Iteration is the best approach to building a community.
You research what members might want, do your best to create that, and then use member feedback and your data to iteratively improve upon what you have.
But this doesn’t work well if you have a clear vision of the end result before you begin.
Two years ago, a client hired us to increase engagement in their community. They were trying to build a community on a forum-based platform. But, alas, few people were using it.
They had already done the research. They knew their audience wanted to chat on Twitter, read Medium posts, and participate in WhatsApp groups. The problem was they couldn’t let go of their vision – the same vision which had already cost them a lot of time and money.
We slowly encouraged them to support their audience on the channels they were already using. We put together a simple community experience. We created a hashtag to support the topic, used Medium (and advocates) to create and share news and information with the community. Then we invited top participants to three private WhatsApp groups to collaborate on deeper issues.
The forum never took off, but everything else did. The community is highly active, the feedback is useful, and the WhatsApp groups are still going strong.
The vision you have and the vision your members have might be very different. Be prepared to change your vision (or, better, begin without a vision of what the final community might look like).