Community for any startup goes beyond just engaging users — it’s the world you want to create for them. Like a teacher, you create the curriculum, set the rules and guide your students’ interactions so they can thrive and empower themselves. But, if you are just getting started, creating that world might not seem so straightforward. Here are some telltale signs that you need to start thinking about community ASAP:
- Users are interacting beyond the direct intention of your site.
- Users are relating and finding commonalities with each other.
Truly having a community means your users relate themselves and their relationships with others on your service to the brand you’ve established. But, for an early-stage startup, this is tough to do. Nothing is set in stone, so it can be a confusing and scary trek. Here are some things you should do to prepare for the inevitable.
Community forms itself; it’s inevitable. It’s just about whether or not you embrace it. For most products, community is what sets your service apart from the competitors, so it’s important to start thinking about it early on in your development. At Fiestah, we started prepping for community before we even had a product. Event organizers already build relationships with their vendors in real life, and since we are bringing that world online, it was a natural fit for us to do so. It might not be so obvious for you, so keep an open mind. Once you’ve embraced it, be prepared to be wowed by your users. Micro-communities will start forming, and it’s your job to harness that power to grow the communities most valuable to you.
Before we actually launched Fiestah’s Beta, we knew we needed to A) get to know our potential customers and B) get constant feedback from them. We started hosting happy hours and events (like our upcoming Office Ninjas event) to bring our quintessential early adopters together. It was great to meet people face-to-face and get their reactions to what we were building.
Once we launched and users started signing up, our gut reaction was, “Who were these people?” With the handy dandy Rapportive extension, we learned as much as we could about our new signups and started personally emailing each of them to say hello and learn about their needs and what they were looking to accomplish. We began noticing patterns and started setting up in-person meetings with a handful of them to get to know them even better.
What we were doing just out of curiosity helped us forge a deeper connection with our users and truly empathize with their needs, giving us the best opportunity for building a product people actually wanted. But, you’ve got to be careful to not just listen to every word your users tell you, especially the early adopters. Early adopters will always be enthusiastic about your product, but you shouldn’t ultimately build for them since they have short attention spans and are quick to move to the shiny new product.
It’s obvious design is important, but you need to think about how the community you are designing for plays a role in that design. You need to consider what environment your community wants to exist in, how they want to interact with others and, most importantly, how they want to interact with you and your service.
The things we learned from our users informed our decision making around whom our users wanted us to be and who we needed to be for them. It created our persona — the mood and voice of Fiestah. The biggest pains of event planning are logistics, so being mindful of that, we became the non-intrusive helper and guide to their event planning pains. We are empathetic to what our users really want and take a holistic approach at solving those needs. Those nuisances are what have separated us from the noise of the pushy/clubby/sexy/dark event websites that exist on the Web.
At the end of the day, it would be foolish to neglect the thought of having a community (I never thought this would happen to me!). Be aware of the inevitability and embrace, interact with and design for your community because, after all, that community is what’s eventually going to put food on your plate.