During the setup of a new innovation community, to ensure success, its essential to consider the best way to recruit your target crowd. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for this, because it depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your community.
When launching a community to capture customer insight, as retailer Leroy Merlin has done, you may be best placed to go all in on in-store events and posts from the company Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to recruit a community of thousands (they did, it was awesome!).
On the other hand, a community set up with the sole purpose of employee engagement, such as Crowdicity customers Maddocks or Mills & Reeve for example, might take a different route, using company emails, internal comms alongside announcements from senior management and a link to the company website. The result is the same: an active crowd, but with two different approaches to recruitment.
One thing I’ve learnt after years of supporting community launches is you have to tailor your recruitment strategy to your target demographic. Think about what your target audience usually respond to and design your recruitment strategy to suit. Do your staff never open company emails? Then design posters and create merchandise instead or ensure the messages are cascaded down via line managers. Is your target demographic never off their phones, hammering social media with visual content? Then you know what to do!
Find clarity around the options first, then decide how best to reach your crowd. The results will be worth the effort to get it right from the start.
A physical/off-line event
Events are a very effective way to kick off online innovation because the participants’ first sight of the community is connected to a real-world event. They can see it for the first time together, plus they’ll have an opportunity to use it and ask questions.
Launch the site alongside a hackathon, a workshop, a training or away day or a purposed event with the sole aim of introducing the innovation platform. Make it internal only or external-facing with customers or partners. Tied in with speakers, or a panel relevant to the topics you intend to crowdsource, and an occasion of this kind can really catalyse enthusiasm!
- Send invites from the community to a list of participants beforehand. Aspiring members can join up fast, on their mobiles or laptops, without first requesting access.
- Present the community on a large screen Show off the branding and name of the community (a good reason to make sure it’s memorable).
- Get the ball rolling with volunteers. Before your event, ensure there are a few posts already there so the platform looks busy. No one wants to be the one to submit ideas first so give your new users a helping hand by asking volunteers to post the day before.
- Invite the boss! Senior management visibility at the launch sends a potent message. If possible, have a senior manager announce their support of the project. Even better if the same person sets the first challenge (like the Mayor of Rio did), writes a guest blog on the community or commits to reading and rewarding selected posts.
- Build time in to be available for questions. Set up your laptop and be ready to show people what the community is all about one-on-one, or setup a ‘drop-in clinic’ date for sometime after the event.
- Strike while the iron is hot. Use the system while people are still there. Encourage people to post ideas on their phones or vote on existing ones - any activity will mean they have to sign up which will make marketing the platform a breeze after the event.
Organisational newsletter/Internal comms recruitment
You could announce the new community in whatever form of internal comms usually gets the best response, such as the weekly newsletter, to ensure the biggest uptake for your online launch.
Plan ahead, and use whatever comms you can to announce successes in future as well. What will happen when someone has an idea implemented? Could you give them space in an internal magazine or on the intranet? Think ahead to keep people engaged.
Social media/other media
For communities that are open to the public you may not have a list of email addresses to invite. In these cases, the best way to go is often via social or other kinds of media. Don’t rule out this approach for internal communities too though.
- Drive traffic from your organisation’s Facebook page, LinkedIn or Instagram (and others) and publicise the URL of your community on those pages. People need only click on the link to sign up and start posting.
- Grow - From your community, users can share content on social media. Grow the system virally!
- Shout - We’ve seen TV features, radio interviews, billboards and heaps of merchandise over the years, from NHS Dorset’s coasters and pens and Zitter Health Insights’ crystal trophy to the Mayor of Montreal’s bus stop ads. From the Royal College of Nursing’s magazine advert campaign to an innovation platform appearing on every cash till screen in every Three store, all with the purpose of publicising the web address of Crowdicity communities. The City of Rio even had a launch event televised on a major TV channel. Before the end of the day this aired, almost 2000 people signed up to their platform.
Send email invitations to your crowd direct from a community along with a custom message.
In your invitation:
- Be specific about the community purpose and why you’re inviting them
- Be sure to give enough information to pique their interest, but try to avoid an info dump
- Keep it relevant to your audience
- If there are any deadlines for the first challenge? Be upfront
- Make sure you include an incentive to join
- Set up an automated email, sent to welcome people as soon as they join
Whatever your main purpose for your open innovation platform, get the right strategy and messaging for your recruitment and you’re good to go! If you’re unsure, get in touch.