Online Community – A Marketing Channel for Startups

The art of connecting people with one another and the service you offer.

“Always remember that you are the biggest contributor of your community.”

~Arbab Usmani 

If you are serious about your startup, the ultimate hack to success is to give equal attention to both content and building a community. What your startup really needs is to build a community and be fuelled with instant growth. To help you find the perfect community for your business, we decided to conduct a workshop on Community Marketing for Startups, with none other than Arbab Usmani, the CEO of UppSkill. Mr. Arbab has been building communities for more than 13 years now. He is a key mentor at IIM Kashipur. 

The workshop was a perfect combination of interactive and engaging! Mr. Arbab succeeded in creating a small community within the workshop, giving the audience a chance to introduce themselves. It was great to see all types of budding and existing entrepreneurs present at the session! 

Mr. Arbab started with the basics – Understanding what a Community is and how it is different from a Group. Communities connect people with one another and help them engage. People of a community share a common sense of belonging and identity. Popular companies like Product Hunt, Duolingo, Salesforce, Buzzfeed etc. have all grown their business through the power of marketing in their own community. 

Types of communities are important to understand since this information helps you decide which type is best for your own business. Brand, Niche and Cause are its 3 types. Brand represents a particular brand, Niche a particular industry and Cause refers to an issue centric community. When Brand and Niche are combined together, they create a perfect combination of engagement and increased customer loyalty! 

Before moving on to the technical stuff, it was important to have everyone on the same page with respect to the relationship between marketing and community. To understand marketing, there was a brief discussion on the marketing funnel and how we can reach each and every part of that funnel through communities.

Now that the audience had a fair idea about the marketing funnel, Mr. Arbab taught them about community building in a seamless way. He introduced the UppSkill Community Grid which covered all aspects of marketing in a community and had 8 parts to it. To understand better, here are a few key pointers that he highlighted – 

  • Do prior planning and understand your goal, mission and vision. 
  • Understand Consumer Behaviour.
  • A Basic Community cannot be built without content.
  • Channel/Platform – Define where you will create the community.
  • If you want to build, have a strategy to generate traffic.
  • Do research on similar communities and understand where they are going wrong.
  • Maintain Consistency

Every community has a set of fundamental rules to keep it going and active. While some rules are said, some may be unsaid. These rules are flexible and as time goes by, they can be modified according to need. 

Building a Community Calendar makes people aware of the value of your brand. Mr. Arbab conducted a hands on activity where he made a Calendar amidst the workshop for better understanding! What we need to do is to focus on creating fresh content that can be consumed by the audience. The frequency and the quality of the content should be top priority.  Make sure you focus on the timing of your posts for best engagement.

When you understand the types of people a community has, only then you can make the most of marketing in the community. Each community essentially has 4 types of people – 

  • Enabler – The Admins or the Moderators
  • Sleeper – The Silent Observers and Members of the group
  • Pusher – The best kind. They post as well as push people to engage.
  • Engager – These people will engage but no post. 

Moving on to the last part of the workshop, the Structural Ritualisation Theory. This theory has proved to be extremely successful and is based on Social Psychology. 

Creating rituals is simple. There are 3 simple steps that guarantee results. First, understand the audience and their pain points. Second, produce high quality content to increase engagement. Finally, analyse results and make a plan to improve for next time. 

Rituals should keep changing with time. You can come up with a new ritual and keep a 4 week testing time where you determine its benefits. Understand that sometimes old rituals may be receiving negativity or zero engagement. This is the right time to stop old rituals and introduce new ones. 

Mr. Arbab concluded the workshop by emphasising on the importance of taking and receiving feedback. Constructive Criticism is a must to keep you climbing up the ladder and learning from your mistakes! 

In a nutshell, the workshop turned out to be extremely informative and interesting! Mr. Arbab believes – “Start Slow, but Start Today!” It is time all of us preach this practice and start building our respective communities this very minute! 


Contributed By –

Anoushka Chopra

A volunteer at Headstart