In our previous post “3 key success factors for a successful sharing platform,” we received a comment asking for top tips on building a platform that feels more like a community than a marketplace. While many sharing platforms are inherently doing so by connecting producers with users (ex. Etsy), we’ve come up with 6 great ways to enhance your sharing community:
- Have user profiles. A community is made of people, so anonymity really doesn’t help. With P2P platforms this is essential in order for people to connect and build trust. For non P2P platforms, user profiles may not be required but still highly recommended. Kiva (microloans) is a great example of this as their users do not lend or borrow money from each other, but form lending groups and interact with other users.
- Present a set of values. A community is based on a set of values, and writing them out helps people align with them. They also give potential users a way to “feel out” your culture. Providing yours as an image makes it much easier for people to share (just check out our manifesto!) The Centre for Social Innovation (coworking space) has a clear mission and strong set of values, which are consistent throughout their website and physical locations, giving members a sense of belonging.
- Communicate with users. This includes responding to blog comments, tweets and emails in a personable and helpful way. While this definitely requires a bit more effort, these actions make your users feel appreciated. People enjoy real interactions over automated responses, which can be all too common. Mealsharing (meals with strangers) does a great job at this. As soon as you create a profile, someone from their team greets you and welcomes you to the community.
- Maintain social media presence. Social media is a great vehicle for user interactions, feedback and community/culture reinforcement. Regularly updating a blog, Facebook and Twitter also keeps your current and potential users in the know with what’s going on. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and other outlets could be valuable as well, depending on your platform. Shareable (sharing economy publication/blog) has an incredible social media presence, not only do they post frequently, they also keep their users engaged and involved in the conversation.
- Organize offline meetups. This allows users to put a face to your platform, to meet others with similar interests and views. A meetup really helps solidify relationships. Be Social Change in New York (empowering social entrepreneurs) holds weekly meetups and lots of great events that are 100% enhancing their community.
- Invite users to be ambassadors. If you have users who love your platform and rave about it, give them an opportunity to be more involved. These ambassadors are great for word of mouth marketing, which is must more effective at reaching new users. Yerdle (p2p sharing) has “Pollinators” who help spread the word and so far this has been working great for them.