March 13, 2019

A Question of Transparency - How Do You Engage With Your Users And Make Them Feel Part Of Your Journey?

I've recently been working on building a community of Beta users as part of my day job. Essentially a subsection of the larger user base we can engage with regularly, test concepts and general bring along for the ride.

Luckily we don't have a shortage of users to reach out to, but I've been struggling to find a way to keep them engaged and develop a sense of comrade. This feels especially important to its success as the company in question is one that has traditionally been a black box and trust amongst users is a genuine problem. It strikes me as well that this could be a way to help engage and keep those 1,000 true fans (https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/) I've heard so much about.

There is of course tools like twitter, but I see those as more reactionary tools. The closest example of what I'm thinking about is Station's Community (https://community.getstation.com) and roadmap (https://www.notion.so/Station-s-public-roadmap-030f47e10b36450f91377035949b51ba). I've seen some companies also use Trello for this purpose.

So to cut my rambling short I guess my questions to y'all are:

  1. Is this problem of creating and nurturing a community around your product something you've encountered?

  2. If you have encountered it how did you solve it?

  3. If you did solve it was it worth the effort?

  1. 2

    We are pre-launch so this is a bit theoretical.

    As a solo founder and very remote, I wanted a persistent forum. Touchgram users will vary widely in their technical sophistication and hopefully include a strong community of creatives. I considered Slack but it's a bit specialist and if your community takes off, loses messages horribly quickly due the 10K limit.

    I picked Spectrum partly because multiple design tools and creative communities I'm in area already there.

    https://spectrum.chat/?t=0077c38d-4ec3-4489-903f-4cf57efaaddf

    1. 1

      Awesome! I'll check them out. Have you had any issues getting people to sign on and use it?

      1. 2

        So far I've had very limited beta testing, far more so than expected, because early testing showed a major issue I needed to work on (I had planned to tackle in a later version).

        It's incredibly easy to accidentally lose data from an iMessage app because Apple put a close box up on the top of the "expanded" window, which terminates the message session. This means you need to manage state restoration per recipient (via anonymous GUID keys). That's complex. None of the major apps I've tried do it.

        Beta testing quickly showed people hit that box intentionally or unintentionally much more often than I had anticipated.

        Getting that fixed stalled the beta testing process and rollout but I think is worth it. The more effort you put into crafting your message, the more likely it is you will be furious to lose it if you accidentally close. Some Touchgrams will be works of art. Even for people sending "trivial" messages, it's very jarring to lose things when you do the wrong thing.

        1. 2

          Thanks for the context! Also love it as an example of building feedback in the product that closing the loop.

  2. 2

    I've done this.

    If I were to break it down into it's simplest form, I would say: show up every day and continue to always focus on serving their needs.

    How you do it depends on your community. We've used hosted forums, then discourse, email, social media, slack, events.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the tip! Did you find any of those methods more successful than the others?

      1. 2

        Well, you kinda need both for them to work. I don't believe you can serve their needs without showing up every day :)

        To show up, you need to create that space to show up in. You need to be prepared to put up with the wonderful, good, bad and ugly. You need to see it as important and as a priority, not something that can be done later.

        By showing up you will learn things that no one else will because most people won't bother to spend the time to connect the dots. You will learn how to serve your community's needs better. You'll understand what they want and be able to make better decisions about how to grow your community/business.

        And when you show up and just talk about how things are. Or what you are working on. Or the challenges you are having. Or show that you listen, by actually doing/creating/fixing stuff. That creates transparency. And trust. Over time.