When you are challenged with growing your community, consider how you can get the word out by creating a 'reflection' of your community elsewhere.
By this I mean, take a channel where your people are likely to hang out and find snippets to share, consistently and over a long period of time. The channel you choose will vary depending on your community.
I've done this for Indie Hackers on Twitter. For Ministry of Testing a similar concept has been applied with Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slack. I'd really recommend choosing one single channel to begin with and ideally one that may already be in use.
Other channels might be places like Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Meetups and even IRL events.
Why mirror your community?
One thing that Indie Hackers has taught me, is that virtually everyone struggles with growth. You are not alone!
Mirroring your community essentially creates another community in parallel, but on someone else's platform.
I always assume that people are rushed, on the go, and that we should respect everyone's time. Mirroring your community is a practical way of sharing the who, what and why of your community in bitesize consumable ways in places they hang out already. Members or not. Active or not. People will come to your main community when they feel comfortable, ready, and have your community top of mind.
It may take 'just a minute' for people to sign up, but becoming a part of a community is a commitment that people should feel like they want to keep to. Finding smaller ways for your people to engage and get a feel for what your community is about is a sustainable approach to building up relationships and a community (that matters).
These little nudges will hopefully help people convert over time, not just as members, but also as loyal participating members. (Sorry, I hate the term convert when it comes to communities. It is about converting in business terms, but really these nudges will help people get a feel for whether or not they belong.)
Even if they are already active members, having nudges can be helpful to bring them back in the loop, encourage them to share what is created, or perhaps most valuable of all, understand what kind of things interests them.
However, it's not only about converting people. It's also about understanding, conversing, and developing new ideas to help your community grow even further. Just like some people might consider surveying their people, mirroring the community in this way can also lead to ways that you can improve and understand your people.
One way I like to look at it is to aim for people feeling immediately at home in your 'main community' as a result of consuming these little snippets. Keep that idea top of mind.
I’ve attempted to summarize the flywheel below. I admit, I’m still trying to think clearly about this one. 🤔
What should you mirror?
I'll make this part easy for you.
Mirror the best that you have:
- industry news
- articles, podcasts, books, links
In addition to this, I would add people. I didn’t put this in the bullet point list because I don’t believe you should uplift your best people. Sometimes you need to look for the new people, those that need it the most or maybe the less represented ones.
Ideally, the content being mirrored should be mostly happening in your community, but it's ok if it's not. You can take inspiration from elsewhere. I often take inspiration from other people's articles, books, podcasts, and Tweets.
There's nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other people and communities, you probably just shouldn’t do it from one that is too similar to yours. You and your community need to stand out.
Don't expect it to work straight away. Sometimes you will only find out what works by practicing. Also, it's worth bearing in mind that what works on one platform, doesn't always work somewhere else.
Experimentation is key.
But how should you mirror your community?
The following are the kind of things I do. I hope you can take them all with a pinch of salt and see how you can adapt them to your own situation.
Rules you should probably stick to:
- it's not about bringing traffic back to your website (avoid links)
- bring value to the platform you are posting on
These are magical.
This is a very recent Tweet. To stroke my ego, I believe it's my best performing Tweet too. For context, I’ve been doing the Tweets for Indie Hackers for a year now. Please don’t expect to gain traction overnight.
I got the idea for the Tweet from a 'What's your personal website?' discussion on Indie Hackers.
Hey Indie Hackers,
I'm curious about how you set up your personal website/portfolio. What technologies do you use and what do you put on it? Do you make it look professional or "fun", and why?
Key things to understand from this:
- I stole the idea from someone at Indie Hackers
- I edited with language I knew people would identify with
- there was no link back, it works better if the conversation happens where it is shared
- 120k impressions and over 400 responses. How could it not add lots of and brand awareness and subsequent traffic for Indie Hackers?
- Days after a question there is no reason why you can’t follow it up with a link back to something relevant. I don’t always do this, but I did on the question above.
- “What’s your tech stack for your personal website?” is an open question and very different from “Do you have a personal website?” which would probably end up with very little responses. Choose your words in a way that encourages useful responses.
I can’t help you with creating your specific questions. You need to look for what your people are talking about, reading, and sharing. Then come up with your own amazing ideas that are relevant to your community.
Reusing questions can also work, sometimes. Ones based on community rituals can often work well.
- ‘What did you get done today?’ is one that I regularly repeat as on Indie Hackers we have daily stand up posts.
- We also have a monthly ‘Post your landing page and let others describe what your company does!’ that I recently started doing on Twitter.
I do recommend looking at Indie Hackers, Egghead, and Ministry of Testing Twitter accounts for inspiration. Ministry of Testing has also done this quite well on LinkedIn.
One final point with questions.
Often the answers don’t matter.
Sometimes people just need to see the question to be enlightened and to feel that what you are talking about makes them feel like they could belong. Other times people just don’t know things (that they would benefit knowing about) until they are asked about them. It’s powerful to see how questions can help people rethink what they are doing.
Giving gifts mirrors the community by making examples of the type of people who are part of it. It also has the added benefit of making people feel really special. If you don’t have (many) community members, you could always consider highlighting people who you aspire to join. 😇
When you know that indie hackers generally struggle with growth you know that they will love free and surprise promotions.
I love surprising indie hackers with the gifts of random tweets promoting their products. And most of the time they love it and thank us too.
We could link back to their product page on Indie Hackers, but I feel that is selfish. It adds at least one extra click to the reader’s journey and definitely won’t bring as much joy to the indie hacker when seeing it.
At Ministry of Testing, from day one, we promoted people’s blog posts, often they tell us years later how it made an impact on their life.
Let that sink in. Doing small kind things makes a difference to people’s lives. You can do kind things via [insert platform of choice here].
How can you give a gift to your people? What would make a difference to them?
Condense, adapt or repurpose
Showing off content in a community is classic mirroring.
In the earlier days of the web, a title and a link within Twitter were probably enough to get people to see and engage. These days you have to be more creative. And really you need to focus on bringing value to the platform people are on.
With attention spans shrinking, who doesn’t like something useful condensed down into something more consumable?
For this one, I summarised a post in the least amount of words as possible. Images and screenshots can work a treat to condense a Tweet.
Another example is summarising with bullet points. This one has a link back to the post, but it tries its best to give as much information about ‘the mistakes’ upfront.
You can adapt content too.
I often take content, zoom in, and take screenshots. This one makes me laugh because it’s a bit meta. I tweeted about them after they posted something on Indie Hackers, they got signs ups then wrote about their experience which I then tweeted about again. 🤯
Repurpose by doing things like threads…
This is where I take a post on indie hackers and turn it into a thread. It’s not always easy to find content to do this with, but is often worth the effort when you feel the topic will resonate with people.
The mirroring options could be endless
Take the above as examples. I’ve made this up as I go along. Feel free to copy, but do adapt to your own style! Your community will be different, you need to speak to them on their terms.
Want ideas to mirror your community? Feel free to share a link or explain your community in the comments and I’ll do my best to brainstorm some ideas.
🙏 Thanks for reading!