If you’re an early-stage startup founder, it’s quite likely that you’ll need to reach your first customers without a real marketing budget. This makes online communities associated with your offering an obvious choice for your marketing efforts.
Unfortunately, you’re not the only startup in the world trying growth-hack the road to success by plugging its offer and content into relevant Facebook groups or subreddits. This has led to online communities developing a very strong immune response to self-promotion.
In most groups, blatant self-promotion is prohibited, and moderators will be happy to remove your posts or even ban you to protect the community from being flooded with promotional content and blatant spam.
Moreover, even if you get past the first line of defense, blatantly promotional content will likely be pushed away by community members – people won’t engage, or they’ll use negative engagement mechanisms as possible (report, downvote, etc.), which will result in fewer people seeing your proposal.
The uncomfortable truth is that there is no easy solution to this problem. Regardless of your approach, you need to provide real value to the community to get the desired effect – interested eyes on your offer.
Generally, there are two ways of dealing with the problem.
1. Become A Valuable Member Of The Community
A straightforward way is to become a member of the community and regularly contribute non-commercial value. If you reach out, provide information and opinions, connect with people, and try to be helpful, you will likely be remembered by the more active people in the community.
Once they do, they’re more likely to respond positively to your efforts to share your offer – you’ll be viewed as an insider, which makes a big difference.
Of course, this is a very expensive approach, and you need to carefully consider whether it makes sense. Wasting your time engaging with a community for months just so you can post about your project is sometimes a waste.
This strategy only makes sense if the community is very close to your target market. If so, engagement will bring other benefits – you’ll be closer to your customers, which will help you understand them better. Moreover, you will be up to date with the latest trends, which will help you refine not only your offer but yours marketing strategy.
2. Make Self-Promotion a Second-Order Effect
If community membership is a bad idea based on a cost-benefit analysis, it means you need to be creative in the way you promote yourself.
Since blatant self-promotion triggers all defenses, regardless of your creative approach, your general strategy is to create publications where getting people interested in your project is the secondary effect. of your message, rather than the main reason for your post .
A common example is sharing informative content from your blog. The content topic should be one that provides value to your target audience (and the communities, where you want to post it). You can include references to your own project and professional experience in the content, but it should not be the main focus of your post. This way even if the community does not allow you to post a link to your blog, but instead you have to paste the text, readers will know yourself and your offer.
In conclusion, if you want to use online communities to launch your product startup, don’t spam. Instead – engage in a way that creates value for the community, and think of your self-promotion as a secondary effect.