Building a Community of Ambassadors to Reach a Million Users

A team joins forces with their hands
Community building is a powerful strategy to make your next project grow exponentially.

One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.

Albert Einstein

Community building is key to reaching a high user base with a grass roots movement and minimal marketing expenditures. You recruit the first thousand users and, if they are the right users, your community will recruit the next million users. Community building was precisely the strategy that Reddit used to grow to more than 39 million users in under a decade. No traditional ads, no traditional marketing, just word of mouth and community building via social media and real life events.

If we were a country, our current active users would make up the 8th largest population in the world, just after Nigeria and larger than Russia, Japan, and Mexico. – Reddit

Your strategy should be to find the best people for your initial community. Criteria for choosing these members can be their alignment with your mission, their social media footprint or perhaps their industry influence. You should strive to get the best 20 or 50 product ambassadors you can. Engage with this initial cohort, empowering them with information, tools and  extra attention. Then, organize events around this group of early adopters and let them know about your plans to release a beta version of your product or service.

Only pick passionate bloggers with a non-trivial follower count and moderate to excellent marketing skills. You can seduce these people into your community by crafting great content, interacting with them on social media, giving them early access to your platform, etc. Try to cover their traveling expenses if you can afford to, and prepare a lot of gifts and “swag” for them to take home and share with family and friends. Treat them as family and try to share time with them to build a true bond. Maybe you can meet with this whole group two or three times per year.

In a couple of weeks, your community will start producing content that you must journal and amplify. At  this point you should start featuring the best community content in your official channels and also consider hiring a social media manager if the flow of information is too big to manage.

As Paula Hansen conveys in the diagram, every social networking ecosystem has a different playbook. And you should respect such etiquette in order to adequately lead your community in the right direction. Choosing the best platform, maintaining the community as something exclusive in the beginning stages of your venture and being clear about your message and purpose will ignite the creative spark of your community and bolster their sense of belonging.

As you move forward you can increase the size of your community, but don’t relax the requirements. Keep recruiting the top bloggers in your field, pretty soon you’ll have hundreds of active bloggers that have a passion for your product or service and can readily amplify your message. At this point you should create a forum or private social network for this elite group of influencers and close your recruitment efforts for the first cohort of community members.

Rinse and repeat this process, relaxing the requirements to join the community and exponentially increasing the number of available slots. For example, you can have three tiers that require 100K, 10K or 1K Twitter followers with proven influence in your product space. You can then proceed to determine the required number of members on each category to adequately amplify your message and build a powerful platform.

This will take a lot of time, money and effort, but you’ll end up with an organized, effective and curated community that can take your message to new heights and allow your product or service to be sampled by millions.