In The 7 Essential Meta Questions of Every Beta we covered what we believe to be the crucial steps in forming a viable Stack Exchange Q&A community. Today we're going to offer some aggregated advice, both from us and our existing meta communities, on step 7 -- How do we promote our site?
Share Great Questions and Answers
The absolute best and easiest way to promote your site is to simply share links to great questions or answers. The hallmark, the cornerstone, the fundamental bedrock of Stack Exchange is producing Q&A that we're proud of, Q&A that's worthy of sharing with others. At the risk of explaining the obvious, here's how to obtain a link to a question:
copy the URL in your browser's address bar
right click the question title itself, which is a link to the question, and select Copy.
right click the "share" text just under the question, and select Copy.
If you need a short URL, remember that we don't require anything beyond the number ID of the question. So if you have:
This can be shortened to:
A shortened URL can be copied from the "share" link underneath each question:
As you can see, clicking "share" also gives you the option to share on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.
Think Small, Get Specific
But, how do you go above and beyond simply sharing links to great questions? Get specific! Rather than asking giant, hard to answer big picture questions like "How do we promote our site?", start by asking bite-size, specific questions that are easier to answer -- more along the lines of:
"What are the three biggest webmaster conferences we can sponsor?"
"Can the GIS community support a 'Dev Days' like Stack Overflow?"
"What are the top 10 photography podcasts that might pick up on our site?"
And don't stop there. When you get your first round of answers, use those answers to get even more specific.
- "Does anybody know photographer Scott Bourne (http://photofocus.com/) to ask about talking to us on his podcast or to his Twitter followers?"
This takes a bit more coordination and discipline than asking a one-shot question and expecting a final solution to simply emerge. It takes individual members to rise up and ask methodical, step-wise questions with an end-goal in mind -- and follow through.
We Will Match Effort With Funds
Any community that shows sufficient effort and innovative ideas to promote their site will be offered a budget and resources to make those ideas happen. Think of it as matching funds -- except we're matching effort, innovation, resources, and ideas from the community. And it has to come from within your community. You're the experts, not us!
Matching effort with funds assure that:
Recipients have a stake in helping the site work, and
Communities know that their efforts come back to help themselves make their site great.
Here are some example ideas we have been throwing around for sites to consider:
Sponsor the right kind of conferences. For many sites, we should be able to identify the top 2-3 conferences.
Reach the right kind of publications and bloggers. Make sure that the key experts in every field know about the site; not just the “Martha Stewart” big names; we want to talk to the people who go to these conferences.
Sponsor fun things for each community… especially the kinds of things that are likely to get talked about. This may mean photo contests for the photography site, cooking classes for the food and cooking site, etc.
Make sure evangelists from each community have the opportunity to speak before groups of experts in their fields. We may want to organize a speaker’s bureau that arranges to get our top users bookings at conferences, user groups, etc., to talk about each site.
Encourage and participate in grassroots conversations in existing discussion groups, where appropriate.
We can provide access to professional designers and design give-aways like t-shirts or bumper stickers for interesting contests and events.
I mention these examples to get you thinking in terms of "what is it really going to take to make this a world-class site?" But don't wait on us. You have to get the ball rolling. Being a voice in a crowd works for certain types of collaboration and brainstorming, but sometimes you have to take on the role of the organizational czar.
There's a lot of advice here, but only two key points to remember:
Encourage your community to share links to outstanding questions and answers. And if you feel you're not producing outstanding questions and answers worthy of sharing with the world, endeavor to fix that first.
When it comes to promotion, don't try to take on the world. If the promotional ideas are giant, they're wrong. Break them into smaller, more specific bite-size ideas that each member of the community can pitch in and help with.
When you ask a large group of friends "What are we doing for dinner?", you'll get indecisiveness and inaction. But when you ask a more specific question like "Where's a good place to order pizza?", you'll be eating in 30 minutes or less -- or it's free.