I just wonder if it might be impossible to buy an online community. Imagine the hurdles:
- Deciding what to buy: Do you buy the website? Rights to the Facebook Group? The e-mail list of members? The forum profiles of the community manager? The Ning group?
- Lack of ownership and control. These aren’t employees. The community might suddenly decide to stop talking, or worse, fragment/implode. Imagine if a popular community member receives an offer from your competitors to take a big chunk to them. Ouch.
- The community doesn’t want to be sold: I’ve seen a fair few communities not appreciating the idea of being sold. They have done all the hard work, why aren’t they being rewarded?
- Who are you buying the community from? Are you buying it from a webmaster who set up a website and might not even be aware of how popular his forums are? Are you buying it from the people with the most visibility? Are you buying it from somewhere in the right position to sell it? If so, what happens when that person then hands the community over and walks away from it?
- There are no benefits to buying an online community. If you want to advertise to this community, then pay for adverts. If you’re going to spam them, they’re going to disappear. IF you’re going to make radical changes, they will leave. If you’re hoping to engage them more in your product, why aren’t they engaged already?
If you can’t build one, it really isn’t practical to buy one. The money could be better spent becoming a prominent member of that community and orientating your business to attracting it’s members.
If you absolutely feel the need of some sort of control, then place a value on the community. Divide that value by about 12 and use that as a monthly fee to pay those you think have ownership of the community (it might be more than just the webmasters). These are wages to help you become the owner of the community.
If it’s clearly not working after 3 months you can save 75% of your money.