Last week, we took a look at the best ways to manage your group. In this final instalment of our community series, we share advice on how to grow an online community.

Once you’ve got your community off the ground, discussion is flowing more freely, and both you and your members are settling into a rhythm, it’s time to think about extending the reach of your group.

As with any website, app, or social media account, unfortunately it’s not a simple case of ‘build it and they will come’ when it comes to growing your community. In order to attract people into your fold, they must first be made aware of it, and second, be convinced they have something to gain by joining.

Here are some practical ways to keep a steady stream of new members trickling in:

Reach out to people

A personal message from an individual is always going to garner the best response rate. We’re all met with hundreds of marketing communications every day, but a direct message from someone in your industry is likely to cut through, and more importantly, make people feel wanted. There’s an element of flattery at play; the idea of being individually sought out because someone feels you could add value to their community is very appealing. It goes hand in hand with the very concept of community, sparking the relationship off with a human element and leaning into that sense of belonging.

Think about the different types of people you could reach out to and consider contacting people on different platforms to see what’s most effective, adapting your message depending on your audience and platform. For example, if we were contacting people on LinkedIn, we might mention how Guild is less noisy and a better space for building valuable relationships. If we were approaching people on WhatsApp, we might lead with privacy and security.

Empower your members to reach out

When you search online for a new product or service, who are you more likely to believe, the company promoting themselves, or the customers doing it for them? The same is true of your community. Whilst you might not be asking people to part with their money, you are asking them to invest their time and energy, so an endorsement that your community is worthy of this from someone they trust is more powerful than anything you could say about yourself.

This also enables you to grow much faster. Members reaching out to a handful of relevant contacts, who then delve into their own networks, has a snowball effect.

Beyond logistics though, it simply helps your members to feel like they’re playing an important role in the growth of your group. As we’ve mentioned before, the most successful communities feel like they are ‘owned’ by the community itself. Frequently engaging with members helps them become more personally invested in the success of your group, in turn making them more likely to invite those from their own contact list.

It’s worth having a conversation with members around the types of people best suited to your community to ensure it continues to maintain the right culture, and delivers high quality and relevant content to its existing members.

Invite influential guests for Q&As

Regardless of the industry you sit within, or the size of your group, networking is at the heart of any community - forging meaningful connections with people who can add value to your career and vice versa. It makes sense then that influential figures are likely to attract more people to your group, and an easy way to achieve this is through inviting guests to host Q&A sessions.

You’re not asking a huge commitment of the individual, but by being associated with these authoritative people, you’re adding credibility to your group, whilst also building excitement and engagement among existing users.

Market it

Just because you might not be monetising your community, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be marketing it, after all you need awareness among your target audience to make it a success.

The same principles, therefore, apply to your community as they would any service or product you're promoting, it’s simply the message that might be a little softer. Consider where your ideal members are, what they’re using, what they’re looking for, and what they care about.

Beyond the usual digital channels you might draw upon to grow an online community, it’s also just about making it as easy to find as possible. Make sure people can click through to your community group from your website, include a link in your email signature, as well as within your other social profiles – particularly within the platforms your ideal audience are already frequenting.

Having a succinct plan in place or locating the right people and persuading them of the merit of your group will be pivotal to its success.

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash


Read the other articles in this series on creating and growing an online community:
How to create an online community
Building your online community
How to manage your community
Ways to grow your Guild Community


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