We increased traffic on our community from 0 → 2000 and signups from 0 → 60 per month. This is a story of how we did it.
This story is about how we went from this:
Why build a community?
Everyone wants to build a community around their own SaaS users. The SEO advantages are real and it multiplies over the years. We at Gumlet had another important reason to make it work. Let's put it this way, we love a space where real humans can freely collaborate and interact.
Many of our team members are part of many online and offline communities and we love to contribute whatever we can. When we started building Gumlet, a community of video-focused professionals was something really hard to come by. That seemed like a good enough reason to build one!
How to start 🤔
We asked founders in our circles about starting a community. The majority of them favoured either Discord or Slack for building one. The rationale was simple, connect with people where they are already present. Who wants to install another software or make another signup?
The idea seemed fine and may have worked well for others but for us, that was not solving any problem that we started with. If we want to make the world a better place for Q&A for all things video, a closed, non-SEO optimised platform was not going to help us at all. If knowledge is locked behind cupboards, it's very tough to democratize it.
We eventually took the path of using Circle.so to build an online community. A good interface, single sign-on for our users, polls, events and a lot more was available as a SaaS. We jumped right in on 16th June 2022.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand! There were crickets! For months! 😑
The cold-start problem
A community with 5-7 posts and 3-4 users is something that never takes off the ground. First, the users have to use a new platform which is hard in itself and on top of that there is no push from either Gumlet or SEO to onboard and ask questions.
In a nutshell, no one knew about our tiny little community where we were willing to welcome anyone interested.
Content creation ✒️
After a few months, we started putting relevant questions from our support chats/emails into the community and many of those questions were repeatable, a perfect content for a community platform for everyone to get answers.
Soon we had more than 200 questions and answers available and we were actively redirecting users to those answers whenever we got them in our support. We waited patiently for another 4-5 months.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand! There were still crickets! 🦗 😣
What the heck is wrong here 💭
We sat down and went back to the drawing board. We were getting something really wrong here and we were asking ourselves tough questions. Should we have used Discord? Or we should have not created a community at all as some have suggested when we started?
We then took a look at successful communities and I am inspired by the good work of folks at fly.io. Their community is not only working well but is fledging and is a source of help for a ton of their customers.
After spending a month on planning here are changes that we made.
The platform switch
We felt that Circle.so was not optimised for SEO and even though we were creating a ton of content, it was somehow not getting indexed by Google. We made an effort to move everything from Circle to Discourse.
Only after shifting did we realise how big a difference a platform can make. Those workflows built around user engagement, followups, nice welcome nudges, in-depth analytics and a familiar interface to many just made a difference of day and night. People started using it more frequently right away.
The second aspect was SEO. Google immediately started indexing pages. We were still not ranking well but it was a good start. This eventually compounded over time.
Blending-in with the product
Our first effort treated the community portal as a different entity. Apart from a single link on the footer, there was no mention that it exists. Users were unable to find it let alone contribute to it. We made changes in our website and dashboard which put community nudges everywhere.
When someone wanted to ask a question, the first option was community. If they wanted to search for some issue, the first option given was changed to community. If they received emails, it mentioned that the community portal was available for any help.
Making the community a part of the entire product experience is how we increased signups a big time. Now everyone who uses the dashboard knows that there is something called a community portal where they can reliably go to get answers.
All hands on deck
We also made it mandatory for our employees to quickly answer any questions which were posted there. Those who had doubts about either our product, platform, pricing or videos in general, were answered promptly.
This created trust among users and made it a reliable choice to resolve their doubts.
All these changes resulted in an immediate uptick in traffic, signups and conversations. You can see the effect from February onwards.
The way ahead 🛣️
We are right now getting around 2.2k visitors and around 60 signups a month. This figure was half just 2 months back. The current visitor and signup number is nothing out of the world but it's much easier to rev up the slow engine than starting a stopped engine.
Here are the things we are planning for our community members
- In-person meetings
- Online events and giveaways
- Podcasts and QnA sessions
What started as a dud project has turned out to be a really good success. Hope you will find this article helpful for your own community-building efforts.
If you need any help building yours, we can connect. As always, please let your feedback flow!