Whether you’re starting a forum, web group or launching a microblogging network on Shout’Em, the launch can make or break it. While working hard on getting your community a success is a continuous effort, why not get your launch right? Here are a couple of ways to do so…
Pick the right domain name
Your domain name is your brand on the web. You may want to get a keyword specific domain name. For example, insurance.com would be a great name for a community about insurance. Unfortunately, domains like that are either already used or sold for a lot of money. You can always get insurancetalk.com… On the other hand, you can go with a unique domain name (like we did with Shout’Em) that can make you recognizable. In the example mentioned, there are dozens of insurancetalks, insuranceforums, etc. It’s hard to remember one. If you’re ready to build a brand, you should have both keywords and a unique name in mind when choosing your domain name.
Test the site
With dozens of different web browsers (Firefox, Internet explorer, …) testing your website on the most popular ones is really important. If your users see a broken design, they might now come back. Don’t lose potential users in the very beginning. Take your time and check your design in your browser. Also, go through all the features you want your users to use. Don’t let them get a broken link or reach a dead end. Be sure to check your server logs as well. It may take time, but it will make your community website even better.
Get your team ready for launch
When you launch your community, be sure to give yourself enough time to dedicate to it. The same goes for your team. Don’t give them other tasks if you’re just launching. You’ll need everyone on board, welcoming new members, troubleshooting and getting the community going. First you need to launch, leave the shiny new stuff for later.
Launch early in the week, early in the morning
Why? If you launch on a friday, you’ll be getting those bug reposts over the weekend. If you don’t work weekends, you’ll end up fixing them on Monday morning. Your users will have two days to see those bugs – and leave. Don’t give them a reason to leave your community. Launch on a tuesday, early in the morning, and stand by. Tuesday and Thursday mornings are a traffic bump for most websites. Use the bump, launch your website.
People want the backstory, they want to know who’s behind it all. Make a concise about page, introduce yourself and your team. Put a face to the username and give people the reasons why you launched your community. You have a special reason for launching it? Say it.
Get ready for the press
Journalists and bloggers love new stuff. Make it easier for them to report on your community and write about it. Prepare a basic media package with an introduction to the projects, images, screenshots, even a little multimedia maybe. Give them an easy way to contact you. Don’t expect them to come screaming to your door looking for an interview. Contact journalist as well as bloggers who you think would be interested. You might be surprised by your feedback.
Be available – have a contact page!
Bloggers aren’t the only ones who would like to contact you. Your users, potential advertisers, future partners,… Put some contact information and give them a chance to do so.
Get the conversation started
If you want your users to talk to each other and start conversations themselves, you’ll need to help them. Start the initial conversations yourself and have your team participate other conversations. Make people feel at home and feel heard. Giving a good example is key to making the community friendly. If you’re nice, chances are others will follow your example. No trolls please!
Help them participate
Your users want to participate? Great, make it easier. If you have a forum, show them how to use unique features such as RSS feeds… For Shout’Em microblogging networks, users can use Twhirl, Ping.fm, HelloTXT, integrate on Ning, etc. Find out how you can make it easier for your users to be on your community every single day!
Community 2 community
Facebook, Twitter, Myspace,… There are a lot of social networking sites out there. General ones or ones in your own niche. Use them and promote your own community there. You can create niche groups on the mainstream networks such as Facebook to get users informed of the existence of your website. You can monitor keywords on Twitter and help people with their questions. They’ll see you know your stuff and visit your own community to find out more!
Give something away of value
Know your community niche? Maybe you’re an expert in blogging, insurance, web design,… Why not write a short guide, turn it into a 10-page e-book and let your users download it for free? People like things that teach them how to be better at something, even more when it’s free.
Signatures! E-mail, forums,…
You send e-mails and participate in other forums and communities, don’t you? Put your link in the signature and get people informed whenever you participate yourself. On social networks, inform others about conversations on your website. Tweet it sometimes, submit a link to Facebook. Don’t overdo it, just do it right!
In real life with meetups
While social media is taking off, people live and meet in real life. Facilitate that and get some real life user meetups going. Twitter users around the world are organizing Tweetups. Geeks, from Toronto to Sydney, are organizing Barcamps. Find a venue, invite your users, have a beer and make your community stick.
How did you launch your community?