Today, we have all the tools necessary to rapidly grow established communities, allowing us to track and optimize almost anything. But the tools that help us scale communities are not what allow them to take root in the first place.
So what does it look like when a community founder scraps the automation and optimization for manual introductions and hard-to-analyze open-ended questions?
And what are the specific benefits of focusing on individual interactions and things that don’t scale?
I wrote this to detail the thinking, tactics, and benefits behind our approach to building community around Dwilly’s early adopters, because these are the secrets of how strong, engaged communities begin.
Detailing hard-won insights and strategies, I’ll show you:
How to determine the importance your users place on community, and how you can tailor your company’s copy to encourage the most community-minded people to join.
How you can design your onboarding process to illuminate new user insights and encourage stronger initial connections.
Why founders should lead early community engagement efforts with tactics that don’t scale, in order to maximize the insights they have to improve their product.
You shouldn’t be taking shortcuts when it comes to understanding your community.
Growth is just… so… damn… tempting.
As founders working on an early product, we usually end up aiming for growth before we really know what it is we’re even trying to accomplish. We want to believe we already have everything figured out.
It’s almost impossible to realize that you’re not as far along in your understanding of the people, problem, and product as you think you are.
I, too, started down the flawed path of trying to grow too soon. I quickly realized it was a huge mistake, and then I managed to change course, engage my early users, and gain a ton of actionable insights from new users and create valuable new relationships in my community-centric product.
Curating Your First Members
Before I launched my startup Dwilly, I signed up a nice list of early users, curating exactly who came onboard. This made it easy to build a sense of community into the early platform, as those who participated got to know one another more deeply.
We ended up getting more than 1,000 pageviews in a few days as a result. The folks were from all over the world:
And after a day or so, Dwilly got picked up by the Product Hunt of China (not its real name):
Stepping Back from “Viral Sharing” and Deciding to Engage Instead
Knowing there’d be some level of traffic surge from the two sites, part of me really wanted to build in a viral sharing component to capitalize on the moment.
In fact, a well-known investor and entrepreneur I got connected to recommended this as well: