Managing a community includes a lot of things, from writing articles to promoting a new feature or release, to make all members comfortable and safe. But what happens when we are trying to improve our social presence? Are we going in the right direction? Are we reaching the intended audience? Are we using all the resources we can?
First, you have to start from the basics. Using the tools and knowledge you have, don’t spam your members with channels you don’t control or you never used before. And don’t pretend to be someone you are not.
Social Presence of My Community
Back in the days, communities were mainly relying on their sites, forums or offline events/meetings. Nowadays, we have a lot of places where we can promote and evangelize about our community. But having several options also implies that sometimes you will have to choose where to promote and publish your content.
Publishing the right message in the right platform will boost your message and increase the chances that more people will want to attend your event, read your news, and ultimately enrich you social presence.
The basic issue here is to find where your community is “living”. If they are social enough to follow you on a platform, or if they are “old school” and they prefer a forum. Also, something that you have to keep in mind is your expertise level. If your community is using a specific social network, you should focus on increasing your expertise on that channel instead of creating a new one and force all your members to move there.
It is not worthy to create a TikTok account if your members are primarily on Facebook (and vice-versa). Each community is different and will use different channels, platforms or tools. For every platform there are different approaches, and ways to use it (and some tricks as well). And each channel has its own limitations.
It’s up to you to understand which channels suits the best for your community, and find the best way to approach your members.
Different Tools, Different Approaches
Having an online and social presence means having a big responsibility. Maintaining an account in any platform requires persistence, and a plan. If your community is on more than one platform, you will need coordination as well, and a communication plan to send the same message across different channels.
If you are promoting one thing on Twitter, and nothing on the other networks you manage, people will think that those channels are abandoned or that you don’t have interest in maintaining them, and you will lose the potential to reach new members.
Is your community doing podcasts? Perhaps, you should take a look at where you should be publishing your episodes. You can find a list of places where you can publish it at this link.
Podcasting is back in town (if it ever left), and thanks to the actual technology, audio quality is higher than ever.
Is your community more on the video side? Fine. But the world doesn’t end on YouTube, and perhaps you should take a look to this article that gives you some insights depending on the target.
Videos are the best way to get viral, but also a great way to showcase what your community is doing.
One common recommendation regardless of the channel/s you’ll use, choose in advance the tone you want to give to your community. As a general rule, do not pretend to be someone else, don’t be pretentious or try to be funny either if you want to be taken seriously.
People will initially choose your community according to the subject, competence, visibility and activities, but will eventually decide to stay with you if they like you. Pretending to be someone else for the sake of your community can become the hardest challenge of all, and one that doesn’t reward you in the long run. It’s just not worth it, and it’s not even fair.
Research Your Target
Even if it sounds too “marketish”, you need to understand how is your community, and have a profile of the ideal member (someone interested in joining the community).
In Marketing this is called creating a Persona, or profiling a Persona. Of course, knowing the subject of your community as you might do also allows you to know the typical user profile. Yet, it is strongly advisable that you conduct some interviews with the early members of your community.
Ask them about their interests, needs, knowledge, and even some personal background (incomes, studies, hobbies). Once you have the general profile of the existing members, you have to review if it corresponds to the profile you are looking for. This is particularly relevant when you are going to acquire new members.
By building Personas, you will also understand where they communicate, or where they look for information or resources. You will also comprehend what kind of messages will be more effective and are likely to have more impact on your members.
If you think that this is just marketing and not the kind of community you have in mind, you are on the wrong path. Without studying and with no strategy, you’ll soon find out that you are just blowing in the wind. No one will notice your community.
Think on this the old shops in town, where neon signs and the goods displayed in the windows are the only ways to attract customers:
- if your message is effective, it will attract more views;
- if it’s clear, people will get immediately the scope of your mission and what the community is about;
- if your message is impactful, it will stick in your potential audience.
Set Your Goals and Metrics
Having a clear message doesn’t come easy, of course. Once you profile your target and understand where they are communicating the most, or where they are seeking information, you will have to establish some goals or objectives, and measure how well you are performing based on that.
Setting goals is not always easy when it comes to communities. Mainly because we always tend to be over-optimistic or think that we can grow in a way that even the most successful startups aren’t capable of doing. Well, you have to be realistic.
If when starting a community you think of reaching a thousand members in 6 months, when you have only 10 members to start with, is naive (to say the least).
Goals need to be established within a period of time, and have to be as realistic as possible. Otherwise, you are just outlining an ideal situation. To really be able to keep people engaged and motivated, you have to set goals that can be easily measured, over a certain period of time, and with specific metrics.
For example, a good goal would be: “To increase the members of my community by 10% in 6 months”.
This way you start by having a precise, measurable number (in this case, a percentage) with a clear objective, and a deadline. Safer that, it’s time to work on the real tough part: measuring success.
Keep in mind that sharing your goal with the rest of your community will help both you and the members to understand where you are heading to, and what success truly means to their community. Ultimately, this is crucial to rise your community social presence.
Metrics will help you measure your goal. Whether it be visitors, new members or clicks, it’s up to you to determine. Regardless of that, the main objective should always be one: the level of engagement on Discourse forum, or how many Pull Request/Comments/etc. a Repo has after you promote something over Social networks.
Measuring Impact and Optimizing Results
Nowadays, it is easy to have the tools to measure your community’s impact and see how well it is your performing. Almost all platforms offer a way to measure impact, some of them are easy to understand, others require you to cross -heck with different metrics to see the whole picture.
Mainly, the metrics you have to focus on in social media are how many followers, visitors, and clicks you are getting, and the level of awareness.
Followers could be new members in your Facebook group, fans of a page, followers in Github, or Twitter. Visitors can be easily tracked with tools like Google Analytics and clicks can be tracked through bit.ly or other shorteners.
Awareness is how well your community is known amongst the web. This can be reached through paid campaigns (when you buy more visibility in a Social network), Organic (when you only publish the content and people see it in Google) and Earned (when people positively talk about your community with other people).
While tracking all these metrics manually can be exhausting and time consuming, you can try to automate some reports. Google Analytics offers some options to create reports after a certain period of time. Hootsuite has tools to help you keep a record of what you want to track. Meetup has an open API with which you can create your own reports. ElasticSearch is an OpenSource tool that helps you measure activity – and if you are curious about how it can be implemented, I strongly recommend taking a look at cauldron.io, that helps you analyse a project over several sources.
There’s no magic solution to increase your social presence and earn more visitors/followers/fans or the name you want to give to them. Managing a community involves a lot of work, nurturing and making it grow is complicated and requires even more work and time.
members. Being active in one Social network or another doesn’t give you more credibility. You have to create valuable contents, and be as honest as possible.
Here’s a sum-up for you to consult anytime you need to.
- Build a trustful relationship between your community and its members.
- Keep your communication direct and clear with your members to build trust.
- Be viral, be honest and be yourself.
- Talk to the people you want to reach right where they are.
- Offer them a place where they can share the same passion about technology, coding language or project.
- Don’t forget to take care of your members, and make them feel safe and secure.
This is the best, and most honest way to build a community. Some may take more time to grow than others, but all rely on one thing more than anything else: connections. You must create good connections with your members if you want to succeed. Then by delivering quality contents and projects you will be able to bring in high-profile members who, in turn, will make it easier to promote your community and make it more attractive.