Community management: how should startups cultivate their communities?

What happens when you mix coffee, noms, and a group of people who are obsessed with communication? Inspiration happens! The guys at HowDo organised a breakfast for a small group of community managers and other writer-y types from Loopcam, EyeEm, Readmill, GigaOM and Somewhere. There we talked about tone of voice, good examples of community management we’ve implemented or witnessed, and well, we talked a lot about talking.

Writery types

Communications crew. Pinched from @severin


Many startups tend to adopt an enthusiastic, bubbly tone singing the praises of the overwhelming awesomeness of their product and even of life itself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spreading the love, but it can be hard to make yourself heard in this space. Even harder is making your communication style truly unique, while telling your brand story and putting across your values.

Share me

Some startups – and many larger companies – fall victim to a certain narcissism online. Yes, people have ‘Liked’ your page because they like your brand, but keep WIIFM in mind (What’s In It For Me?). Creating shareable content is 1 part magic, 1 part relevance, mixed with 2 parts awesome content. Ok maybe the ratio is wrong but they’re all pretty vital. Tell people what’s happening in your industry. Share other people’s content, sometimes they’ll return the favour. Even play on universal truths. They may be generic, but it’s ok to create or share them from time to time: inspirational images (particularly on Tumblr and Pinterest) and funny videos are incredibly shareable, and will expose your name to a much wider audience, even if the content is less key to your brand. As long as it’s relevant – in your industry, geographic location, whatever – you can play in this space sometimes.

Einstein FTW

I like this Gidsy post because it was timely (Einstein’s birthday) and relevant (imaginative maker types = core users). Generic is sometimes ok! Reach a bigger audience.

Who are you speaking to?

A lot of your output is going to be preaching to the choir. This is invaluable, as you’re keeping your most enthusiastic (and possibly most influential) people topped up with brand love, and they are going to evangelise like anything. But how will you speak to people that don’t already love your product? You might need a different channel for this, for example paid ads, or you could widen the net when posting things to your followers. By being a little more informative and persuasive about your product, there is a small risk of alienating your core group, but the risk the other way round is much bigger. People will simply hide, unlike, or unfollow if you give them irrelevant content.

Offline. Yummy.

Receiving lots of Likes and shares is always a boost, but meeting the users of your product In Real Life is genuinely inspiring. Organising events and meetups gives you a very different perspective than what Google Analytics will tell you, and best of all, it’s really fun! The next step is converting these people so that they actually use your product. Which brands do you think have done a good job offline? An event I enjoyed was an Airbnb open office in London, but that’s probably because I got a Moleskine luggage tag embossed with their logo. Swag is always going to be a winner (if you can afford to do it), swag that’s relevant to your brand is even better.

Which startups are doing this well? I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this.


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