demographic
Make sure to stick with your core demographic. It may be tempting to widen your exposure if your core demographic is highly skewed in one area. But new community members often prefer joining a group of people with backgrounds and viewpoints similar to their own. Especially if your brand or product is naturally used by a certain demographic group, you need to focus on where your user base is strongest instead of branching out.
Don’t Exclusively Focus on the Most Active Participants
Don’t be a slave to your most fervent members. Instead, encourage brand fanatics to become community leaders. The 20 percent of your community that’s consistently, actively participating shouldn’t dictate what you do with your product or service. For a community to grow sustainably, these 20 percent need to be encouraged to help it grow by reaching out to newer members. Instead, you can acknowledge their contributions (by giving them the recognition they crave) and encourage them to help newer members who are more likely to ask questions. That way you leverage the enthusiasm of older community members to retain newer community members.
Ask More Questions
If I had to start building my community again from scratch, I would have started off by asking more questions — leveraging customer feedback and inviting participation from the beginning instead of just putting out content, content and more content. I wish that I hadn’t thought that a focus on providing value to my customers just meant churning out lots of articles and resources. Once I had attracted them, I should have given them a reason to participate. A community becomes truly valuable when people start interacting with your content and with each other. If you want them to give back to your brand by interacting with each other on your blog or on social, then you not only have to give them something. You also have to invite them to participate, and show them how their participation impacts the community.
Check in Regularly
We’re being as open and friendly as possible with our community and then using our community’s expertise and experiences while using Hubstaff to understand our target market and improve our product. A while ago, we decided that we’d get in touch with our top 20 percent of community members and ask how they were doing without trying to pitch them anything and with zero expectations. The results were fantastic! They shared what was on their mind about Hubstaff and about their business needs in general. Now we know better what they’re looking for from us as a company and how we can serve them.
Leverage Existing Communities
Emphasize your uniqueness and always strive to be helpful — not just to your new members, but also to the preexisting communities. To attract new members from an existing community, you have to be different and better at the same time. So you need to get their attention by sharing content from the conversations that are already happening. Then you can create and share articles about how to manage issues prevalent in the existing community, which makes your new community more useful. Finally, you can emphasize your niche and invite top members from the preexisting community to participate as moderators and influencers.
Connect Communities With Each Other
Manage multiple, intersecting communities by getting members to talk to each other. Collaboration and participation are the capital of any online community. If you can get the community members talking to one another, it’ll make their interesting content even more popular and interlinked. Every community manager knows that it’s all about sharing 20 percent of your own content and 80 percent of other people’s content. Share interesting fan-created content from one group with another as part of that 80 percent and you’ll save time, encourage them to talk with one another, and make both communities stronger.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.