The startup communities are usually crowded with offers, events, companies targeting them. How can companies such as venture capitals or coworking spaces that need to build a community around their brand achieve building one around the startup ecosystem?
1. Make your mission clear
What problem are you trying to solve and why are you different than the competitors? Build the community around what you offer and your unique value proposition. Without a clearly defined mission, why will people would like to follow your brand? Here is a guide about how to create your mission statement.
2. Know your audience
Knowing your target audience is very important not only when marketing a service or a product, but also when trying to build a community. Offering them exactly what they need means that you will be the place for them to go. Additionally, they will probably refer you to members of other communities or prospective clients. Word of mouth can do wonders for your business.
As a venture capital, for example, having high growth startups in the portfolio is one of the best ways to discover more potential startups and get them on board as well. Same for coworking spaces, the better the experience you offer the startups, the higher the chance they will refer you to their friends, who are starting their own business.
It doesn’t mean that the members of the community are necessarily prospects for your business. They can be members of other communities, where your prospects are members. For example coworking spaces that organize open events to educate generally attract business people, who can then refer the coworking space to people they know, because of their good experience, even though they are not interested in the service.
To identify which your right audience is, start with a small group. It can be the most engaged members of the existing communities. Get to know them, ask them what problems they are facing, what is missing from the community and what you can do for the community. The main things that startups ask for are: money, a place to work, a community to learn from each other and networking. Dig deep and know exactly what your audience needs!
3. Understand the existing communities
Of course, there are already existing startup communities in your city, which you need to understand, in order to become part of it and create your own micro-community within the already existing ones. How are the existing communities interacting with each other? What activities are being organized? Which channels do they use?
The best way to acquaint yourself is by attending events. Don’t go to events without a plan, though. Check beforehand who is attending (if possible), plan who you want to meet and learn as much as you can about them before the event (a bit of online stalking doesn’t hurt anyone!).
When you’ve already talked with the people you knew you wanted to network with, go on and connect with other attendees that look interesting. You never know who you are going to meet and whether they will make a difference for your business and network.
4. Find the right key organizer
The right community builder has insights within the community and already has an existing distribution channel and related accomplishments. They are good with people and would put the community first. Communities are built by people for people so getting a person who is passionate and engaged with the community to be the key organizer is essential to the success of your venture.
5. Create conversation channels
You might be doing a lot for your audience, but if you don’t encourage a two-way conversation, then your audience will most probably not engage. There are so many channels you can use in order to create a conversation with your audience.
Here are some channels you can use:
An event with an interesting talk, pizza and beer can be enough to become a hub for founders, startup professionals, investors, who can influence and connect with each other. That can more easily be achieved if the event is recurrent, so that the attendees know when they will meet next. Some coworking spaces organize such events on a weekly or monthly basis and they are very well received.
Share your story and your community’s story through blogging.
Your target group wants to learn more about you, so why not share your story and your news via your blog? Also find out what they are interested in reading, related to your business and create blog posts about those subjects. Of course, it needs to be high-quality content to attract people, but if you succeed then your blog can become a go-to place for your community.
The newsletter should be something that your community is looking forward to receiving. To achieve that, it has to be relevant, personal and engaging. On your newsletter, you can share community news, blog posts from your website or anything that would be relevant for your startup community.
Make it personal by sharing a personal message in each email you send out, your mood or your favorite song of the week. Engagement can be increased by using call to actions and by requesting contributions by the community.
Some interesting community newsletters you could subscribe to are Startupdigest and Startup Curated, where you can read news about startups, and Tame’s newsletter, where you can get updated on all the tech events in Europe and our blog posts about building community through events.
Encourage your audience to share your content on social media. Answer to all engaged users and be active in groups and community pages. Connect your social media community with your passion and ideas and be an active listener.
To make it a two-way conversation you can also encourage them to share their own content, which then, on your turn, you can share on your blog, newsletter or social media. Community made content gets much more engagement and gains legitimacy.
Find influencers who will want to share your story
In the case of VCs and coworking spaces, who would be a better influencer than the startups that used the services and succeeded? Ask your happy clients to share their success story with the community and of course include your brand as well.
6. Reward engaged members
By rewarding the engaged members of the community, you make them feel valued and you also encourage the other members to be more engaged. The reward can be anything from a one-time free consultation to VIP access to your events.
7. Celebrate the hard work
Make everyone in the group feel special and heard. Startups, especially at the beginning are having a hard time, so when success comes, you should be celebrating that with them and the community. Allow them to show off and make them feel valued. After all, you should be doing everything for the community, not for you.
Lastly, make sure that you are consistent and committed to what you started. People don’t like receiving attention and then being neglected.
Building a community will make your brand relevant and will generate leads that you would not get otherwise. Especially within the startup ecosystem where traditional sales might not be as effective anymore. So open up, connect with the community and build a following around your brand. It will only be beneficial!