One of the greatest things about working at NewsCred is being constantly surrounded by the best and brightest people in Silicon Alley. Through our network, we’re able to connect with like-minded startups all working toward the same goal of disrupting their industry.

Recently, our team attended a community-building meet up at FirstMark Capital with representatives from Point, Schoology, HowGood, Dashlane, and Conductor, all cutting-edge startups also part of the FirstMark portfolio. We were joined by featured speaker Francesca Krihely, who led MongoDB’s community marketing team for several years, and spoke on tactical ways to build a strong community.

What followed was an hour-long roundtable discussion where we had the chance to share our own successes and failures in community-building.

First Mark Capital Community

Courtesy of @FirstMarkCap

Here are the top three takeaways that can help you build a strong community around your brand:

1. Create Empowerment

The number one way to engage customers is to make them feel empowered. The best news? This is something you can do in many ways, all depending on your capabilities and scale. One representative said her company uses their weekly email blast to highlight power users of their product, in addition to providing tips on how to use it better. Others take to public forums. such as Hacker News, to talk coding with fellow engineers and candidly discuss ways to improve their product on the backend. No matter what works for your brand, make sure you have a forum to actively communicate with your clients, fans, and product users on a regular basis.

2. Say Thank You

Doing anything at all, no matter how seemingly trivial, to say thanks to customers will go a long way. Dynamic reach-outs and social acknowledgement are two awesome ways to do this. Sending some branded swag “just because” was a popular idea among the startups at the table. Here at NewsCred, we recently sent a care package of sweet treats to show some love to our clients on Valentine’s Day. Of course, if your budget doesn’t allow for the ordering and shipping of materials, that’s okay too. Instead, opt for reaching out via social media – share one of your clients’ posts on Facebook or retweet their photo on Twitter. Once you start connecting on a human level, your community will thank you back.

3. Use Your Expertise

If you want your community to participate in the conversation, you need to get involved yourself. To do this, you need to first create a culture of community engagement within your own organization. Start by doubling your efforts to get your employees blogging and participating in the conversation on social media. Have a sales person attending a conference? Ask them to write a blog post recapping the event. Notice an uptick of questions about photo licensing? Get your head of legal to host an informal Q&A on Twitter. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in a “writing” role in order to contribute to your company’s blog!

Have any other tips to start building community engagement?