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Soft Launch

When you’re feeling confident with the look and feel of your community, as well as with the quality and quantity of seeded content, it’s time to start thinking about a soft launch. A soft launch is the release of your community to a limited audience in order ramp up the energy and activity in your community. Think of it this way… you are not likely to go into a restaurant if you see that the only people eating are the employees. However, if the restaurant appears to have many happy customers enjoying the food, you’re more likely to go in and try.


Identify and Engage Soft Launch Participants

The success of a soft launch is largely defined by the participants you choose to invite. Ideally, look for a group of users who are knowledgeable about your organization, and are excited about what your company is doing within your marketplace.Seek out happy customers, preferably those you have an offline relationship with, to ensure the creation of useful content. Consider inviting other partners and valued brand advocates to come in and engage along with your customers. Use your social media connections and contacts list to your advantage. Active soft launch participants can be found in passionate Twitter followers and Facebook fans, as well as with the folks who respond positively to your product launch emails.
Sample Introduction Email
Hi [Name],

We’re very excited to announce an upcoming initiative that will help you, and our other customers, get better information and access to each other and our company. On [date] we’ll be launching a new online customer community called [community name]. Since you’re a highly engaged and supportive customer we’d like to offer you early access. This will give you the opportunity to:

  • Make your mark as an expert in the community
  • Start engaging with other customers to establish some new and valuable relationships
  • Add context to issues you’ve had in the past – to get the best possible answers to your questions 
  • Influence the subject matter in the community
  • Win a [prize/ incentive]

In addition to getting into the community early, you’ll also be in the running for [prize/ incentive]. The private launch – to a set of hand-selected customers – is scheduled for [date], at which point we’ll send you a link to the new community. If you’re not interested in participating, please let me know. Otherwise, start thinking about those questions or ideas you’d like more information on – from your fellow customers and from our team.

Thanks,
[Name]
Sample Soft Launch Invite Email
Hi [Name],

Today is the beta release day for our new online customer community! As a loyal [customer, fan], you’ve been invited to participate in the private launch so you can:

  • Make your mark as an expert in the community
  • Start engaging with other customers to establish some new and valuable relationships
  • Add context to issues you’ve had in the past – to get the best possible answers to your questions 
  • Influence the subject matter in the community
  • Win a [prize/ incentive]

For the next [number] weeks, you and a set of other customers have the opportunity to interact directly with our team in our new customer community before it goes live to the rest of the public. By participating you could also receive [incentive]. Here are the details:

[incentive details]

Use this link to go to the community, register, and get started: [link]

If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me directly. Otherwise, I look forward to chatting with you in our community!

Thanks,
[Name]


Encourage the Creation of Useful Content

The goal of a soft launch is to ensure genuine and positive content is created by non-employees. This rich user-generated content will serve as a model for other community members to follow when posting in the community, and their responses to one another will serve as a model for the types of behavior that is appropriate. Consider incentivizing the creation of useful content by providing these early adopters with special access to company news and products, promo codes, or even a publicly-facing Champions badge.


Solidify Internal Processes

During the soft launch period, your team will be interacting with your participants and getting a feel for how they will manage the community on a day to day basis once you go live. Spend this time solidifying your internal processes so your team is clear on what will happen when you begin receiving product feedback ideas and support problems in the community. Work with all relevant departments and ensure they are on board and excited to work with your community to drive value for their teams.

We suggested that a soft launch have a short duration – ideally two weeks or less. This motivates your soft launch members to participate because they have a set deadline. When your community launches, this also helps to ensure that your community has lots of recently active and engaging content.

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