Most organizations aren't sure what they need to develop a community. There are some elements that help and others which are essential.
Essential community assets
- Staff. How many people do you have to commit to the project? The more you have the more you can develop relationships with top members, create relevant content and do outbound community development work.
- Time. Time is a powerful asset. The more if it you have the slower you can develop the community and the longer you can spend sewing relationships as you grow. If you need a short-term success, you're going to fail.
- Passion. Passion fot developing the community is vital if it's going to succeed. If you aren't passionate about the community you're trying to develop, it is almost certain to fail.
Non-essential, but useful, community assets:
- Experience. Experience in sales, marketing or web development can be a negative. Experience in developing communities both professionally or as a hobby is a fantastic asset. The more people you have that get social, the better.
- Brand name. A strong brand name is a powerful asset if you want to solicit a response from a tough audience to reach. A strong brand name sets you apart from any other community building asset.
- Reputation. I’m setting this separate from the brand name, but a positive reputation within your sector means more people are likely to help you and want to be involved.
- Regular events. If you host regular events or meet up with potential members in person, you have a great opportunity to get your community started. Use this as a source of founding members for your online community.
- Mailing lists. A good, permission-based, mailing list is a great asset for informing potential members about the latest activities in the community. You can use this to develop the community quickly once you get started.
- Internal publications. Do you have internal publications? Mailing lists or blogs to reach employees? Do you have access to these? Useful asset to have.
- External publications
- Followers. Are you on Twitter, how many people can you reach? Does this include your staff who also have Twitter accounts? What about your followers' followers. You can reach out to people on Twitter to become founding members of a new community to get started.
- Contacts/Relationships. Do you know any top people or who be willing to help your community out? Perhaps a VIP willing to be interviewed, write a guest post or join a live-chat? Be sure to include this as an asset.
- Ability to execute/move quickly. If you can get the community started tomorrow, you have an important asset to leverage. You can adapt, tailor and respond to the community faster than most people. That’s useful.
- Option to fail. If you are able to fail without subsequent risk of job-losses, you can be riskier in your approach. You can aim higher. You can try and reach harder audiences to reach. You can test different things.
- Budget. Money talks. If you have a big budget for a community, you have opportunities to host events, fly members in to meet the staff, offer rewards etc…You can build a stronger community at high speed.
- Buy in. I'm always surprised how many communities are developed without buy-in at the high levels. Are key people in your organization supporting you? Or do they hope you will fail? Do they even know what you’re doing? If key people support you, you can ask for favours – like help convincing that troublesome expert to be involved.
The more assets you have, the easier it is to develop a community. If you don't have many of these, perhaps you should try to get them first?