Kickstarting a community on top of your product - Part I

I’m starting a series of content around building a community and starting today with 10 tips to kickstart a community, for early stage start ups. Enjoy!

Kickstarting a community on top of your product - Part I
Kickstarting a community on top of your product

Hi there! I’m Louise. I’m the happy co founder of Hera and about one year ago, I naturally kickstarted a community on top of our product.

Since then, I’ve been passionate about this new trend of community-led products. I’m absolutely convinced that communities will in the next few years be a must have for all companies.

Building a product is not sufficient anymore - having a strong community around you is what will differentiate yourself from the agressive competition! When you think about it, everything can be copied about your product - except your community.

This is your best asset. I realized this over the past year building Hera community around our product and I’d love other people to benefit from my experience!

I’m starting a series of content around building a community and starting today with 10 tips to kickstart a community, for early stage start ups. Enjoy!

⏱Tip #1 - It’s never too early to care about your community

It’s never too early to bring people together. You don’t even need your product to be live yet.

On the contrary, once you have an idea of the people who will benefit from your product, bring these people together and leverage them to iterate on your idea.

Just make sure these people have an early adopter mindset and are ready to try out a potentially buggy product. It’s better to have 10 super engaged users who help you shape the product than a hundred passive people who don’t bring you anything.

Start small but start now, you will thank yourself later.

🌍 Tip #2 - Find the right home for your community

Our first goal should be to bring people together in the same place. Finding the right place is key to your community success. Ideally, you want to choose a platform your target audience is familiar with so that it’s not a big stretch for them to join and contribute. Your choice also needs to be driven by what you expect people to do in your community (discuss? post content? post videos?)

Think of:

Trying to kickstart the community on different platforms is a defocus in my opinion. I’d recommend picking one and sticking to it to start with.

In our case, we chose Slack because that’s where our target audience hangs out. This is the easiest way for them to engage and participate in the community life.

❓Tip #3 - Ask your community members what they’re here for

It seems simple, but most people actually skip this step. You need to ask yourself a bunch of questions to make the path clearer.

Why build a community now? What value do you want to provide to people? Where do you see the community in 2 years?

Not only you need to ask yourself these questions, but you also want to hear what people expect from your community. Ask them why did they join the community? What  would they like to see more of?

Once you have these answers, it will become clearer how you should structure your channels, content you should post, persona you should attract, etc.

Here is the survey we shared with Hera community members at the beginning.

🎙Tip #4 - Don’t be afraid to hear your own echo

Let me be clear - if you want to be a community builder, you should put your ego on the side 😅

At the beginning, you’ll have 5 people in your community and often times, they won’t react to your posts, won’t answer your messages, etc. That’s fine, building a community takes time, and there’s no silver bullet.

Consistency will pay off. Just put yourself out there and be helpful to your community members, continuously.

💜 Tip #5 - Each community is unique, there’s no playbook — you need to be passionate

Community building is a pretty new trend. I can’t think of any school or training program to become a community builder as you could find for Product Design, Product Management, etc.

Nurturing a community is hard and takes a lot of time. Only go down this path if you genuinely want to spend time with the future members of your community and see them succeed.

The best community builders I’ve met don’t have transactional interactions with their members - they sincerely want to know these people.

I found out that being authentic and passionate about what you’re doing make people want to help you in return.

🎁Tip #6 - Reward top contributors

Not all members of your community are equal, some provide 10x more value than others. They talk about your product on social media, they’re always here to help shape a new feature, they provide a ton of feedback, report bugs, etc.

You’ll naturally want to reward these people for taking the time to do that.

We found out that gamification was a great way of doing so. From the beginning, we’ve had this ritual of “Hera user of the week” - every Friday we would choose a very engaged user and offer them a gift. But user love lies in the details - we don’t offer a random gift. We spend time to find out who is this user, what’s their hobbies and we pick a related gift!

Another way to reward the best contributors is to make them shine on social networks! We found out that this kind of community talks was a great way of doing so.

If you’ve nurtured properly top contributors, they’ll start contributing without sollicitation - they’ll help other members to thrive with the product, will create content without sollicitation, etc.

🙋‍♀️Tip #7 - Try a lot of stuff and double down on what works

This is one of the trickier stuff in community building. At the beginning, it’s pretty hard to understand what kind of content your community members want to see.

I recommend trying out different formats: articles, newsletters, product tips, podcasts, product updates, virtual games etc. Little by little, you’ll see what resonates best with your members and adjust. Of course, asking your users what they’d like to see more of will help you iterate quickly and find your voice.

And as always, don’t expect to have an amazing engagement from the start - it takes time and consistency.

I’d recommend posting content every 2 days.

👷‍♀️Tip #8 - Co build your product with the community

You’re building a product, and you start to have a bunch of people in your community. Leverage them to shape features! It’s a game changer.

You have different ways to use your community to shape your product:

  • Creating a #product-feedback and #bugs-report channels is in my mind the starting point. It’s an easy way for your early users to share what they have in mind and their feeling.
  • Leveraging your community members for product discovery - through a very simple poll, or a 10-min call. It must be very easy for users to contribute.
  • Creating sub groups to test new features super early on - if you don’t want to release a feature to all users, ask who wants to be an alpha tester and include them in the feature shaping.
  • Implement rituals! At Hera, Fridays are dedicated to small improvements in the product to delight our users - we call them Beta Friday 💜

A few examples from Hera community 👇

Something super important: once a feature is released, always mention the users who took time to help you shape it / who asked for the feature and thank them again for shaping the product with you. It’s a nice touch and will make people engaging even more as they see their voice is heard.

👨‍👩‍👦‍👦Tip #9 - Get to know your community members

It’s probably the most important tip I have for you. And I’m not talking about sending an automatic welcome email to your new community members.

I’m talking about making the extra mile to better know the person who has joined your community.

You genuinely want to know who they are, what’s their job, where do they live, potentially even what their hobbies are! They’re not community member n°x - you really want to start building a unique relationship with them.  It’s also the occasion for you to tell them your story, what you’re building and where you’re going. Make them feel like they’ll be part of a great journey.

It’s different when your community starts to scale (will be covered in another series of tips) but at the beginning, you should know all your users by their name. (And it will help you once you want to offer them a gift! 😅)

⛴Tip #10 - Bring all your team on the community ship

In order for your community led product to be successful, this mindset should be shared within the company.

From engineering to product to sales, everyone should be obsessed with helping users get the most out of your product. Hands on support at all levels of the company.

Fixing a bug for someone for instance is the opportunity for an engineer to build relationship with a user. Next time, they’ll naturally reach out to them and that’s the start of a positive flywheel.

👩‍🏫Bonus Tip - Be surrounded by experts

Building a community is hard and unpredictable so it’s always a good idea to get help from someone that successfully built one.

You want to avoid traps and mistakes. Talking to people who’ve been through the same journey is often a great way to get started and improve along the way. You should not build copycats of other communities - you want to be authentic and unique - but you’ll learn about best practices and can get some great ideas!

Personally, I learned a lot talking with Pramod from Threado and Anamaria from Butter. They run communities I admire and helped me get better at what I’m doing!

That’s the end of Kickstarting a community on top of your product - Part I - I hope you found some interesting tips for you and can’t wait to see your community alive 💜

🙌 For more community building tips and to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter!

For more articles on community building, check here.

Interested in trying out Hera? Join us here.

Thank you,