I'm going to assume that you're a community manager, rather than a CXO. Community managers have an additional challenge over a CXO doing the same thing — budget.
There's a word for a marketer without a budget: unemployed.
Similarly, as a community manager, you'll have to often fight for a reasonable budget. How can you expect any sort of performance without a budget to increase visibility? People are not going to fall from the sky and join your community, they've got to hear about it somewhere first. In a world where every single person is fighting for your potential member’s attention, you've got to play the bidding game to create a top of the funnel. It's either that or go down in the history books as a non-performing community manager.
💡P.S: CEO and CFOs, how do you feel firing a community manager for non-performance after allocating them zero advertising budget? Please know that it is absurd to expect anything from them without spending money, just like the marketers you've hired.
Here are the steps I'd take if I was community manager in order to build top of the funnel:
Fight for a budget. $1k at least.
The more, the better. Start with small experiments and increase budgets where you see traction. If some channel is working well, focus almost exclusively on it until it runs out.
Map out every watering hole your potential members are on, even if your online community is exclusive.
For example, if you think your potential members watch Mr.Beast's Youtube content, run ads on said content via YouTube ads. If your potential members constantly visit NFT news websites, run ads on said websites. This book isn't an advertising guide. But a simple tip is to talk to as many people who might use your community. Through these conversations, find out where they spend their time. Not just on social platforms, but which specific YouTube channels, websites, etc.
A smart hack — if you have friends who trust you, ask them to open ad settings in front of you. This is an extremely powerful page. It will tell you exactly what that person is interested in. There is some level of privacy invasion associated with this. So, only folks who really trust you will show this to you. And likewise, you should only ask people to show you this page after you've told them the consequences. Once you know someone's interests, you can guess the channels and platforms they'll use.
Find relevant pools and add bait
An extension on the previous step is to find highly relevant pools where your users might hang out. You can add some bait in your community and people might join in to check that piece of bait out. An example of this process is to find popular newsletters. Pay them a price to advertise an exclusive piece of well-written content. You can then ask readers to join your community to access said piece of content. We use Letter Hunt.
The value in going after niche, relevant pools instead of YouTube or Instagram ads is that they are much cheaper and more targeted. YouTube and Google ads, in particular, have gotten extraordinarily expensive over the last few months. You get more bang for your buck and a more relevant audience by going after niche sources.
Allow people to easily cross the gate with a little effort
Lock your community up in the beginning and make it invite only. We've never seen a community that wasn't invited only in the early days get big (there may be exceptions, but the viral factor, k, is low with open access communities). You can turn off invite-only after a few months. The gating, however, should be easy to get through. If people want to get in and are willing to spend 2-3 mins, they should be able to get in. It makes them feel smart, too.
Clubhouse was actually fairly easy to get into, even when they were invite-only. If you ever did a Twitter search for "Clubhouse invite", you'd find someone willing to give out invites (the reason these people do so is that it makes them look altruistic).
Step 5: Get influencers
Influencers in 2021 are making an incredible amount of money selling their distribution. And dollar for dollar, they're cheaper than running social media ads. Influencers also tend to have a much higher advert click through rate because their audience trusts them (audiences trust influencers way more than clicking on a random ad in their feed).
According to MediaKix, 71% of marketers said the quality of customers, leads, and traffic from influencer marketing is better than those from other sources. You're creating word of mouth marketing at scale (there's inherent warmth with your audience using an influencer) rather than just running cold ads to a cold audience.
Influencer marketing is the middle ground between "Recommendations from people I know" and "Ads on social networks":
Run all ads to events
With a traditional product, you'd send the top of the funnel to your Playstore or App Store download link. With communities, you should not send them to your community homepage or some random chat (they haven’t been through an event induction and hence are most likely to be dead community members). The top of the funnel has to be directed to an event. When you advertise an event, people are:
a) More likely to click
b) More likely to attend the event
c) More like to listen to you for 30 mins
d) Hence more likely to convert into an active member
💡Events are the Trojan horse into a potential member's mind.
To give you an idea of the costs, we ran adverts to a community event and had 13,000 people turn up (the event happened on Scenes, we were able to manage all those concurrent members on stage at the same time on mobile). The cost per conversion into community member was roughly $0.7. This event was run to an Indian audience, hence costs were unbelievably low, but when we ran ads directly to the community as an experiment later, we saw a cost per conversion of $3. That's a 4.2x cheaper cost running ads to events rather than to your community homepage/chat/forum.
Verbal CTA to join the community
When people attend your event, remember to ask them to join your community every 5 minutes or so while the event is going on. On YouTube, you should always ask your watchers to subscribe, and repeat it indefinitely. It's the same with events — people will forget to join your community and hence will be lost forever. Don't make this mistake; people need to be told, sometimes multiple times, for them to join.
💡Scenes makes this easy by allowing people to join a community in one click while an event is going on.
One last tip
I have one last tip for you, and this is yet another reason we built Scenes for mobile platforms first, rather than web. Most people will see your ads on a mobile phone, especially when running them through influencers or newsletters or other advertising platforms where you can't control the operating system.
If you do not have a fully working mobile community platform, you have wasted your money. Most of the new age community platforms like Circle and Tribe don't have fully functional nor scalable mobile apps at the time of writing this, so you're wasting dollars.
Web community platforms look and feel nice, but they not only waste your money, you barely see any engagement there.
Making your community visible to more and more people is an art you’d have to perfect over time. As mentioned above, people are not going to fall from the sky and join your community, so you should work on helping your community stand out as much as possible. For any guidance, talk to us.