How do you get into a community that's completely new for you? That's what I faced when I started White Glove Apps: I'd never worked on developing smartphone applications, so I wanted to get into some online communities that would let me meet other developers, give me new ideas, and inspire me. I started by listing my areas of interest: iPhone apps, entrepreneurship, Android applications, BlackBerry apps, and smartphone news in general.
In twitter, I created a list for each topic. I searched twitter for people tweeting relevant words like iPhone, Android, and entrepreneur. By checking out their tweets and following some, I started to get a sense of the communities surrounding each of my areas of interest. Mr. Tweet was also helpful in suggesting related people. I read the blogs people tweeted about, followed some of those blogs in Google Reader and their authors on twitter, and followed some people they recommended.
Of course, when you're joining an online community, it's also important that the people in it learn about you. Once I started following relevant people, they and others started following me. Engaging the community in other ways also helped:
- I commented on others' products. For example, I saw App Boy (a social network for app users and develop ers), thought it was a brilliant idea, and told creator @Markgher so. He thanked me for the compliment, and now we follow each other.
- I helped others out. For example, on twitter I saw what looked like an interesting app and followed a link on @SundayDriveNet's twitter page to the iTunes store. The link led not to the app itself, but to a search for the application's name. I let the developer know how to link directly to his app's page. The developer followed me and became the first fan of White Glove Apps' facebook page that I hadn't met in person.
- I tweeted about common interests. For example, while watching This Week in Startups (TWiST), I tweeted about it using the #twist hashtag. TWiST Superfan @MaryAnnHalford then welcomed me and pointed me to another Superfan, @ScottSimko. I follow them and vice versa. They keep me plugged in to the This Week in Startups community between shows.
- I found a local group that meets offline. You know, the kind where people can actually shake hands with each other? I was fortunate that there's already a DC smartphone developer meetup group. I've been to one Meetup and received some great tips on the iPad and Appcelerator.
The whole experience of getting in to a new field reminded me of a scene in Being John Malkovich: John Cusack's character, having taken over John Malkovich's brain, goes to Malkovich's agent and says something like "I don't want to be an actor any more. I want to be a puppeteer." The agent replies, "OK, you're a puppeteer. I'll make some calls." If you're a startup, make twitter your agent.