Whether it’s from scratch or moving an existing offline community online, when you start a new online community, it’s a good idea to run a so-called Beta community.
What is a Beta community?
A Beta community is very simply just a small sample community that you run for a short period of time before you start your actual community. As quick and easy as it is to launch your Open Social community, rather than invite everyone in all at once it’s best to invite a smaller group of people first. This way you can test your ideas and start off on the right foot.
Not only does this allow you to see if the strategy you have set out will work. It ensures that your community is pre-filled with content and allows you to build relationships with your Beta members, some of whom may help you manage the community once it goes public.
Who do you invite?
Who you invite to your Beta community depends on the type of community you are starting. We would recommend you invite up to 25-30 people max to pre-enroll on your community and run the Beta community for a month or two before opening it up to everyone else. This way you can easily keep track of their activities and keep the community in line in case something goes awry.
For your Beta community think of:
- People in your existing off- or online community who are already active and vocal
- People in your existing offline community who aren’t very tech savvy
- People in your existing on- or offline community who aren’t very active or vocal
- People who are already active and vocal in related communities
In short, invite a mix of people who will be active and happy to give feedback as well as some people who may be harder to activate. You want to know what will make these various audiences tick.
How to invite them
To make sure you start your community off on the right foot, be sure to send all the people you have selected a personal invite. Explain what your plans are for the community on the whole, why you want to run a trial period, why you’ve invited them specifically and what’s expected of them during the trial period.
To get the most out of your Beta community you may want to invite the Betas to individual and group chat sessions to discuss how things are going halfway through and at the end of the Beta period as well as ask them to fill out a weekly poll for example. Alongside just being active in the community in general this can be quite a lot of work for your Betas, but people tend to be happy to comply if they know what’s expected of them beforehand
TIP: When you select your Beta community, select around a third more people to invite than you actually need. This way if anyone doesn’t want to be a part of your Beta community you should still have a large enough sample to work with.
How to keep track of your Beta community
We offer some really good Analytics to keep track of the KPIs you have set for your community. While it is always important to keep track of Analytics, during your Beta phase you will want to keep a really close eye on this so you know what questions to ask your Betas during your weekly polls or when you interview them halfway through and at the end of the trial period.
Think of keeping track of things like:
- Users who log in but don’t engage in the community actively, what keeps them from engaging?
- Users who are super active for only one type of content or content item, what keeps them from engaging with other content?
- Content items which are super popular versus content items that get no engagement, why did users prefer or dislike these content item over others?
- And anything else that may be of interest to you, in the Beta period you may even find that there is data you hadn’t considered before that is very relevant to achieving the goals you have set for your community
Time to do it live!
Your Beta community should give you insights into how your community will behave once you invite everyone else in. It may help you set more realistic KPIs and goals for your community, for example it’s entirely possible that your community will read and appreciate the content you post but won’t be very responsive in the first year or that the content you thought would really drive engagement is content that falls flat, while content you saw as filler goes through the roof. A Beta period won’t answer all your questions but it will help you adjust your strategy to find out which of your ideas work and which don’t to give your community the kickstart it needs.
Did you run Beta community? What was your approach and were there any (other) things you wish you would have tested before you started your final community?