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How to Promote Your Online Community without Spamming

Outreach to new members is possibly one of the less attractive online community management tasks. You’re expected to grow your community numbers, but can’t always do so organically. As a result, you have to reach out to others to bring them in. If you’re not careful, you can cross the line into spam territory.

The key to successful outreach and community building is to not be annoying. If your Twitter stream is only links and you bombard the same people over and over again with e-mail, you’re not going to get their buy-in.

Here’s how to build your community without annoying potential members:

  • Link intelligently. It’s fine to link to online conversations, news, and events from within your company when using the social networks, but if your only social networking activity is to link to your own stuff, it’s problematic. Most people unfollow anyone who spreads only links. Sharing links is okay, but make them interesting and relevant to the community and make sure that they’re from a variety of related sources.

  • Find out what community members think. For example, if you work for a company that manufactures beauty products, link to articles that offer beauty tips or ask what community members think about the use of particular ingredient. Link to images of celebrities and models using makeup the right way and wrong way and ask for thoughts or tips. Make your links fun and interesting, but don’t always make it about you.

  • After the first e-mail, everything else is opt in. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself if you’re running an e-mail campaign. A one-time invitation to participate in community events is fine as long as you’re sure it’s something the other person will enjoy. However, sending weekly letters urging attendance is more than spam; it’s annoying.

    Invite people to participate but make sure that you offer a box to check off to receive future updates. Also, make sure that you include a box for the people who don’t want updates or e-mail.

  • Always offer something in return. If you’re doing blogger outreach, for example, to get bloggers to join and talk about your community in order to bring in other members, you need to offer them something. Bloggers are weary about promoting stuff and putting their reputation on the line.

    Plus, why would they want to promote someone for no reason or no money? Offer a perk like a link on your website, forum, or newsletter. Or you can offer to do a Q&A with them to help them build their own brands.

When you’re promoting your community, ask yourself, “Would I want to receive” all this e-mail or “Would I consider all these links or announcement annoying?” If it’s not something you’d want to receive yourself, chances are no one else wants it either.

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