Communities and Marketing: Do's and Don'ts
Hanging out in online forums and communities can be an excellent way to validate a startup idea, connect with your first users, and grow your audience. Spending time where your target audience hangs out gives you valuable insights into the headaches and questions they struggle with. You can use this insight to improve your product, as well as design content that interests them or helps them solve pain points.
However, this shouldn’t be the reason you hang out in communities.
Generally, these are places built to connect and support like-minded people. They were not created solely as a marketing channel, and shouldn’t be treated that way.
When hanging out in communities, I see a lot of people getting it wrong. I am probably guilty of this myself sometimes. Pushing out your own content, hard-selling your product, generally being spammy. It’s a great way to turn people off and get booted, and more importantly, it’s a waste of your time.
As @JayYoms points out:
The people that have built these communities have worked hard to do so. To really become a trusted member you need to consistently deliver value. Like a lot of people I see on Indie Hackers. They come across less spammy because they add value, point people in the right direction, synthesis findings. This is definitely the right thing to do and some communities will ban you for spamming
With that in mind, we’ve put together some ways to get the most out of communities, while also getting the secondary impact of growing your audience.
⚡️ Tl;dr: Do’s and Don’ts
If you are in a hurry.
✅ Be a good member of the community first
✅ Synthesize information and provide key takeaways in the community itself
✅ Mix up the format of how you post: blogs, comments, Twitter threads
✅ Use the same username and avatar across communities and social so people start to recognize you
✅ Spend time in the comments
✅ Help your community grow - link back to your posts in the community if you can
✅ Get ideas for new content from comments you make or questions you see popping up often
✅ Contribute first before making asks of the community
❌ Hard sell your product or blog - let the content speak for itself
❌ Post the exact same thing to several communities in a single day
❌ Make people click away from the community to get value from your post
❌ Spam DMs - please stop!
Key things to keep in mind
🤗 Let the content speak for itself
If the only reason you are in a community is to sell, you are starting off on the wrong foot. You should be in communities first and foremost to learn from others and share your insights. Pretend you have nothing to promote first and ask yourself if you would hang out here otherwise?
I joined Indie Hackers to learn how to grow an online business. I spent a lot of time reading posts and gaining valuable insights. Over time I realized I had things to contribute there from my own experiences. These contributions turned into blog posts, Twitter threads, and posts in other related forums where I thought the audience would benefit. Initially, I didn’t think of it as marketing for Taskable. But when I looked at our analytics I realized posting my insights on things completely unrelated to our product where driving lots of traffic and sign-ups.
What worked is the content spoke for itself and helped people solve a problem. Through that, they found out what we were working on. No hard sell necessary.
🌏 Remember it’s a small world
You are not the only person who is a member of similar communities with the same interest. People who are on Indie Hackers are also on Product Hunt and MakersLog and Startup School, and so on. Use this to your advantage by having a single avatar and handle so people recognize you.
You should also keep in mind that when you post your content in one forum, that it’s not a great idea to blast it out all at once in all your other forums. There’s nothing more annoying than logging into all your favorite communities and seeing the same exact post in all of them.
🎩 Contribute first
Often times in a community it’s tempting to drop in and start making asks right away. This is easy to do if you view communities solely as a marketing opportunity. This is generally fairly transparent (particularly if you do it in many communities on the same day for the same blog post or event).
Instead, spend a bit of time before posting your own content to contribute to other threads, provide feedback, and understand the dynamics of the community a bit better. Build some social capital within the community before making an ask back.
🥡 Provide key takeaways and synthesize information
I wrote a blog post on growth hacking communities. Check it out here.
👆 Don’t do that. Try this 👇
I’ve found communities are a great way to connect with prospective users for Tasakable. But it’s really easy to get this wrong and start being spammy and a bad community member. Here are a few tips I have on getting it right:
- Be a good community member and don’t hard sell
- Etc. etc.
If interested I expand on these here.
Give value directly in the community. Don’t make people click away before they get any value from your post. It’s generally fine to link at the bottom (though not on r/startups) especially if there are more points or you go into greater detail. But make sure what you post in a community is valuable on its own.
Also, make sure you aren’t just posting threads and bouncing. Get into the comments, answer questions about your content, update your content based on feedback. You’ll often find opportunities to post your content in other threads and comments. Again, make sure you synthesize/provide key takeaways and avoid just saying “I posted something on this here”.
💡 Get ideas everywhere
I’ve talked about this elsewhere, but being in communities is the best source of new blog posts and content ideas. I often turn off the cuff replies in threads into blog posts or other pieces of content - this one for example came from a post on Indie Hackers. If you reply to something and it is valuable to the community, think of turning it into a longer post.
💬 DM etiquette
Don’t spam random people’s DMs with your landing page, Product Hunt launch, your favorite keto recipe or whatever unsolicited item you have for them.
🖥 Mix up your medium and help your community grow
Not everything needs to be a blog post. Also, the subject matter can be shared in a variety of ways. For instance, sometimes I’ll share my post from Indie Hackers on Twitter or in another community, rather than the blog post I wrote on the Taskable site. Another idea is posting links to Twitter threads which will help you grow your Twitter following as well.
Mix up where you direct people to and help grow your community or your following on other mediums rather than just directing people to your blog.