Most branded communities fall victim to a crippling disease. It's a disease spread largely by marketing folk. I call it the Big Launch Syndrome.
The Big Launch Syndrome can be identified by several common symptoms.
- Issuing a press release.
- Hosting a contest/offering incentives to get people to register.
- Developing expensive bespoke community platforms
- Advertising/promotion about the community.
- Mass e-mails announcing the launch of a community.
- Guest post by the CEO.
- Blogger/influencer outreach campaigns.
The Big Launch Syndrome is what happens when brands adopt a marketing-led approach to developing a community (as opposed to a community-led approach). It's what happens when brands don't realize that a community is a unique field which requires a unique approach. It's what happens when brands fail to understand that an online community has (unsurprisingly) more in common with offline community theory than previous marketing efforts.
A big launch establishes a bad first impression, wastes a lot of money, sets too great expectations, focuses on the wrong metrics and is a massive gamble. Worse still, the Big Launch Syndrome is fatal. Every community that falls victim to it dies.
To all brands, I know how tempted you are to go with the big launch. It's what you know and what you're familiar with. It feels safer. It feels like it should work, but it doesn't.
Start small, grow steadily. Focus on a narrow group. Get 50 highly active members, then aim for 100 and 500. Forget a public launch and celebrate public milestones instead.