Mary Napoleon

The right seed users will have a disproportionate impact on the success of your community. They will create the initial content users see, which does a lot to frame the culture and expectations of the community going forward.

If the community is to become a welcoming, friendly place, these seed users will need to play instrumental roles in making this happen. To ensure that your first users stick around, we’ve developed some best practices for building a community from the ground up.

Identify seed users.

It’s important to have a small group of members on board to be active in the early weeks of the community launching. Start with your in-house list. These can be internal team members, brand advocates that are active on your social channels, or subject matter experts that can attract your core audience. Send personal invitations to these early users asking them to be active in the first several weeks of the community launching. Clearly outline the responsibilities for this small group: (1) Responding quickly to any new members who ask questions, (2) welcoming new users to the community, (3) creating and contributing thoughtful content during slow times. Don’t be afraid to ask them to post a relevant link or leave a comment.

Lead by example.

Most users don’t want to be the first to submit a question or comment. Providing examples of the right types of content will encourage your community members to follow suit.

  • Make sure internal team members and community managers have a good idea of what types of links to share and questions to ask.
  • Queue up questions in a spreadsheet so that seed users can drip these questions into the community throughout the day.
  • Set a daily goal for number of posts to drip into the community.
  • Ask seed users to use hashtags in posts so that other users will follow suit.

Start recruiting early.

Avoid the “if you build it, they will come” approach by recruiting your earliest users before your community is ready to launch. Driving your audience to a landing page sign up is a great way to capture people interested in being notified when your community launches. Clearly state the value of joining the community up-front.

Don’t stop at your existing customer list. Community management expert Rosemary O’Neil recommends using tools like SocialBro, Followerwonk, or SimplyMeasured to find people who might fit your member profile.

“Use the ripple effect for member recruitment…your social network followers’ followers may be interested in your subject area.”

Cross-promote on other channels.

Once you’ve launched your community app, leverage existing platforms where you know your audience is already hanging out. These can be other social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn as well as forum sites like Reddit and Quora. Send personalized emails inviting loyal customers to be founding members of your branded community.

Opt for quality over quantity.

It may be tempting to measure the success of your brand community by how often users visit your app or by how many members you have, but it’s important to focus on the quality of the actions community members are taking.

  • Do they interact with other community members?
  • Are questions answered in a timely manner?
  • How many comments, on average, does a post receive?

Users are much more likely to return when they know they’ll receive great feedback and answers from the community.

The early days of a new community are critical. Seeding your network with great contributors will help kickstart your community.

For more great tips on seeding your community, check out our SlideShare presentation.