When you launch a community, you face a chicken and the egg problem.
Nobody wants to join a community until there is activity there.
However, the people most likely to join and participate in your new online community are those that already know and like you. Initial growth to communities originates from your existing contacts. To conquer the chicken and the egg problem, you need to foster a large number of existing contacts.
The easiest way to get a community off the ground is simply to build up a large number of existing contacts before you launch the community. If you do this in a genuine way, everything else becomes a lot easier.
If you launching with nothing – no contacts, it’s going to be much harder.
This usually means a combination of the following:
1) Hiring a community manager from the audience you want to build a community with. If that’s not possible, ensure your community manager spends a lot of time building up contacts far in advance of launching a community platform.
2) Set up a series of live webinars on different problem points. Invite people from the sector to share their secrets of success. Build up an invaluable series of expertise and a familiar brand name in your sector.
3) Turn the above series of webinars into an eBook and collect the e-mail addresses of people that download it. You can now reach out individually to these people to build relationships.
4) Participate in existing groups and communities. Look for existing communities and begin responding to discussions. Make sure your name is recognized within that sector.
5) Host your own meetups and events. Host small events in your town/city that you can invite a few people to join. Personal connection trumps digital contact.
6) Identify problems you can help with. If members mention any problems they struggle with, help them. Help them with resources, with knowledge, with research.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. You can launch blogs, host competitions, comment on other blogs, review books, and plenty more. The goal is to ensure that people within your sector know and trust you before you launch the community.
If you wait until you’ve launched the community, it’s too late. People will suspect you have suspect motivations. You need to sincerely build up a great reputation within the sector before you launch the community.
This is a lot of work. The key is not to get bogged down with other activities. Don’t let the platform development or internal meetings prevent you from doing the essential community building work. You should begin this 3 to 6 months in advance of launching the community.