The traditional way to start a community was to find a forum-based platform and invite your members to join. You initiate discussions and hope things take off.
And this is still the main approach for most brands today.
But it’s increasingly just one of many possible approaches.
I was recently on a call with a vendor that uses various techniques to identify fans of the brand on social media and invite them into a private group. Within these groups, members get exclusive information and are rewarded for sharing messages/responding to criticism.
Other vendors, like Meetup, will let you find existing groups about your brand and either sponsor or collaborate with the owners.
Other vendors, like TokyWoky, will let you integrate community discussions directly into the sales path throughout the company website. Members can engage with people via a chatbox while visiting different pages.
Other organisations begin with a blog, build up an audience, and then try to start a community from the commenters on the blog.
Others begin by hosting a series of virtual events, see who turns up, and then expand to have bigger events or a platform that lets attendees chat to one another.
Others start by hosting a series of challenges, figure out which are most popular, and slowly expand upon that.
Others just engage with their fans and audience on social media. They ask members to tag photos and share those photos on their site.
Others stitch together their own community experience using Medium, Slack, Zapier integrations, and a virtual events platform.
Others invite the smartest customers into mastermind groups and use that as the basis to gather feedback and stimulate ideas.
Others start a virtual book club and grow from there.
The traditional approach gets the most attention not because it’s the best, but because it is the most visible when it works.
Yet your approach might be completely different – and that’s probably good. If you can’t reach a few thousand people, trying to launch a new community from scratch through a public forum probably isn’t the right approach.
Increasingly, you get better results from targeting fewer people. And that’s probably going to mean using a non-traditional approach too.