Dave Nevogt is a co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking software for remote teams. Hubstaff allows managers to see time spent on projects, screenshots, activity levels, in-depth reports and timesheets. Dave has been founding companies since 2004 with his first success coming at 23. Follow him at @dnevogt.
Recently, YEC spoke with Dave Nevogt about his experiences building a community for customers and stakeholders in his business, and what others interested could learn about the process. His best advice is below.
Think About the Needs of Others
Building a strong community adds value to your business because it forces you to think about your customers’ needs in order to create content, ask questions and invite their participation. Whenever you invest time in discovering about what your customers want and need, you gain valuable information about your target market that helps you serve them better. They can tell if you really care, and they’ll come to view you as an authority — which increases the likelihood that they’ll give you return business in the future.
A community is built on a platform that encourages interaction, on and offline. It’s a conversation between customers, and between customers and their brand. It’s a group of active participants who rely upon each other for information, support and humor. A list is just a passive collection of inbox destinations or sources of direct revenue. It’s a list of targets that receive whatever you send them — if they haven’t deleted or blocked it first. A community is an network of active, voluntary interactions. This network gradually builds up an ecosystem of mutual value generation for brands and customers.
Tend to Your Community Every Day
Have a sustainable post-launch strategy and be dedicated to following it. Community building takes time and planning, and it’s simply not enough to just set it up and hope that customers will come. Treat it as a long-term investment in your customer base, and plan out roles for leaders, moderators, and content contributors before you launch. Then make sure you’re following through with content calendars, and constantly ask your leaders and moderators how they’re serving customers. It’s like gardening — you don’t just plant a seed and walk away. You have to care for it a little bit every day and support its growth.
Engage on Their Terms
Have set rules, but don’t be dictatorial. Make sure you have standards for community discussion, but don’t stifle conversation if it goes against you. Meaningfully responding to criticism is a great way to engage your customers and show them that you take their feedback seriously. If many community members are consistently exposing your weaknesses, own up to them instead of trying to cover it up, apologize and show them how you’re improving. As long as the conversation doesn’t turn abusive, you have to be willing to engage with the community on its own terms.
Build on Your Own Platform
If I could start again from scratch, I would have focused almost exclusively on community building on our website instead of on social. When you build communities on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, it’s essentially rented space, and you have much less control over the conversation than on a private medium. On our blog, building a healthy community is more beneficial. It’s good for our SEO, we can create many different kinds of content and conversations, and it also lets us infuse our brand identity throughout the whole community life cycle.
Help Others Feel Connected
We’re using our already existing community to come together for webinars. They’re not sales webinars, but rather a way for users to come together, learn tips for managing their own Hubstaff accounts and their remote workers, and feel more connected to our brand. After popular feedback we also started a facebook group for them to share stories and tips with each other. It’s great because they’re mostly small business owners and contractors whose experience using Hubstaff helps us further refine our product.
Let Growth Happen Organically
Insert yourself into the conversation and develop it until until mitosis occurs. Communities naturally grow and split off when niches develop and become more popular than the main community. Find the niche that appeals most to your interests, then engage with it and grow the conversation. Interact with participants in the niche, give them lots of interesting content and ways to participate and help it grow enough to the point where it organically splits off from the parent community.
Encourage cross-collaboration between multiple communities so that participants naturally start doing what you have to do in the beginning. If you can get community members from different but related communities to talk to each other and to monitor their discussions, you’ve developed them into a place where they no longer need your constant management. Do this by sharing content from one community with another, by sharing their reactions and by inviting top contributors and key influencers from one community to participate in the others.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.