How have seasoned community builders launched and grown their communities?
This was what I sought to answer when creating a talk for Social Media Strategy Summit this month, “How to Build and Run a Successful B2B Community.”
While I shared some of my own experience, I mostly deferred to the pros – namely 18 experts who shared advice with me.
You can find the full talk on YouTube, where I got a little punchy and started veering into a Larry David impersonation. The slides on SlideShare are more straightforward, and they include many more quotes, plus links to various resources that could be helpful as you build and engage with your communities.
Here are excerpts of this invaluable advice:
Starting the Community
Perry Hewitt, Colechurch Consulting: “When starting your community, invite customers and prospects intentionally. Start with people you know to be thoughtful problem solvers, and provide incentives (free product training sessions, exclusive offline events) for them to join.”
Alex Taub, Upstream: “Start with friends, and then if they like it, ask them to recommend one person and on and on, and quickly you’ll have a few degrees removed.”
Danielle Letayf, Badassery: “Be very specific in what you’re offering in the community, but at the same time transparent about the fact that the community is in its early stages. The members will be more forgiving and flexible, and the best community is in fact one that is built with members, not for them. They’ll be excited to take on the challenge and be part of the early stages of your community!”
Charlene Li, Quantum Networks: “Use profiles and introductions to create context. Encourage new members to add something about why they are here in the community when introducing themselves.”
David Markovich, Online Geniuses: “Go to relevant communities that are on dead platforms. It’s a great time to convert people from forums to Slack communities now.”
Rob Beeler, AdOpsOnline: “Clever doesn’t always work. I love a play on words and watched as my confused community members not understand a feature I was providing them. It’s sometimes better to call a job board a job board and not something clever.”
Saul Colt, The Idea Integration Company, “Give [the first members] the tools to lay the foundation of your community and have them bring their like-minded friends, so when you start opening this up, you have a real base of passionate people who will welcome the new people as they come in.”
Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide: “Make sure that the goals of the community focus on the needs of the community and/or higher social needs. To this end, it helps if a brand is purpose-driven. Getting the early members requires a lot of time and outreach. Don’t expect this to be an easy-to-accomplish and quick-hit project.”
Gesche Haas, Dreamers//Doers: ”The most successful communities are those who are most intimately familiar with their community members’ pain points, who most directly address these pain points while fostering a sense of unity and connection around the shared pain.”
Lindsay Kaplan, Chief: “Many people hear B2B and think corporate. But people are seeing your ads, people are reading your content, and people are making the decision to work with you. It’s never not personal.”
Loren Appin, Fishbowl: “The most successful B2B communities on Fishbowl allow for social interactions between members beyond transactional business opportunities. Do not treat a B2B community as only a place where members come for economic benefit. Instead, you should allow discussion around topics that, while still professionally relevant, allow members to build relationships with each other. For this reason, the early members need to seed the community with the right kind of content, which might even include icebreakers.”
David Homan, Orchestrated Connecting: “One of the rules of the Orchestrated Connecting Community, comprised of the most super-connected people on the planet, focuses on always following up with gratitude after you receive help. Gratitude without an additional ask subtext reinforces your role in this person’s life and creates a long-lasting imprint.”
A. Walton Smith, We Are Rosie: “When it comes to the first members, my tip is to start with solving their problem. Become their problem solver and they’ll begin to come.”
Rosie Yakob, School of Stolen Genius: ”Light lots of fires and see what catches. Explore the expanse of your creativity, start with breadth. Once you see what’s resonating within your industry, or culture at large, you’ll have an idea of where to focus. Then, you’ll want to turn the breadth into depth.”
Growing the Audience
Jason Berkowitz, Break the Web: ”Make people an authority in the group. They’ll be the ones selling your brand.”
Geoff Bruskin, White Tiger Connections: “Find 2-3 channels for farming new community members. Shapr is great for this. Lead with the value-add: your value proposition should be clear, concise, and center-field in your outreach message. Be consistent: spend at least 10 minutes every day reaching out to a certain number of people. Over time, your community will grow.”
Michael Cole, Everflow: “Genuinely great customer success leads to evangelical customers that authentically want to promote your brand. That type of evangelism is the perfect tent poles for building a lasting community of engaged users that interact with each other.”
Christine Gritmon, Christine Gritmon, Inc: ”Focus on the places (groups, conversations, people, etc.) where you can bring the most value, rather than figuring out which ones are most likely to lead to money directly for you. Building relationships and a reputation will do you more good than focusing on direct transactional return, because that is how you earn referrals from people who are trusted by others, which will do far more for your business’s longevity than going for the quick, easy wins.”
There you go: 18 experts sourced from one guy who’s trying to learn from the best. Which resonate the most with you?