Corentin Villemeur shares ThisIs50′s plan for rapidly growing members using promotion and exclusivity. Visit ThisIs50.
Alice Yoo & Eugene Kim got things moving using Stumbleupon and other popular sharing services. Visit My Modern Met.
Congratulations! You’ve built a vibrant online community around a core group of like-minded people, avid fans or passionate customers. You’re getting great feedback from members, so you know you’re on to something. But what’s the best way to attract more members? How can you make your idea really big?
Before you push the gas pedal to the floor, take stock of your current situation:
- Check your privacy settings. Can anyone become a member? Public networks generally grow at a much faster rate than private ones. To keep quality up, many large networks require new member approval. (Members > Controls section of your dashboard.)
- Check outstanding invitations. Do you have a large number of outstanding invitations in the Invited tab? (Members > Moderation)
- Check for ”lurkers” – people who visit and view content on your network, but don’t join. Add free Google Analytics to your network and compare weekly visitors to your member count. Can you capture some of these people?
- Cultivate a presence on multiple platforms: Think about where prospective members will be: Facebook? Twitter? Google? MySpace? StumbleUpon? Niche communities? Choose platforms where you think you can have the biggest reach. Join them, create a profile or page with thoughtful messaging and obvious links back to your Ning Network, and begin to cultivate a positive reputation on these platforms.
- Share compelling content: On a regular basis, identify the best content contributed by you or your members and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon or other platforms. If you haven’t already, set up Twitter and Facebook integrations so content shared from your Ning Network will display your branding and will link directly back to your network.
- Encourage members to share: Include instructions in your welcome box or page. Suggest sharing when you welcome new members. Barista Exchange sends out broadcast messages letting members know about the social media tools available to them. Add Facebook Like and Google +1 buttons to your network to make it even easier for your members to share content on these platforms.
- Send a personal email to invitees who haven’t joined: Send a custom invitation to all of your outstanding invitees from your personal or work email and include the invite link. Invitees are more likely to open a personal email from an email address they trust. If prospective members are less likely to use email, message them on Facebook. Or text them. Experiment to find out what works best!
- >Encourage members to invite others: Make a personal appeal through a broadcast message or private messages. Members will benefit by bringing friends or colleagues into the conversation. Make sure you explain how to use the invitation feature and specify which types of people to invite. Manny Hernandez from TuDiabetes provides members with postcards they can give or send to prospective members.
Don’t do this
- Forget to engage current members: Your current members are your biggest selling point to prospective members. They contribute compelling content and are your best promoters. Review Make Your Members Stars for valuable ways to engage your members.
- Go overboard with promotion: Brett McKay, who built the Art of Manliness, advises: “One mistake I see many people on the Web make is that they promote every single piece of new content on their site. It’s overkill, and you may be setting yourself up for people to ignore you. If you want people to come to your Ning Network, put stuff out on Facebook or Twitter that’s click-worthy.”
- Enable Facebook Like, Network Like and Google +1 buttons
- Turn on Facebook and Twitter Integration and create apps for both platforms
- Allow Members to Sign In with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo
- Allow visitors to see everything (Privacy settings)
- Limit the number of Profile Questions you require members to answer to join
- Add keywords to your Network Details