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Hey guys! Nice to speak to you all, I've been a lurker here for a while but decided to finally post something! My team and I run a college social app called Buhz and we're looking for advice from some people that have built up thriving online communities. It's definitely tricky on how to get things to start building up and making people feel comfortable to post so we're digging through our resources and trying to get some info from people that have done it before. Thanks and if you have some time we'd appreciate it!

  • PM

    Phill Moorman

    over 5 years ago #

    Hey Zac,

    In college I put together a gaming community (mostly for fun) that reached some decent numbers before I sold it. Here's what I did:

    1) I asked friends to create accounts and begin posting; asking friends for their feedback is a great way to get them involved in your community from the beginning.

    2) I turned to Twitter. I jumped on popular hashtags and joined those conversations; soon after people began to follow me.

    3) I tested my tweets to get a better understanding of what my community cared about. In beginning not all of my tweets resonated with my audience; the key is to make sure you're paying attention to what's working (driving conversation, being shared, etc).

    4) I wrote interesting content on my site's blog. This was 3 years ago so the content market wasn't as saturated, but it was still difficult to write something people were willing to share. To come up with content ideas I focused on what people were searching for in Google and popular posts on other websites; here are a couple tips on coming up with good content ideas:

    Tip #1: Use BuzzSumo (http://buzzsumo.com/) to find popular content published on blogs that target college kids. Repurpose this content and write your own (improved) version.
    Tip #2: "Don't press enter". For this tactic all you do is visit Google and enter a keyword such as "College Tips" without pressing enter so Google has a chance to show you some popular searches related to the term/phrase you just typed in. (Screenshot of what I'm talking about: http://screencast.com/t/iASz7MKY8).
    Tip #3: Make sure the content you're publishing is written with purpose and not just to fill up some space on your blog. Like I mentioned before, the content market is extremely saturated and if you're going to drive real conversation and a following you'll need to create engaging content that appeals to your audience. (Test it!)
    Tip #4: Define your audience, it shouldn't just be "college kids", but something more niche such as "college kids looking for study buddies" or "college kids looking for friends", etc.

    5) I started to reach out to people in the industry. Building these relationships got my site mentioned on some pretty popular Facebook pages and websites. Note, I did not ask for a link I genuinely built a relationship with these people. When they shared my site or an article I published it led to thousands of visits which eventually allowed my site to grow to 600K monthly sessions. I would reach out to college newspapers to discuss your app in order to give your app a little boost.

    Something to keep in mind, for an app like this that requires users to be near each other, you should focus on a couple colleges that are close to each other first. This way you can begin building your community without worrying about new users joining with nothing to do and then leaving. It may be useful in the beginning (and as you expand) to pay for highly targeted social ads on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter and Facebook you can geo-target your ads which you could use to build brand awareness at the first couple of colleges you want to focus on when establishing your initial community.

    In terms of your app I think it looks pretty cool, I would just make sure your website is optimized for search. People are searching for things like "Making College Friends as Freshman" so maybe you could include similar terms in your titles and descriptions? Also, write some content around this subject - showing up in search for topics related to your app can be a powerful thing.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 5 years ago #

    We wrote a bunch about getting GrowthHackers.com off the ground in a couple of posts that might be helpful:


    Hope these help.

  • AK

    Aaryn Kobayashi

    over 5 years ago #

    Hey Zac--First I'll start with why communities often fail (aka what not to do). Having a huge launch with mass promotion from the get go is usually a recipe for disaster. It's like a shooting star--burns bright for maybe a few days and then ultimately falls off a cliff.

    Begin with founding members and their close friends--not random strangers who have no tie to what you're doing. Friends of friends are going to be the catalyst from the beginning (think of Uber!). Once you have your base, make a list of 250 prospective members and focus on 150 of them. One of the most important things is to engage new users within 15 minutes of signing up. Use the Welcome email to persuade someone to share an experience, opinion, or problem.

    I've found that a simple name change from community to a "collaborative" communicates a different idea and spurs more engagement from members. Remember, a community is not about you, it's about them. Make sure you are building it around solving your members' problems and creating opportunities for them (i.e. if you sell washers/dryers, post about how to hack housework rather than specs on your washer/dryers-->no one cares about that).

    Rich Millington has really awesome insights on how to build successful communities. Feverbee has some really good posts by him https://www.feverbee.com/