:: By Kristin Tarr, CloudFlare ::
When it comes to connecting with your community, it's important to remember that there are a variety of ways you can make an impact on your users. Conferences, events, meet-ups and forums are all places you can make an impression with your community, and even learn a few things in return.
Here are Four Ways to Build and Maintain your Community:
1. It's all about the swag. Whether it's T-shirts, stickers, or some other awesome giveaway, people love getting free swag. It leaves an impression, not to mention it leaves them feeling warm and fuzzy that someone out there cares. At CloudFlare, we do not discriminate against postal codes and send T-shirts and stickers to users all over the world. We've sent T-shirts from Indiana to India and stickers from Austria to Australia. We've shipped swag to users in just about 70 percent of the countries in the world. Everyone loves getting mail, especially mail that contains cool stuff from a company you really like. Not only do customers appreciate getting swag, it also gives them an opportunity to provide feedback. On T-shirt forms - leave a comment box. It's surprising how many people leave comments, whether it's product feedback, words of praise, questions or even requests for jokes (not kidding). Companies appreciate the interaction with their customers who, in turn, enjoy having their voices heard.
2. Sponsor with a purpose. Conferences and trade shows provide companies with visibility and a platform to reach a target audience. However, it's also important to think strategically and maximize those top dollar sponsorships. Find ways to create a better experience for conference attendees. From free limo rides, to breakfast and coffee, to free device charging stations, providing opportunities and amenities that make each attendee's conference experience a little better. As a result, existing and potential customers get extra face time with your company.
3. Meet your community. Hosting meet-ups is one of the best ways to build and maintain a community. Whether it's in San Francisco or Sofia, Bulgaria, CloudFlare has hosted meet-ups all over the world to meet with customers in person, share some goodwill (and of course T-shirts and stickers) and hear their thoughts on what we could be doing better. Not sure where to start or what kind of meet-up to organize? Offer to host a meet-up that speaks to your product or service. There are many, many meet-ups out there of all kinds and they are always looking for a good location to hold their events. Don't have the space to host? Sponsor with pizza and beer and send a few of your folks to the event. Pizza and beer after a long day at work is always appreciated.
4. Hire a Community Evangelist. A Community Evangelist doesn't just cover Twitter and Facebook. A Community Evangelist is someone who actually reads forums, responds to comments, corrects factual errors and provides value to people who may be confused or upset with your product or service. People take to the interwebs to voice their opinions, and sometimes those opinions need to be heard and responded to. It's important to reach that audience and have someone out there who is patrolling forums, blogs and websites where people mention your product or service. Not everything you read out there is going to be good and that's OK, but having someone on your team who is responding to issues or feedback goes a long way. And it never hurts to offer up a free T-shirt.
About the Author:
Kristin Tarr is CloudFlare's communications manager and oversees the company's marketing and thought leadership initiatives. Kristin hails from California's Central Coast and is also a running fanatic, having run numerous half and full marathons. She graduated from CSU, Chico with a degree in Public Relations and Political Science.