How to Promote an Online Community without Social Media
Is there any way to promote an online community without social media these days?
It seems like you have to use social media for everything. But with all the algorithms, artificial intelligence, and everyone and their brother and sister competing, it feels like a never-ending battle you can’t win.
You almost just want to give it all up and quit doing your online community.
But that wouldn’t be your best choice because I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of other effective methods to promote an online community without social media.
And in this guide, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks to promote without social media requirements.
Promote an Online Community without Social Media with Content Marketing
Content marketing will be one of the best ways to promote an online community without social media tactics.
Content is king. Social media is not king. In fact, without content, social media would be nothing.
So, creating content is one of the best ways to market your online community. I’m not talking about the content within your community, either. I’m saying you need to make a separate content distribution channel outside of your community to promote your community.
We all do this – you should do it too.
I’ve found that creating a blog is the best way to do this. Create a blog based on the niche or industry of your online community. Then write at least once a week for that blog. I’d recommend two to three times a week if you can do it. You’ll get better results.
Make sure you write the best content possible. It must be valuable to readers, but it should encourage them to join your online community.
You could always, for example, create a basic but very valuable guide about a topic in your niche and offer it as a blog post. Then, preview the advanced guide in that blog post, which is only available in your online community.
Content marketing might be all you need to promote an online community without social media, but I recommend the other great options below.
Start Using Email Marketing to Promote Your Online Community
Create a newsletter and routinely promote your online community in it.
A newsletter is great for many different things.
It allows you to engage with your audience without algorithms and AI taking your views away because something else is trending. You can also use it to send traffic to your blog. And, of course, it’s also a great way to send traffic to your online community.
Your online community can be the engagement aspect of your newsletter.
You can ask subscribers to answer every question or CTA you add to your newsletter on the community. CTAs can point to the community for engagement conversions.
You can also share your newsletter’s previews and sneak peaks of community content. The idea is to share some of the community’s best content and a link to the full content. This can even work if your community is a paid community.
Invite your newsletter subscribers to be community members and your community members to become newsletter subscribers.
Tap into Influencer Marketing and Start Collaborating with Other Creators
Find other creators and influencers that are not primarily on social media.
These folks can be wonderful assets to help you promote an online community without social media being considered.
But you’ll have to do the work here. You’ll need to draft up a pitch. You’ll need to deliver the pitch to the influencer and do everything possible to convince them that working with you is a good idea.
You have to figure out how the collaboration can exceptionally benefit the influencer, and they’ll need to see it the way you see it. Your benefit is the influencer sharing your online community with their audience and gaining more members in the process.
Influencers are all over the internet, not just on social media.
You can find them in newsletters, blogs, and other online communities like Reddit, Quora, and discussion forums. You just have to do your research and seek them out. The more you look for them, the better a chance you’ll have to find them.
But a majority of influencers are on social media.
If you get rejected, don’t give up. Keep trying until your offer gets accepted. And then learn from the experience. What finally worked?
Master the Arts of Keyword Research and Search Engine Optimization
Two things to become an expert at are Keyword Research and SEO.
You need to get good at Keyword Research.
This is where you decide on a keyword or key phrase to target with each piece of content you create. In most cases, this is done with a blog. Each post should target a unique keyword. You should never use a keyword more than once.
Keywords need to have a search volume, meaning they must be actively searched for. But if the keyword is highly competitive, meaning many blogs are targeting it, it will be too difficult to target your blog in most cases.
This is when you typically create longer keywords which are called “long-tailed keywords.”
An example would be not using the keyword “New York City Café” because everyone else in New York City is targeting that keyword, and it’s highly competitive. Instead, you’d target the long-tailed keyword “Vegan Café in New York City on Third Street” because there is less competition.
You can research keywords using various online tools that will help you do this easily. These include tools like Ahrefs, SEM Rush, Uber Suggest, and Keywords Everywhere. You should also use the Keyword Planner Tool on Google Ads and Google Search Console to assist.
Keyword research will effectively help you create an SEO strategy which is the next thing for you to master.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s when you integrate a target keyword into your content. The reason is to rank higher on Google Search (or any search engine). You typically want to rank on page one of the search engine because most people don’t go to other pages.
You’ll learn where to put your keywords for the best SEO practices. There is such a thing as putting too many keywords in, and it can harm your ranking and even get your website banned.
I suggest using Yoast SEO to help you with keyword placement if you use WordPress as your website creation system or blog.
For a standard approach, insert your keyword in the following locations for best practices:
- URL slug (example: https://www.yourblog.com/your-keyword/)
- Your Blog Post Title (example: A Guide to Your Keyword)
- Your H1 and the first H2 headers
- The ALT tags on your first image in the content
- Insert your keyword in the first sentence and paragraph of your content
- Insert the keyword two or three more times throughout the content
- Make sure the keyword blends in and makes sense to read
- Don’t create a link that uses the keyword as an anchor text
Other than keyword placement, ensure your blog loads fast, is secure (HTTPS/SSL), and is extremely friendly for mobile users.
Host Online Events, Courses, and Webinars to Promote Your Community
You can host online and offline events, courses, and webinars to promote an online community without using social media.
Since the pandemic, virtual conferencing has become ideal and innovative.
Hosting an event online is easier and cheaper than doing something in-person. Events, courses, and webinars are the perfect way to do virtual events. You can use these virtual events to send people to your online community.
Events and webinars are great for industry conventions, public speaking, product showcase, and access to the community for the public to see as a way to entice them to join.
Courses are great for teaching others about a subject related to your online community. You can use the community as the point of engagement for the course. Instruct students to ask questions in the community. Tell them to post their assigned tasks or homework in the community.
Value is going to be your biggest asset when using events and courses as a way to drive membership for your online community.
People need to get something out of the virtual events to a point where they want to join the community to get even more value. And you’ll need to make sure they get value on both the virtual event and the community.
Events and courses can drive a lot of traffic if you do them right.
Collaborate with Other Online Communities within Your Industry
Find related online communities and see them as collaboration partners rather than competition.
You could collaborate with online communities in many ways without using social media.
You can both mention and promote each other within your mailing lists. You can post topics about the community in the discussion portion of your own online communities. You can exchange advertising or even collaborate with a community by purchasing ads on their website. You can do direct message campaigns.
And many types of collaborative projects could be used, too.
These include podcasts between the two communities. You can do a webinar or online conference where the two communities team up to provide the best experience. You can be a speaker at each other’s events and webinars. There could be a collaborative content project such as guest blogging.
Working together rather than against each other is the best way to benefit both communities.
Start a Referral Rewards or Community Ambassador Program
Look to your members as a way to promote an online community without social media being the primary marketing tactic.
Your members are your most powerful marketing assets.
You could create a referral program and reward members who refer others to join. The rewards could be monetary in nature, swag, or something else. The reward should provide value and make the members feel like they are really important to the community.
If you run a paid online community – you might consider paying members for referrals or extending their membership at no cost or a discounted rate. This is popular with most companies and brands that offer an affiliate or referral program.
Brand ambassadors are also a great way to get more members in your community. This is a newer and very popular concept. Many social media influencers use ambassadors. Many SaaS companies used them too. I’m an ambassador for a few different companies, including Grammarly.
An ambassador should get a free ride in the community if it’s a paid community. If you offer products, you should give them to them for free or at a highly discounted rate that no one else would get.
Assign tasks that are required for ambassadors. They should include promoting your community, keeping in touch with other ambassadors, and testing things when needed. If ambassadors are not doing these things, you should eject them from the program but still be thankful for what services they provided and give them something of value.
Look at other referral and ambassador programs to get ideas on how to implement them in your online community.
Start Promoting Your Community Away from the Internet
Too many people forget about the power of offline promotion.
Even if you have an online community, you can still use traditional marketing tactics served off the internet as a way to get more members in your online community.
Business cards are a great way to promote an online community without needing social media. Business cards are the old-school social media when we actually talked to each other and gave out cards instead of likes. Put your community information on a business card and leave it with people and at places where you’d likely get members from.
Sponsorship is another great way to promote a community, especially if it is niched down. A good example is sponsoring a local High School baseball team if you run a community about baseball or sports-related topics. You can usually get your local on the banner and a link on their website.
You can also do public speaking and in-person events. One idea would be to put up a booth for your online community at an event that features local businesses in the area.
Contact the media. My hiking-related Facebook group was featured on our local news channel during National Get Outdoors Day. The local media is usually quick to accept promotions from local residents who are doing something noteworthy.
Traditional advertising is also an option. This includes billboards, newspaper ads, magazine ads, and even paying someone to put up a sign or sticker to promote your community.
You can see there are plenty of ways to promote an online community without social media. Social media isn’t for everyone, and you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. You can use the ideas mentioned in this article and get more community members. For more online community tips, check my blog every Friday, and be sure to follow me on Twitter. Discuss online community marketing topics with other online community managers at Discuss Communities, a community for communities.
About the Author
Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers that follow this blog. Shawn also offers a variety of services for extra help in the area of content creation, blogging, forums, and digital marketing. Learn more about Shawn Gossman by clicking here.
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