You can save a lot of time and money by making a few small bets.
I stole this term from Ramit Sethi (who took it from Peter Sims, I believe).
Let’s say you want to develop a community in the travel sector. It’s an entirely new type of community. You want to test the idea before you develop the community.
Create a mailing list, LinkedIn, or Facebook group around the community topic. Invite 10 – 20 people to join it. Initiate discussions, interact with members and participate as you would any community.
You learn three important lessons from this:
1) Can you reach your target audience? You would be surprise how difficult it can be to identify specific members of your target audience, reach them, and persuade them to join a community. If you can’t do it at this level, why do you think you can do this at a higher level?
2) Can you sustain activity in your community? If the activity peters out within a week, that’s a bad sign. Either you’re not effective out sustaining activity, or the interest level in members is low.
3) Is the interest properly aligned? If members talk about something different than you anticipated, you have misconceptualized (not a real word) your community.
If you want to be especially clever, you can create several of these groups with different audiences to see what works best. It’s a small investment of time, that can help you refine and redevelop your community.