Mary Napoleon

Meredith Overmeyer is the Director of Marketing for SmartMom, a mobile app community that makes it easy to get great advice from other parents. Under her direction, SmartMom launched one of the fastest growing mobile communities for moms in the United States, growing to 120,000 users in twelve months.

SmartMom uses the SocialQnect platform to power its community of moms, where over 500,000 questions are viewed each month and the average question gets answered 5 times within an hour.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Meredith to get her take on building an online community from the ground up.

SQ: Why did you decide to build the SmartMom app on the Socialqnect platform?

MO: We knew a website app where users are forced to wait for pages to load wasn’t going to be enough to keep our members coming back to the community. By going with a native solution, we ensured that the experience was snappy and responsive–perfect for modern moms and dads juggling kids and family life.

With Socialqnect, our users get instantly notified when someone answers their questions. And being on users’ home screens means they’re much more likely to log in every day. I don’t see how we could have built the kind of thriving community we have if we didn’t have the power of the SocialQnect platform.

SQ: For other brands just starting out, where would you tell them to start with building an online community?

MO: It’s important to be specific about the value your community can bring. What problem does your community solve for your users? In our case, we knew we wanted to reach first-time moms. While there were already other web communities dedicated to moms, we felt that first-time moms could benefit from the advice of moms who had been there before.

“Be specific about the value your community can bring. What problem does your community solve for your users?”

For brands just starting out, it’s also critical to be prepared in the earliest days of building an online community. This is where Socialqnect was a great partner for us. They helped us get a plan together for seeding our network early on.

We created a list of topics and questions that we consistently pushed out during the first few weeks SmartMom was live. Every time a user logged in there was something new they hadn’t seen before. It gave the impression that our community was vibrant and active even though we were just starting out.

If new users have a good experience in your community app right off the bat, it’s likely they’ll stick around for the long term and become power users as they derive more value from the experience. Those first few days are critical for getting new members hooked.

SQ: How have you kept the community healthy over the long term?

MO: I recommend having a community moderation strategy in place. At SmartMom we do this by holding a certain number of new users’ posts in moderation. While it isn’t realistic for us to moderate every piece of content, moderating new users means that we’re able to weed out negative community members that are just there to create controversy.

We also proactively reach out to our most active users and thank them for their thoughtful contributions. This is important for two reasons –power users feel appreciated and want to stay engaged with the community, plus we ensure that there are users modeling the behavior we want users to adopt in the community.

It’s a delicate balance–you should let your community members drive the conversations, but it’s also critical to shape the culture and behaviors you want the community to exhibit over time.

SQ: How did you keep users engaged in the early days of SmartMom?

MO: It’s important to set up a small team that can proactively welcome new members when you’re building an online community. These can be seed users, community managers or members of your existing team.

They should be responsible for three things: posting new content in the community, welcoming new members and responding quickly to questions. It’s important new users experience your community and all it has to offer as quickly as possible.

As our community has grown, contests have also been an effective mechanism for keeping members engaged because it’s another incentive to participate in the community. We reward users with more contest entries if they comment or give great advice to other moms each month.

SQ: What role do marketing channels play in fostering the SmartMom community?

MO: Community building requires reaching out to your core audience in the places they’re already hanging out. We launched a content apparatus in conjunction with the SmartMom app because we knew first-time moms were already searching online for tips and advice on caring for their little ones.

“Community building requires reaching out to your core audience in the places they’re already hanging out.”

By providing high-quality “mom content,” our target audience was able to find the app faster through organic search and find answers to their questions. This initiative was critical to helping us grow our app audience over time.

Push notifications and e-mail have also been effective channels for engaging users and keeping them coming back into the app.

Featuring a round up of featured questions or “quotes of the day” from our community helps bring our users back into the app. It also ensures that newer users get a preview of the types of advice in the app even if they hadn’t participated in any conversations yet.

Key takeaways on building a community from SmartMom Marketing Director Meredith Overmeyer:

  • Hosting your community on a native app ensures your members have a seamless experience on their mobile devices and can access the community easily.
  • Set up a small team of seed users that can be active in the early days of your community by posting comments and content regularly.
  • Understand the unique value your community is driving up front. What problem does it solve for customers or members?
  • Community moderation isn’t just about filtering out the negative comments. It includes proactively thanking members that contribute quality content.
  • Identify marketing channels where you know your core audience is already hanging out to drive new signups to your online community.

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