Congratulations! If you're reading this article, you've likely put in the hard work to create your online community, and now it's ready for its big debut.
While building your community was a significant accomplishment, the launch phase truly sets the stage for growth. After all, this is your chance to showcase your space and build momentum!
This article will provide steps to help you launch your online community. From setting clear goals and expectations to promoting it effectively, we will cover everything you need to know to make your launch a hit.
P.S. If you're still in the process of building your community, don't worry - we've got an article for that too! Check out our guide on building an online community from scratch.
You've likely spent considerable time and effort defining your goals, but now is the time to evaluate whether they align with your launch strategy. By doing so, you'll have a clear plan for promoting your community, attracting new members, and providing value to your existing members.
To get started, ask yourself these questions:
Milly Tamati, a founder of Generalist World, shared a valuable tip in a recent interview with us: set your community undertone. This means thinking about the feel and vibe you want your community to evoke. To determine your community's undertone, consider the following:
Evaluating your goals and offerings before launching can make a big difference in your community's success. So, take your time with this step!
Now that you clearly understand your goals, it's time to select the right technology to bring your community to life.
With so many community platforms available, selecting the right fit for you can be challenging. The truth is, there's no one size fits all, and to find the right platform, you have to take time to understand your needs by asking yourself questions such as:
To choose the right community platform, it is necessary to weigh numerous factors and consider many different options. That's why we recommend reading our CMX Guide on Community Platforms. You'll find a list of questions to consider in there, as well as the review sheet and a list of community platforms tailored to your specific needs—all so you can take the guesswork out.
This step is all about the technical aspects of your community—is it user-friendly and easy to navigate? Does it reflect your brand? Are there any bugs that need to be fixed?
Some considerations you should make before setting up your space are:
The most important part of this step is to test everything out. You want to ensure that your space runs smoothly and has no technical issues before launching to provide a positive user experience.
While often we will see community guidelines and onboarding processes as an afterthought, we can't place any great emphasis on developing these things before your launch.
Well, think about it! First impressions matter, and a member's first experience with your community sets the tone for their engagement. Without a clear onboarding process, new members may feel lost or unsure about how to interact with others.
Consider creating an onboarding process that introduces new members to your community and helps them get started with their first engagement. This could be an automated welcome message that clearly explains what your community is about, highlights key channels and topics, and encourages new members to introduce themselves in the designated introduction channel.
What is equally essential to your onboarding process are your community guidelines. While it may take time to develop these guidelines, the payoff is worth it (If you are struggling with it, see our article on writing community guidelines you can stick to). Clear guidelines provide a framework for members to understand what is expected of them and what behavior is unacceptable and make moderation easier.
Overall, by investing time in developing your onboarding process and guidelines, you're setting your community up for success and ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all.
As you approach the launch, it's essential to build an online presence that will attract potential members. Consider these options:
Utilizing one or more of these options can build a solid online presence for your community and attract potential members who share your vision.
The content you create will be your audience's first impression of your community, so it's essential that you make it count. So, how can you create content that resonates with your target audience? Here are some tips:
There's one more step before your launch: ensuring everything works perfectly.
That's where Q.A. testing comes in. It is like a health check for your community, looking at everything from the database design and system integrations to the privacy and security precautions, all while ensuring that everything functions properly with one another.
But to truly see how your community will perform in the real world, it's important to run beta testing with a small group of users. Beta testing allows you to see how your community and the features within it will interact with real users. During beta testing, users may provide feedback on the general user experience, point out any areas that might require improvement, and fix any errors that weren't found during the Q.A. process.
Remember that this step is not only about finding bugs and errors. It's also about getting a better sense of how your members will engage with your space, how they'll use features, and what their overall experience will be like. And this knowledge might be immensely helpful in determining the course and growth of your community!
They say "practice makes perfect," and when launching a community, a soft launch is the ultimate practice run. But why is it such a crucial step in the success of your launch?
A soft launch is like a dress rehearsal for your community: It allows you to test the waters, identify any issues and make necessary adjustments before going fully public.
Think of it this way: when throwing a big party, you don't invite everyone and hope for the best. You invite your closest friends, who'll give you honest feedback and help you make the party unforgettable. Your founding members are like your dream team, and a soft launch is a perfect opportunity to get them involved in shaping the community's vision.
So, how do you select your founding members?
If you haven't already, take some time to figure out your community's social identity using the CMX Social Identity Cycle. This will give you a good idea of who your target audience is. Look for people who are passionate about your community's topic, have expertise in the field, or are well-connected and likely to spread the word. Once you have a curated list of potential members, it's time to reach out to them.
You can start with an email campaign, personal outreach, or a social media campaign. The key is to make it personal and tailored to each individual. Remember, your founding members will be your first ambassadors and evangelists. They'll provide valuable feedback about what works and what doesn't and help you generate buzz about your space by sharing their experiences with others.
During the soft launch, your founding members will play a critical role in shaping the community's vision. They'll provide feedback about what resonates with them, how to navigate your space, and what engagement tactics work best. This feedback will help you identify any issues and make necessary adjustments before going fully public.
It's important to remember that there's simply no best way to just do a big launch. Building a community takes time, and the best way to do it is to grow organically. By starting with a soft launch and involving your founding members, you'll be able to build a strong foundation that will last.
You've already done the groundwork by setting up your community space, developing guidelines and onboarding processes, and creating starter content. Now, it's time to turn your attention to generating buzz and attracting new members!
You can take this opportunity to create a waitlist for people who are interested in joining your community. This lets you capture their attention and keep them engaged until your official launch.
Thanks to your founding members, you can create an email list and send sneak peeks into the discussions already happening in your space. By highlighting the early successes and showcasing the value members have gained, you can build excitement among potential members and reinforce the value of your community to your existing members.
Feel free to get creative with your pre-launch activities. Research how you can best capture the attention of potential members at this stage; you don't need an over-the-top promotion. A landing page highlighting the value of joining your space and providing an easy way to join the waitlist, along with an email list for starters, will do the trick for now.
You've made it! Now it's time to make a big splash and generate buzz around your community.
So, how do we go about it? Hosting an event is a great way to mark the launch of your community and generate excitement about it. Whether you opt for a virtual or in-person event, there are plenty of ways to make your launch memorable.
Don't be afraid to get creative with your event. You can offer exclusive content, webinars, or live Q&A. The key is to make it as engaging as possible and provide plenty of opportunities for your members to interact.
Want to take it up a notch? Get your founding members involved and show them they're valued community members. Invite them to bring their friends and colleagues and give them a chance to speak at the event. Make them feel invested, and they'll be sure to spread the word.
But remember, a successful launch requires careful planning and promotion. Use social media, email marketing, and other channels to get the word out and build anticipation. You want everyone to be talking about your community launch, so give them plenty to talk about!
Now that your online community is up and running, it doesn't end there. This is where adoption comes in.
One way to drive adoption is by providing value to your founding members. These members have already shown commitment to your space, so making them feel appreciated and valued is important. Think of providing them special perks, exclusive content, or even a say in the direction. By nurturing your founding members, you can turn them into enthusiastic advocates for your community who will help spread the word and attract new members.
Another key strategy for community adoption is to keep a close eye on user engagement and continuously improve your community based on feedback. Keep track of which content and discussions generate the most interest and participation. Use that information to inform your decision-making about how to grow and scale your community.
Regardless of the strategies you adopt, it's essential to remember that building a thriving community takes time. Stay focused on providing value to your members, fostering engagement and interaction, and continuously improving your community, and you'll be on your way to building a thriving online community that will benefit your members for years to come.