The first goal of any community manager should be to get to know your core users.
At the start of any community, it can be tempting to focus on the a-word: acquisition. The more users you have, the better, right?
I have been thinking about this proposition a lot, and while more users is a good thing, at the very start of a community having more users is not necessarily correlated with offering a more positive user experience. And, if you don’t get the user experience right, then over time it becomes difficult to retain the users you have acquired.
Consider this scenario. Suppose you have just invested heavily in an advertising campaign that helped you get an influx of new applications for your community. You invite a number of the people who have applied to join, and now you have more users who count themselves as members of your community.
Now that you have more members, you have more people you need to please. There will be more feedback that you need to manage and sift through, and there is a high chance that at least some of that feedback will not be relevant because you have tried to scale before you know exactly who your core user is.
In building a community from scratch, I am trying to focus on one thing: the core users. These are the people who are already on the platform and who are engaging.
There is a lot I can learn from the core users in a community. First, I can learn about why they joined in the first place -- what was their motivation? Having an understanding of this can help me craft better user acquisition channels when it comes time to do so.
I can also learn more about the specific experience each user has had, and whether that experience matched their expectations. Upon joining the community, did a member feel delighted, or disappointed? Why did they feel that way? These questions give me a better sense of the average user experience, from the perspective of someone who has not been crafting the community (i.e. not me).
User acquisition is important, but what matters most is ensuring you know who you want to acquire as a user. That way, you can focus your efforts more on acquiring the right users -- the people who you know will get value out of your platform.
It also helps to be intensely focused on engagement at the start of your community. A community with ten thousand users could be a good community, but if people are rarely engaging -- if people are not coming back and posting more content -- then the number of registered users you have does not necessarily matter.
When you create a delightful community experience, people will want to come back. The only way you’ll know if you have created this experience is if you keep talking with your core users -- the people you know can derive value from your platform -- and to get feedback.