Growing communities is starting to become the main focus of influencers, brands and businesses alike. After all, building a community often means establishing a more loyal audience, selling more products, and building your network.
But once you’ve actually begun a community on your platform of choice…how do you grow it?
This ultimate guide will walk you through step-by-step how to start marketing your community online.
Grow your community today with Nas.io.
This article will cover:
- What a community is
- How to market and grow your community in 18 steps
- The “don’ts” of marketing your community
- Marketing a free community vs. a paid community
- Must-have tools for marketing your community
What is a “community”?
Community is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. But what does it actually mean to “build a community”? Many people believe their social media followers that are liking, commenting and conversing in the comments section are considered their “community”.
But really: this is their audience
An audience is where the power dynamic is mainly one to many, while a community is many to many.
A community is where people are actively engaged in the brand: where they’re starting conversations, posting their own content, creating, sharing and collaborating together to work towards a common goal. Having a community means you have a loyal group of people where you all support each other in future endeavors.
Building one around your brand or area of interest is a great way to not only celebrate your passion, stay motivated, get involved, build your network and grow your audience – but it’s also a great way of diversifying your revenue streams in the future.
How to market and grow your community online
- Establish your audience
- Use social media
- Schedule content in advance
- Create viral content (carefully)
- Spotlight your community members
- Give out free value
- Initiate engagement
- Start a newsletter
- Share behind the scenes content
- Build word of mouth through a community hashtag
- Tell people what you can do for them, not the other way around
- Highlight your community’s unique qualities
- Join communities
- Hold promotions
- Collaborate with others in the space
- Recruit the right admins
- Use analytics
- Give back
1. Establish your audience
The first part of marketing your community is understanding who you’re marketing to. Narrow down your focus to a smaller subset of people that are active in the space. This is called “niching down”, where you find a particular group of people you want to target.
You have to know your audience better than they know themselves. So, begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- How old is my audience?
- What type of industries are they working in?
- What is their financial situation?
- What is their mindset in this day and age?
- What are the main genders and personality types in this space?
- Where does this audience spend the most of their time?
- What are their main interests?
- What are their future goals?
- What type of language do they use? How do they communicate?
- What are their main pain points and objections that my community can help them solve?
Try creating what marketers call “user personas”. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it’s basically fake people based on real ones that you are aiming to target with your community.
Your persona should include as much detail as possible. Here’s an example:
Make sure to create a few different personas to really embody the range of people you might be targeting. In order to discover these details, either go out and talk to people, or join other communities. Browse through open Facebook groups or Reddit communities to see the mindsets of your target audience, identify common topics, and find pain points they are experiencing.
Doing this research might seem tedious at first, but when you start creating marketing content it’s going to make it much more targeted, empathetic, and it’s going to connect with them far more than if you were going in blind.
It’s also important to highlight and make clear not only who your target audience is, but also who your target audience is NOT. Feel free to even create content and marketing campaigns that clearly compare these two audiences.
Tell the people directly if this community is for them, or if it’s not. It will make your actual target audience instantly feel more connected, and will weed out the people who wouldn’t find it valuable.
2. Use social media
Using social media to market your online community is a no-brainer – but there are some best practices to keep in mind before you start spreading the word about your community.
- Create a separate, branded account – For whatever community you are hosting, no matter how big or small, create a separate profile to market it and grow your following. Use this as the place for you to promote your community, get other people interested, and get your current members interacting with your account.
- Pick the right platform – Especially if you are working by yourself, don’t try to market your community on every social media platform. Pick the ones where your audience members are the most active, and are most likely to engage with your content (you can get this information from your audience analysis that you did in step 1).
- Set your profile up for success – Make sure to name your profile according to your community. Use the same branding including tone of voice, profile logo, banner image (if applicable), fonts, language, etcetera. Link to your community in your bio, and keep a short and sweet description that touches on main keywords in your field. If your platform allows, be sure to also optimize your profile by turning it into a business account.
3. Schedule content in advance
Having a steady stream of content is key to marketing your community – and to do this, you’ll want to pre-make and schedule your content. If you don’t, it will most likely fall on the backburner to all of the other things you have to do within your community.
This is where social media scheduling tools come in handy. After all, content creation on social media is extremely important – because you’re giving out free value, building expertise, and giving people a taste of what they could experience on your community platform.
Consider investing in a platform like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Buffer – there are plenty out there! And if you have the budget, hiring a freelance social media manager could also help you manage your socials and your community without getting overwhelmed.
4. Create virality (carefully)
Hop on trends like IG reel audio, TikTok challenges or whatever is going viral or performing well on your particular social media platform. Going viral means you get as many people to see your content as possible. And while this helps give you a boost and gets your brand out there – it’s important to do it mindfully.
Be sure that your viral content stays true to your message. Do not prioritize virality over the authenticity of your mission. Especially when building a community, you want to stay true to your niche, your audience and your voice. Otherwise, people aren’t going to connect with you enough to join or stay in your community.
5. Spotlight your community members
A key part of marketing your online community is spotlighting the members in your community. Not only does it show people what they’re missing out on, but it gives people insight into how this community is helping the members. It’s not just for brand awareness and selling products.
If you spotlight people that perfectly embody your target audience, it’s going to be easier for your potential members to see themselves in your community.
Get in the habit of sharing “member of the month” or another trend that helps promote your community mission, and showcases the impact it’s having on people’s lives.
Not only this, but if someone joins your community who is well-known or respected in the industry, be sure to highlight them as well. And don’t forget to spotlight your overall community achievements as well!
Highlight any big member milestones like when you hit your first 1000, 10k etc. This is social proof that your community is working. Oftentimes, having this is reassuring and motivating for people to get involved. After all, if you have 10k people in your community…it must be worth something!
6. Give out free value
Free value is key in incentivizing people to invest in you. Because really…who would invest in you if you’re not willing to invest in them?
When your audience sees that you’re providing free value in the form of tips, videos, inspiration, printables etc. – it’s much more likely that they will want to support you in return. The key: making it something they would really use.
Here are some ideas for free value you could provide:
- Free events such as panel discussions, workshops etc.
- Fillable/printable pdfs designed by you
- Ebooks or guides with valuable information you’ve learned
- Tips and tricks through graphics or videos
- Discounts to products
- Free trial to your community
7. Initiate engagement
When posting on social media or marketing your community, encourage people to engage with you. Whether it be to like a post, comment their opinion on a video, enter a giveaway, participate in a poll or a contest – engagement is key in driving interest.
Studies show that when customers feel connected to a brand, they are 57% more likely to invest in it. When you ask their opinions or for them to engage with you on social media, they instantly feel important, valued, and more connected to you.
8. Start a newsletter
Email marketing might seem like an ancient tactic – but it’s still extremely relevant! In fact, studies indicate that 50% of customers buy from marketing emails at least once a month.
Building a nurturing email list to grow a sense of community and connection between you and your readers is a great way to build possible future members.
So, give some time to writing a weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly newsletter to provide value directly to your audience, and to show your unique perspectives and beliefs. This way of marketing is much more intimate because your name actually shows up in their personal inboxes, not just on their public Instagram feed.
9. Share behind the scenes content
Behind the scenes content gives people a sneak peak into what happens inside the walls of your community. When you show your processes, experiences, struggles and bloopers that happen in your day to day life hosting a community, it makes you much more personable.
Dedicate part of your content schedule to sharing regular BTS content, and be sure to share member experiences as well. Share your content scheduling process, how one of your events went (and especially if it didn’t go to plan), your process of building the community, meetups in person – the possibilities really are endless.
You’ll never run out of content if you capture moments that are real and authentic.
10. Build word of mouth through a community hashtag
Word of mouth is the most effective way to get people to invest their time or money into something. Especially if people don’t know about you or trust your brand yet, hearing about it from a friend almost makes them feel instantly more connected and trusting.
Think about it – you are looking for a type of makeup or product and your best friend recommends one they like. You’re likely going to try that product over a recommendation from someone’s personal blog online.
Test out this tactic by creating a community hashtag, and encouraging your audience members to use it and post about their experiences with your community. Not only does it help build their personal brand, but it builds credibility for yours as well.
And don’t forget to share the hashtag on your personal profile and post regularly about your experiences there as well. Leverage your audience too – this is probably the easiest place to start after all. People who know you and already trust you are going to be your #1 supporters, and your #1 advocates!
11. Tell people what you can do for them, not the other way around.
Effective marketing comes down to how much you talk about yourself, versus how much you talk about the audience member.
While sharing personal stories is great, make sure the majority of your messaging is not what people can do for you, or the ways the product is great (ie. this is the best community out there), but what you or your product will do for them (ie. Sign up for this community, and find a network that will support you for life).
Highlighting the benefits for the user is far more effective than simply promoting the product you’ve created. Highlight the main features, of course, but highlight the outcomes those features will provide.
Using this as well as highlighting people’s struggles, pain points and empathizing is really effective in getting people to hear you out and give your community a try. In short: focus on empathizing and caring about the customer, not promoting and talking about the product.
12. Highlight your community’s unique qualities
When you are promoting your community product, be sure to focus on what makes this community different and unique, compared to other competitors on the market.
If you’re constantly talking about how you surpass other brands, it can definitely come off as conceited and self-centered.
But if you simply take an angle that highlight the uniqueness of your community and what outcomes you give that other products don’t – you’ll be sure to naturally stand out. If you don’t know what’s unique about your community, look deeper. If there’s nothing that differentiates you – it might be time to relook and restructure your product.
13. Join communities
There’s a community for everything out there. Find marketing communities and ask your fellow marketers what tactics or tips they’d recommend as a beginner-marketer. You could even use these spaces to spread the word about your community product and ask for feedback (as long as the community allows).
14. Hold promotions
Having discounted access for a year or month to your paid community experience – or products if your community is free – can significantly help boost your engagement in sales. After all, who doesn’t love a good discount?!
Hosting temporary discounts or promotions also shows your appreciation for those who might be tight on cash, and creates a bit more accessibility to a wider audience.
15. Collaborate with others in the space
A great way to market your community is by collaborating with other creators in the space. Find people who have a following of their own, and help promote each other. You see YouTubers do this all the time. It engages the audience and is a great way to create a partnership – and make their followers become your followers, and vice versa.
Even if you don’t have much of a following to begin with, a lot of creators will do it anyway if they enjoy your mission and brand. After all, they were in your shoes not too long ago! So do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out. The worst they can say is no, or refer you to someone else who might be willing.
16. Recruit the right admins
Having engaged and active admins on your community management team is crucial to community success.
Your management team should also be your best advocate. Encourage them to spread the word about your community, and make sure they are creating an unforgettable experience for your members. The better the people are managed and feel valued within the community, the more likely they are to recommend to other people.
Where do you find good admins? Pull them from your pool of existing, most-active members!
17. Use analytics
Just as it’s important to ensure your community is well-managed and morale is high in general, it’s just as important to look at the data showing how your new members are doing once they enter your community. This is where analytics come in.
Check to see not only how your existing community members are engaging with your community, but check in particular how long people usually stay once they sign up. Do they drop off immediately? If this is the case, maybe it’s your welcome screen or the organization of your community.
Are your ads getting no views or engagement? Then maybe it’s your social strategy.
Sometimes, it’s not the marketing that is the problem, but the experience of the product itself.
This is why marketing analytics and community platform analytics are so important to keep up with.
Be sure to check all of these things regularly to see how your efforts are doing on both ends. Download reports and do monthly or even weekly reviews. Data makes all the difference – you’ll see.
18. Give back
The whole point of starting a community is not to take or spotlight yourself – it’s to give and spotlight others.
Even when someone leaves a comment on your social media post or joins your community – make sure they feel welcomed and appreciated. Take that extra minute to like that comment, respond to that DM once in a while.
Not only is it part of being a kind and an ethical brand, but making sure you’re returning the favor from the very beginning is the only way people will join and remain in your community, contribute to it, and generate more members in the future.
So remember: always give back. No matter how small – because your community is the only reason you’re here!
“Too often we forget that there is an amazing person behind every little avatar … a person who may be experiencing joy, pain, or frustration. They are giving you a gift of their precious time by leaving a blog comment. Isn’t that awesome? Tear down the digital divide and treat each commenter as a special person. Acknowledge the amazing gift they have provided to you through their comment, and look for opportunities to help them, support them, and engage with them at every opportunity. That’s what builds loyalty and trust. That’s what builds a community.” Mark Schaefer, Founder of Businesses Grow
The don’ts of marketing your community
While we talked about the “do’s” in terms of marketing your community, let’s go over some key “don’ts” and ethical things to keep in mind before you get out there and start posting content:
- Don’t create fear
Creating fear in marketing isn’t the way to build a solid and loyal community. We often use FOMO as a way to generate leads in marketing, but be sure to only use it if your members are actually missing out on something that would suit them – like a limited discount, or a community that could help them publish that first book they’ve been working on.
The key to this is making sure you are targeting the right people, and you are doing it with the intention to truly help your community, not just generating income. In short: don’t make people feel inferior for not joining your community.
- Don’t slip in people’s DMs or Inboxes without permission
This is a big no-no! Even if you have a free product to sell or you know this person is a perfect match for your community – do not send them a DM or an email without permission. This method of marketing is invasive and almost always turns potential customers away. This is called “spamming”.
- Don’t pay for followers and engagement
Many people on social media will pay for likes or bots to interact with their content so they get likes and followers in order to cheat the algorithm. But this isn’t the type of foundation you want to build a community on.
It often makes creators look inauthentic, desperate, and quite literally – it’s a waste of money! Focus on creating value and generating the right people, rather than getting as many views and likes as you possibly can.
Marketing a Free community vs. a Paid community
There’s a difference between marketing a community that’s free to join, and one that costs a membership fee.
If you are running a paid community, you might have a bit harder of a time recruiting members at the beginning since you have very little credibility to start with. This means you’re going to have to prove yourself a bit more to your potential customers. Highlight the reasons that this subscription is worth it, hold promotions, and make sure to show future members that they will get a return on their investment if they join.
Not only this: but you’ll probably have to provide a lot of free value first before expecting any sales from your followers. So, be patient – once you build credibility, sales will come much easier.
If you are running a free community, getting sign-ups is often much simpler.
However, people value their time much more in this day and age. Meaning you’re still going to have to convince them that your community is worth their time and energy over someone else’s. You can do this through providing social proof, and by making it a pure no-brainer by having an incredibly simple and seamless sign-up process with as little steps as possible..
Must-have tools for marketing your community
Some community-building platforms may have some built-in tools to help you with marketing your community experience, but here are some extra tools to consider that might help make your life a little bit easier:
- Notion – You can get a free subscription for this all-in-one platform to help you manage and assign tasks to your management team, create social calendars, trackers, spreadsheets and more. Asana is another option to organize and plan your community experience, but doesn’t have as many options for customizing your productivity and management systems.
- Hootsuite – This leading social media scheduler is a great option to help you plan and curate content in advance, and schedule it for posting across all platforms in one place. You can monitor comments, likes and analytics through this as well.
- Canva – A free design platform to help you create visual marketing assets with no design experience needed. Another popular, paid-alternative to this is PicMonkey.
- Pixabay, Unsplash – These sites offer royalty free, high-quality stock images that you can use on social media and any other marketing materials.
- Google Analytics – The most effective analytics platform to help you monitor your marketing efforts.
- MailChimp – This is an email marketing software that is free up until your first 10k subscribers. It’s a great place to begin that mailing list and generate potential leads!
- Piktochart – This site helps you generate graphs and infographics for free.
Grow your community with Nas.io
An important part of growing your community online is having a simple, accessible platform that will deliver a solid community experience.
Nas.io is an all-in-one community-building platform that will help you do just that.
Here, you can build a customized space for FREE where you can create opportunities for growth, connection and learning – and access marketing tools to help you reach more members.
We are a platform directly committed to building functional, collaborative communities online for your brand. Whether your want to start a community for fashion, sports, writing, Web3, NFTs – anything – this is the place to start.
Reach out to our incredible support team and learn how to start your own community today. We’ll be with you each step of the way.