I received a great comment from Roger who is developing a new online community for weddings. In his comment, Roger asked a great question, namely:
I have a KILLER online wedding community to launch
- But I don’t know what would be the best way to do it. Should I just launch it? Should I write more content, should I hire someone to write even better content then what I think I’ve done??
Figuring out when your new community is ready to launch can be a difficult task. Hopefully this article will help Roger and anyone else who is currently developing an online community.
Do you have content?
I have written about 10 quality articles on wedding-planning, even though I’m not that interested in weddings, as I am with online business and getting things to WORK…
10 quality articles is a good start for a launch, but it is impossible for me to say whether it is enough without seeing the site. Here are my golden rules for creating content before you launch:
- Make sure there is content in EVERY section/category on your new site
- Don’t neglect forum content for article content, and vice-versa
- Focus on quality over quantity quality AND quantity of content
- Choose your initial content carefully – it sets the tone and personality of your community
It’s good that Roger has prepared some articles for his new community, however he should consider getting some people from his target audience to read them over and tell him what they honestly think. If you aren’t interested in the topic you are writing about, this may show through in your writing and consequently you risk alienating your visitors from the outset. People only join online communities when they see a shared passion amongst both the site’s members and its developers.
Additionally, Roger hasn’t mentioned whether he has created any other content – he needs to ensure there are posts in the forums, there are already members present and using the site and that features available to members are being used. Nobody wants to go to a party that doesn’t have any guests – an online community is no different.
What testing have you done?
Roger’s new community is completely custom coded by him and a friend, which is admirable. Not only will he now have a site that functions exactly how he wants, he should also have intimate knowledge with how everything works. On the downside, there could be the potential for a higher occurrence of bugs so before launching Roger will need to ensure that he has undertaken rigorous testing. He should also invite a small number of individuals from within his target audience to test out the site and report any errors.
Do you have time to launch an online community?
Online communities will destroy any free time you have. You need to be both aware of, and prepared for, this fact. If you have a busy period in your life coming up, hold off on the launch. I probably could have launched Female Forum in July but had to put it off as I had my final university exams to concentrate on in May, emigrated from the UK to the USA in June and got married in August. If I had launched the site during this busy period, it would have been impossible for me to give my new community the time and attention it needs to flourish.
Make sure that your calender is clear for the next few months at the very least. When you launch a new online community, it has momentum. If you lose that momentum you will find it very hard to get back.
What is your promotional plan?
If you have no idea what your next step will be after you launch, you aren’t ready to launch. Hitting the launch button is just the beginning, not the end. You will need to continue creating content and you will need to be obsessive about promoting your new community.
Roger mentions that he has set aside a budget for advertising on Google AdSense and Facebook, and has a mailing list from another site he runs in the same niche. This mailing list of 4,000 highly targeted individuals is his most valuable asset. He needs to ensure he spends a good amount of time writing and tweaking the copy before sending any emails announcing the new site to this list. You only have one chance to create a first impression – if you don’t interest those 4,000 subscribers in your first email to them, your mailing list will be pretty much worthless from that point on.
As well as promotional emails and paid advertising, you should also have a link building strategy. Get your site out there. Get people linking to it. Communicate with bloggers operating in your niche. Build excitement and publicise your site. A new community that isn’t promoted might as well have never launched in the first place.
Consider a limited beta release
Limited beta releases can be a great idea if you want to gauge how well your new community has met the goals you had in mind for it. Beta testing also helps you spot any bugs or flaws before they become a huge issue that affects thousands of visitors and members.
If you decide to open your site to a limited number of visitors for beta testing, ensure those who you invite:
- Make up your target audience
- Will really test the site and use every feature available
- Be willing to report their honest, constructive and detailed opinions and findings to you
Similar to the concept of beta testing, it can be a good idea to launch your new community slowly. If you run ten other popular websites, don’t promote your new community to all of them from the outset. Start promoting your new community on one or two of the websites, then expand your promotional efforts as the site develops.
This allows you again to find any problems or weak areas of your new site and fix them before you continue promoting. Promoting a broken or ineffective site is more damaging than not promoting it at all. Start off slowly, and build your promotional and development efforts as your site grows.
Do you agree with my advice and recommendations? Have I missed anything out? Do you have anything to add? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below?