Community Building for Startups: Why is it important?
When I receive a deck from the unknown startup, besides checking their website and slides, I also go to find their social media pages and media profiles of the founders. Sometimes, the search results are not very satisfying and it lowers the level of the company’s credibility, especially if they already generate revenue. I know, they can say that it is not the right time to think about some posts as they need to focus on the product instead. But, if you are about to fundraise – it’s better to show that you know how to run all the sides of the business. The first impression is the most important, keep that in mind.
Also, the thing is not only in social media. Unless you are already an influencer and have thousands of followers, you need to grow the community.
Community: Why Is It Important?
Who are your early adopters? Who will test the product and tell you the feedback? When you have no budget for testing and experimenting, only those who really like your product can support you for free. This is what I call community.
A community is a group of people who joins you when you offer something valuable to them. People always like to express their opinion so you have a chance to get it and see what you should fix in your product. If you nurture and continue creating value for your community, they will be defending you in the future, even if you fail with anything. They can become brand ambassadors and spread the word about your company.
Early adopters are great. Building a tech startup means creating something new, and it’s hard to accept any novelty for society. But if someone responds to your innovation, they will set the fundament for your community.
If there are bigger entrepreneurs in the community, you can find business angels among them. Even if they were not investing before, they can see how you grow the product and team, they can observe your potential – and it will be easier for you to persuade them to invest in you, join the board and become an advisor.
Where to Start?
So you’ve started a tech business.
You should already have your mission, vision and values identified. As well as branding and basic design for communication. It all can be represented on your website.
Now, make sure you have also identified in your social media profiles that you are connected to the company. After you visit any networking event and exchange contacts with people using social media (“Find me on Facebook…:”), they will be able to check your company right away.
You also know your target audience, the customer persona. Do you know which social media channels they use most of all? Which platforms do they monitor? What services they can be looking for most often? This will help you to decide which channels you should develop now. No need to open all possible accounts at once, you probably will not be able to manage them properly without an SMM manager, so better to focus only on the key channels. Is it Instagram, or Facebook, Medium, Reddit? Maybe you can also use some platforms and communities where, depending on your type of product and business model, you could show off a bit. For SaaS companies, ProductHunt could be a choice. Though, it’ll work the best if you already have a community where you can share it asking to upvote your product on that platform.
Now that you identified the target channels, think over what type of content you will post there to create value for your readers. You will find tones of materials about content management online, especially on the blogs of Hootsuite, Planable, Canva.com etc.
Tone of voice is very important, you have to establish it from the very beginning and let all the team know about it. Colleagues talking with someone offline and online should deliver the same message and in the same tone as others in the team. When you confirm the mission, value and objectives, share this info with your colleagues, give them all the materials. Is it funny or more serious? Geeky or general? Keep the communication, emails, media publications and posts under one tone of voice.
If you’re already a step forward in your business and got a lot of experience in what you’re doing – share this with your community. Knowledge should not be in scarce today. On the contrary, the more people know about the subject, the higher the possibility that they will use your service or product, and will be ready to pay for it.
When the startup has troubles with pricing policy, and they’re sure that they put absolutely reasonable numbers, still, potential customers may think this is too big for them. They will definitely start looking for free or cheaper alternatives. First of all, you should know about all those alternatives.
Recently, I got an offer to use some app for one of the events I’m running. I’ve been using a similar solution for the previous events, and it was really the best on the market, no doubt. But the guy who approached me this time with a cold email didn’t know about the solution I use, so when I asked him “Why are you better than other solutions on the market”, he said, “Well, if you name any, I’ll tell you the difference”. It was hilarious as the guys creating the two apps for events are actually working in the same field and even in the same city.
So, before assuming anything, please, do a profound research. Then identify your rivals’ weaknesses and strengths, compare to your ones, – and now you know what to focus on. Talk about the value you can give to your customer which no one else on the market can. Explain, why your product costs that much, why it’s unique.
Platforms are very trendy now. This is an organic and easy way to grow the community around your idea and product. Just make people come to one place and do what they can: code, create, comment, review, make fun, play games or whatever. Google made an online game that helped its AI become the strongest in drawings recognition. It added AR to Google Maps to collect for free data about each and every corner in the cities. GitHub is also a great example of a platform, they leveraged a crowd to achieve their objectives which ended up with a huge acquisition.
Open Data, gamification, the opportunity for ideas exchange – this all opens a route to building a platform. And let you learn from your customers.
We have recently posted a big list of tools for startups. For the community building, I’ll recommend you to choose the following ones:
Planable.io – for social media management, helps you to create the posts on each social media, edit it, add comments, and schedule.
Canva.com – create templates for the posts without design skills.
Pizdata.is – design on-demand platform, can substitute graphic designers.
Looqme – PR analysis for vast communication.
The major part of the recommendations above will mostly work for the SaaS or B2C products, but you can still work on the community growing and platform creation for any other business. Having support from initially random people can really save you at some point. Never underestimate the power of the crowd, and make sure it’s on your side.
Associate for CEE @ bValue VC