6 Solid Tips On How To Build & Maintain A Valuable Community

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A lot of startups are focusing on quantity over quality when it comes to community building. Though this approach may sound reasonable at first it can really hurt your startup long-term. Here're 6 tips that will definitely bring more value to your community:

In the last two years, COMATCH received around 4000 applications from independent consultants, conducted over 2500 interviews and put a lot of thinking into community building. Which media is read by potential community members? Do referral campaigns work? In which cities shall we organise real life meetings?

We have recently seen the 2000th successful member registration. It feels like there is no master plan of how to build a valuable community. It takes time and hard work and much of the right procedure is deduced through trial and error. But we have learned some fundamentals of community management that are worth highlighting. They were crucial for us and may help your startup as well.

#1 Speak The Language Of Your Community

Every community starts with its founder. You should qualify as the number one member of your community. If you do not know how the potential members of the community think, act and feel, you will not be able to understand their needs and offer them real value-adding services. Building a community of independent consultants was much easier given my own background as one. I could understand the challenges of life as a consultant very well and could also contribute own experiences to conversations.

Obviously, every community is different and its managers must adapt accordingly, but whichever community you want to build – you have to speak their language. That way you should be capable of becoming a respected advisor and not a pure service provider.

#2 Invest In Getting To Know The Community

Startups are often in a hurry to build the largest possible community within the shortest time. However, if you really want to build a community and not just develop a database, then you should get to know your users. Invest in having conversations and building up relationships to understand their motivations and aspirations.

At COMATCH, understanding the consultant is crucial, as this is linked directly to the service we offer. If we want to match the project with the best consultant we have to know everything about them – from hard skills to soft. That is why we have invested more than 2000 hours in phone calls – that is nine weeks of talking around the clock. Of course, that is neither implementable nor necessary for every community, but again: try to get to know as many members of your community as possible; whether you are using your phone, social media or a survey. A personal relationship might also be helpful if leakage is a problem for the service you offer to your community.

#3 Leverage Your Community

There are several ways to get a community growing: social media, advertising, and PR. We, for example, received a lot of media coverage in 2016, but only after media for managers and entrepreneurs published articles about us did the consultants who applied suit our requirements. Our learning: to target the right audience, adjust the choice of media to the characteristics of your community.

However, the biggest boost to get a community growing comes when you manage to trigger your members to recommend your community. This is not only a nice snowball effect but allows you to directly target the right people, as like-minded people often know each other. When it comes to peer recommendations, we learned that they are not triggered so much by a referral campaign but much more by happy and convinced community members.

#4 Put Quality Over Quantity

Establish a set of quality criteria and stick to them. This might slow down the growth of the community, but it will be in the interest of all members of your community. And on top, it will also create a feeling of exclusivity. Very often you can also use the quality aspect as an argument for promoting your community. Obviously, this results in you having to say the occasional no – if you do, be respectful and make your reasons for rejection clear. Given that we are working in the consulting business establishing quality criteria and sticking to them is a crucial aspect of both our service offer and for the consultants in our community. I am aware that not every community is that selective and restricted. But even for more open platforms, it helps to establish rules and quality criteria, to get the best out of it.

#5 Use Both Online & Offline Channels To Engage The Community

To create a sense of community spirit among your members use different channels of communication. Building social interaction into your service is letting them know that someone listens and cares, whereas spreading news and business insights will help them to identify with your company. But to meet somebody in person can still not be replaced by anything yet.

We have created four ways of communication: first, there is a monthly newsletter (do not overwhelm them with daily news) for sharing information, introducing single members and providing special offers. Secondly, we send out a survey at least once a year to learn about consultant preferences and needs. Thirdly, we publish articles, written by a consultant of the pool, on websites and in the media to let them share their experiences. Last, but not least, we organize get-togethers in different cities to link our members both with each other and with us and to show our personal side.

#6 All Of This Only Works If The Members Get What They Are Looking For In The Community

Every community has its purpose and if the members are not getting what they came for, they will show less and less interest until they disappear or become members, who exist only on paper. It must be a core task for every community-related startup to really provide the members what they are looking for. In our case: exciting project proposals on a frequent basis.

 

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