Do you have an Advocate program? How do you enable your community managers/facilitators to "get the word out"? What kinds of executive communications are coming out? Are you collecting success stories to socialize, for example, in a monthly Community email newsletter?
We have a number of ways to "get the word out". We have executives
announcements at all levels. We have banners on web home pages. We
have links over to community page in internal "news" box on home pages
of web site. We have reference and links to community included in
emails from executives. We have traffic to the site and have had a rapid
increate in page views, and new members.
We are now looking at how to find/grow evangelists, how to educate and
motivate community owners, and what we can do to identify and promote
We are now looking at how to find/grow evangelists, ...
A more scientific approach to discovering your natural evangelists/advocates/"connectors" is to conduct a social network analysis. With an SNA, you can also identify subject matter experts as well. Typically, an SNA can uncover people significantly more connected in your organization, compared to assembling a list of advocates and SMEs based on what your team already knows about others.
When I get a bit more time, I'll address this with more detail, as well as the rest of your questions...
Malcom Gladwell coined the term Connector in his book, The Tipping Point.
In the book Malcom wrote, "What makes someone a Connector? The firstand most obviouscriterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I'm not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do."
However, Fast Company magazine reports that Duncan Watts, a Network Theory Scientist, is questioning this idea. He shares, "A rare bunch of cool people just don't have that power. And when you test the way marketers say the world works, it falls apart. There's no there there."
The article points out Watts has his detractors. So setting Social Network Analysis aside, it probably is a good idea to sell those key influential people, seeding the field, while you are also mass promoting your site. And you have to have content on the site that is worth coming to. All the viral promotion in the world won't drive people to content they are not interested in. But there probably is no single thing like a silver bullet - and a lot of focused, thoughtful work.
That said, keep in mind that I'm not experienced in SNA, I haven't studied the way people network, I'm a late comer to building social networks, have never done research analysis and I don't have a PhD in this. I'm grateful we are growing by about 100 users a month. But that could turn on a dime.
And I am influence by anything Gia writes!