So you want to make an online community (or you’ve already made a community) and you’re wondering how to get those first few people to join. (Here’s some tips for starting a group mailing list if you haven’t made one yet.) There’s nothing sadder than an empty echoing community, really. Here then are some simple, free ideas for how to promote your online community.
Before you start an online community (What? You’ve already started one? Well, keep reading. I’ll get to you.), consider what you want your community to be about. I assume you already have an idea. Maybe you want to start a community for hammered dulcimer players. Before you make a listserv or a forum or a Facebook group or whatever, though, consider whether you’ll be able to easily get members for your community.
The big question you have to ask is, Is there already a community out there for hammered dulcimers? Now, just because there’s already a hammered dulcimer community, doesn’t mean you can’t make another viable community. But you should consider these other communities and decide if you can provide a community that gives some unique benefit. (If you can’t, why don’t you just join that other community?)
Is that other community living and active? If not, maybe there’s a space for an active community. If it is active, is the community friendly or toxic? If the original community is toxic, maybe there’s space for a friendlier community. If the older community is friendly, however, you should decide how else your community can be different.
Maybe your community can be about a niche within your niche. Or maybe it can be about a particular aspect of your hobby or topic, like mentoring.
If you make a community that’s filling a needed hole, then you’ll see better results from the rest of my suggestions, as people will flow in to fill that hole.
Another great tip for how to promote your online community? Make up a quick website for it. This is an especially useful tip if your community is a listserv or a Facebook group, which probably aren’t going to turn up on searches. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate site. It can just be a page. But make sure it includes a description of your community on the page.
You might use this page to post news or announcements too, making it extra useful. Make sure, though, that if you are going to keep it updated, you actually do. It’s discouraging to come up on a page that last posted news five years ago, and it might keep people from clicking over to your community.
Tell your friends about your community. This is where the first tip helps. Hopefully, you already have friends who are in or are interested in whatever your community is about. If there’s already an online community for them, they may not feel like joining yet another one. But if you’ve found the right hole, then they will be more likely to come join in.
If you’re making a community that fills a niche of a larger community, then tell other similar communities about yours. Try not to spam though. Follow the rules. Don’t be a jerk. This works especially well with communities you already have credibility with.
If you didn’t follow my advice in the first tip, don’t bother with this step. You’ll just come across as redundant.
And, of course, the usual advice: Tell your social media!
Any other ideas about how to promote your online community? Leave them in the comments below.
Got a community now? Some tips on setting up a good group mailing list community.