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How I Started My Community - Part 2 Building Engagement

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Since the last blog entry in this series I have been very busy. I’m still working full time so haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would have liked on The Dogly Mail but I’m really enjoying the time I can.

Early growth has been promising and I have been experimenting with different ideas that have come from founder members to see what might work long term.

We recently broke the 100 member milestone and that all came from word of mouth. We’re not talking huge numbers but I’m very encouraged for the future. My focus is now on building interactions with four main areas of the site.

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Forums

I had imagined the forums being the most active area after seeing other Invision Communities but I don’t think there are enough regularly active members yet for this area to be truly useful so it is (for now) not the main priority. I am however using some forums functionality effectively. I’ve added a special offers forum that is viewable by non members but to get to the actual topic contents you need to register. This seems to be enticing a few people to sign up and I want to approach more retailers to build on this.

Polls are also proving popular and new members who may not want to commit to introducing themselves or posting a full topic are at least interacting. I’ll be looking for more ways of adding easy interactions such as this.

If anybody has any ideas for encouraging early discussion please let me know in the comments.

Articles

In the articles section new items are slowly being added and I find this a good opportunity to show some personality and indicate to users what they can expect from the rest of the site. I am trying all kinds of articles such as news, reviews, recipes and dog training guides to find out what I should focus on. I would also like to attract some guest writers for different viewpoints and to free up some of my time. Being able to see article view counts in Invision Community and the direct commenting functionality gives me good feedback.

Events

The launch of the events section coincided with a large dog related event in London and through it I was able to collaborate with the event organisers and do some succesful networking. This has led to some future opportunities for product reviews and reinforces my point from the last blog article where not all of your time should be spent behind the keyboard. Most of the events are being added by myself but hopefully as this section builds others will find it useful for promoting their own events.

Photos

One of the early members was quick to suggest we incorporate image sharing into the website as after all how can anybody resist cute photos of puppies? For this I originally looked at the Invision Gallery but felt that this section needed to have a voting element and Gallery was perhaps too feature rich. I wanted it to be a simple first interation with the website. I wanted people to be able to vote and more importantly encourage their friends to sign up and vote too.

We started out with a simple topic and for the first month with not many people this worked great. One post was an entry and people could “Like” their favourites. It quickly became quite popular and it was clear that we would need something dedicated to the task so I commissioned some custom work.

This was real investment but is already showing promising signs after launching April 1st. New members can now enter the photo competition and register at the same time so most new registrations are now coming from this route.

I’ve recently discovered the profile completion feature so will enable that this month to try and increase engagement a bit further. I want to keep to our non intrusive privacy policy so this will all be optional and limited to member photo and some simple dog breed and numer of dogs fields.

With what I have learned so far I have a better idea of what is going to work to attract registrations and there is also a credible amount of content.

This month I will be starting to look into some paid promotion with the hope of hitting my next milestone of 250 members.

I will share my findings and hopefully some helpful marketing tips next month.

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