Launching A New Online Community, Overcoming The ‘chicken and the egg’ Problem.

Andreas shares the problem of getting to critical mass for a new community.

It’s a classic chicken and the egg problem. How do you get people to join a community when there is nothing there.

If you’re launching a new community, you have five approaches here:

1) Build the audience first and rush to critical mass. This is where you build up a big audience first via a blog, a customer mailing list, a big event, or some other channel. You then launch the community and try to grow quickly to critical mass (usually around 300 posts from 100 active members) members. The benefit is your concept is part-tested by the virtue of building a community. Most of the successful communities you see followed this route (see the CHIP method).

2) Be exclusive. Send exclusive invites only to the very top people in the field and expand slowly. The top people are likely to join because of the story it tells about their status and having an exclusive place to access the best knowledge. Facebook may be the best example of this.

3) Be hyper-focused. Start with the smallest possible niche within your field you can target and grow from there. Craigslist, for example, began as a mailing list of social events for software developers. That’s a really easy niche to dominate.

4) Be First. If you can move to a new platform or identify a new sector early enough, you can usually build a big audience relatively quickly. You’re the only game in town – and you’re exciting.

5) Try to grow slowly and be lucky. You can launch without an existing audience and simply hope you can mention it elsewhere and hope people join. Almost every failure we see followed this route. This is also, sadly, the approach most people take.

If you don’t intend to follow one of the first four approaches here, I’d suggest you reconsider your strategy.

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