By now, you've opened up lines of communication, written and shared solid guidelines, and established benchmarks. You're bound to have made a few in-depth connections with community members. Now is the time to harness these connections, get to know people more deeply, and share their stories.
Stop what you're doing and send a few emails to schedule calls or Google Hangouts with users this week. You should keep doing this periodically or create an easy automated way for people to share stories in an ongoing
On these calls, ask your community members about their lives and why they do what they do and how you can help them. Don't just talk about your product or service. Invest your time in them as human beings. Ask them what they love and what ticks them off. With their permission, I highly suggest recording these conversations. Over a smartphone or in-person, I recommend an app called "Recorder". On the computer, there are a few plugins you can use to record your audio for later use (Evaer for Skype is one I've used). Google Hangouts lets you record things On Air, so that's a great option. Again, get their permission first.
If you want to do something a bit more "scaleable," create a series of questions (say, 5 of 'em) and simply email them to 5-10 people and have them respond with their answers. This will create instant content. I like to ask for photos as well so I can include them with the content. It just makes the piece that much more personal. People are generally more than happy to provide one.
Once you have some stories to share, do a quick check to make sure you have plans for distribution of the stories. If you're lucky, you already have someone on your team working on these efforts or you walked into them already set up. But if you're just starting out, you may be a lone ranger. That's okay, just start simply with:
- E-mail newsletters + links to subscribe shared out
- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and/or any other social profiles that make sense for your community
Now, write like you're going mad. Share the stories out in multiple ways. Keep re-purposing your content and re-imagining it. Write a blog post, but then also create presentations to post on Slideshare, upload it to Scribd, share it out on all your social profiles... there are so many ways to share and keep the stories alive.
Get your whole team in on the sharing and have them send out the stories to people they know on their social networks. Send it out to other online communities with similar purposes that you may be a part of. Just get that community out there.
These are the stories that will sell your community to others. This is community as a growth engine. Make it awesome. Make it accessible. Make your community members feel like they're part of something and that you care about their story. If you invest in them, they're much more likely to invest in you.