With thousands of apps on the market, here’s how to build a real community fan base for yours.

By Sharee Loeffler (Founding Employee & Marketing Manager, GMR)

I am a founding employee and the Marketing Manager of GMR (GetMeRated): an app that helps you make friends. GMR has an incredibly strong community of users that is absolutely our most valuable asset as a company. Since such a tight-knit and positive environment isn’t something you can write a code for, I would like to share our surprising strategy for building an all-star community at GMR. Hopefully our tips can help you!

Don’t Be Afraid To Get Your Hands Dirty

One of the toughest challenges as a social start-up is filling the empty room. When we first began testing the idea of GMR we started as a website with zero users, so we had to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Our community manager and myself invited our first 20,000 users by hand. We created profiles on various social media sites that we thought our target market would be hanging out at and for the first few months we painstakingly invited them one-by-one to try our new app.

The key here is that we did not create an account for “GMR” on these other sites; we created personal accounts with our names. Millennials can smell spam from a mile away, so we didn’t want to seem like another spam account and be brushed aside. We were real people, Kelsey and Sharee, asking you to try out this new website we made. Most people were very excited to help and to be among the first to try a new social network. Many of those first users are still on today!

Give A Face To Your App

Be involved. At GMR we were very purposeful about having the people behind the app be involved in the community. We all have profiles on GMR and actively engage with users and post photos. Two of our team members, including myself, are actually in the top 10 for most popular users! This is not what most companies do. Most companies keep themselves hidden behind a support email address and company blog. However, giving a face to your app allows users to know who to talk to about their concerns or suggestions for the app.

Users, who have now become my friends, often comment with ideas for the app on my photos, message me with questions, and follow me. Without our team being so easily accessible, we would not understand our target market and users nearly as well, know what features they want, or know when something isn’t working correctly. We will notice new trends and use cases by users almost immediately. This is invaluable information and allows us to be ahead of the curve.

Empower The Users

We have empowered our users to be the moderators of GMR. We make sure to supervise our moderators to make sure they are holding true to our terms (we maintain that we are a PG-13 app) and give our moderators a definition of what is not allowed on GMR. They flag content, monitor the live feed, and decipher what is allowed and what is not. It is their community. Let them take control.

Make It A Thing

When we start to see a trend among our users, we do not hesitate to make it a thing. We roll it into our app and encourage the behavior. Our users love that we make their ideas official and that we are constantly updating to better suit them and their behaviors. Instead of trying to force behaviors youwant, figure out what they are already doing and how to make it a thing for your app.

Don’t Guess, Just Ask

Most importantly, ask your users what new features they want. Don’t fall into the trap of creating new features that mirror other popular new apps. Other companies don’t know any more about your target market than you do, so why would you assume that they’ve got it right? And other companies definitely don’t know more about your users than you do. Instead of guessing what you think they might want, ask them. We send around informal surveys to your power users with a list of features we’re considering and ask them which one they want the most, least, and for any additional feedback.

This is how you should prioritize new updates and features in your app. You will already know they want the feature, so you the odds of success are pretty good. This further empowers your users: they love being a part of the decision-making process and feel valued that you want their opinion, giving them an even deeper sense of ownership of your app.

Do You Have Other Tips On How To Build A Loyal Fan Base?

Headshot_Sharee_LAbout the guest blogger: Sharee has never met a stat she didn’t track. She is responsible for overseeing all marketing, app store optimization and competitive analysis. Prior to joining GMR, Sharee served as a Mobile Marketing Evangelist at Brand Anywhere, an agency that developed and executed mobile campaigns for Comcast, Qualcomm, Ronald McDonald House Charities and more.