Last year, more than 1.8 billion people used Facebook Groups every month. There are over 70 million admins and moderators running active Groups, and as I am writing this, a new Facebook Group or other community is born somewhere on the Internet. And that follows: Since the stone age, humans have had an innate need to gather.
In this digital era, however, we’re not just local tribes, but living in a global village. With such expanded boundaries, we have the opportunity to connect, interact and establish relationships with people who share common tastes and objectives like never before.
Being a “software as a service” (SaaS) product founder, I discovered that it was vital to build a community platform around a product — to keep it alive and engaging with the help of a multitude of voices. Such a platform (its constituents often referred to as “super users”) helps with multiple facets of a business, from conducting surveys to finding ways to evolve a product that meets the dynamic needs of customers. And in time, users hopefully start advocating on behalf of a product and/or brand.
In many ways, this type of community has become the new “moat” for B2B SaaS businesses — at once protecting and supplying it — but how does a business create one?
1. Create a core starter group
Identify 10 users who believe in your idea and/or share a common goal, and kickstart your community with them. The advantage of a small group is that you can be uniquely personal within its ranks, so try inviting them for an individual discussion over a coffee or otherwise connect (perhaps they would be interested in attending an event with other people interested in the topic?) and ask questions. This engagement hopefully amplify their investment in the community’s (and the company’s) success.
2. Encourage participation
Now that you have 10 members who trust you, it’s time to build that same quality among them. Since in-person interactions foster trust faster online ones, host a brunch or dinner and see how things shape up. And if you can’t do it in person, do it online, but the more lively and interactive the session is, the better. Eventually, their trust in you will translate to trust in each other.
3. Reward and value members
Rewarding users doesn’t have to be materialistic. It can be as simple as taking time out to talk to them and get their opinions/feedback. This gesture let the community understand that you value their opinions. It also increases the chance of users coming back again and keeps the community alive and thriving.
With a strong foundation in place, invite new members, and allow others to participate by issuing their own invitations. At this stage of your community-building journey, such an act won’t be seen as asking for a favor: instead, you’re encouraging them to take an opportunity and give someone else value by inviting them.
Of course, this process is often not easy. At times, it may feel like the community isn’t going anywhere, and that nothing is working. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to fight the awkward silences, or when no one shows up, or when posts go unnoticed. You just have to collect yourself and be consistent in what you do. The payoff is worth it!