Lessons learned from growing AngelHack’s community to 150,000+ members
Building a community for your brand is big. For your personal life, your community is pretty obvious. Your friends, family, coworkers, SoulCycle group, you’re likely part of tons of small communities. But your company has a community too. Are you fostering it and taking advantage of it?
By building our own community, and guiding many of our HACKcelerator portfolio companies to grow theirs, we’ve learned some tricks.
You can find those below. If you’ve dabbled in community management as well, please share your tips and tricks in the comments underneath!
Step 1: Assess Your Goals
It’s hard to think beyond your exact and immediate intention when launching a company. You’re likely focused on the product, your website, and growing your customer base. But I highly recommend you take a step back and see if your vision goes beyond that, and if a community can help you create something bigger than your product.
If you’re launching an e-commerce company that sells meal prep containers, you might want to consider introducing a Facebook group via your newsletter to those who’ve purchased your product and may want to exchange recipes. This sets up the opportunity for a repeat touchpoint by keeping your brand in your customers’ minds. Long term this could also lead to more opportunities, like Meetup groups where you can bring in meal prepping experts, health experts, and chefs and take your company from a simple container seller to a complete health and cooking experience provider.
Step 2: Put Yourself In Your Customers’ Shoes
It’s easy to say “I want to build a community for my users and they’re going to love it!” But have you thought about the reasons why a customer might want to join?
AngelHack hosts tech events all over the world. In many of those cities, especially outside the major tech hubs of San Francisco, London, NYC, and Bangalore, we only host an event once a year. This can leave the communities in those cities craving more. So we introduced a private Facebook group, which eventually lead to regional private Facebook groups, and a regional-specific Slack community. The goal? To provide more value year-round.
We made these moves because we 1. surveyed our community about what they wanted more of, 2. we went a step further to ensure people stuck around by dropping news about new partnerships and event discount codes.
Which leads me to…
Step 3: Determine Your Platform(s)
There’s a number of platforms to host your community, and sometimes you may need multiple. Here are pros and cons for some of the big ones.
Private Facebook Group
- Allows for more oversight and control
- You can ensure those joining are exactly whom you want by adding questions for them to answer when requesting access
- Allows you to go with an “exclusive” angle when launching to your users. Everyone wants access to the VIP lounge.
- Very well known and often the first place people go to find community after moving to a new place, or just deciding to get out there
- You can foster in-person engagement
- Pretty widespread usage
- Clean onboarding process
- Great for segmenting and cleaning up discussion topics
- Can be a little tricky to get conversation flowing at the beginning
Public Facebook Group
- If numbers are your goal, consider making your group public. You still can retain control over who is permitted to become a member.
- Telegram is huge for the blockchain and cryptocurrency communities.
- The big selling point for this messaging platform is security and privacy. And it’s free.
- If your community will be discussing more “sensitive” topics, such as money, healthcare, etc; consider using a more secure platform.
- If you’ve ever been to China or most Asian countries, this is obvious.
- A simple messaging app on steroids, with almost complete user adoption in the countries (China and much of Asia) where it’s big.
- These are a little tricky and likely the least utilized.
- One of the great Twitter lists I’ve seen created and fostered by a company is Women Who Codes’s public list of female engineers. I found this by seeing a convo started after someone on my timeline asked “where do I find more female engineers? It’s so hard to weed through all the men!”, and boom, saw three people recommend this one and other similar lists.
Step 4: Onboard Your Community
Ok, so you’ve determined that your users would benefit from having a hub to chat about your product and its many uses, and you’ve figured out where to start building your community. Now you’ve got to introduce it.
The easy way is to use email. Back to the meal prep example, drop a CTA to your group in the “Thank You For Your Order!” email, and consider a follow up a week later plugging it again if they didn’t click the first time. Be sure you also drop a few bullet points on why they should check it out. No one’s going to join a community based off just the name they’ll want to know what to expect inside before they start creating an account.
And always be sure to have some “Welcome, here are the rules and what to chat about” automation set up, as well as a dedicated person on your team to watch over everything.
Step 5: Water It, Don’t Let It Die
This is the most important thing if you’ve decided to truly dedicate yourself to building a community. And it’s why you see Community Manager roles at most companies these days. Managing a group of hundreds or thousands of online users is not easy. You can do all this work to bring people on to your chosen platform, but you’ll need someone to help onboard users, set the tone, and encourage conversation while users are still getting the feel for it. Plus you’ll want to track metrics and observe what is working and what’s not.
If you do it right, you now have a group of loyal users that you can test ideas with, promote new products, and they may even become evangelists for your brand.
To all the community managers out there, we salute you!
Looking for a partner to help build your developer community? Connect with AngelHack to see how a custom developer program can make all the difference.