To create an online community, you need to provide your intended audience with two things.
- A means to communicate
- A desire to communicate.
The fost successful communities were lucky. The desire was there before they provided the means to communicate (the platform). This worked great for Facebook, Mumsnet, SK-Gaming, Barista Exchange, TES etc…
Most businesses aren’t that lucky. The audience (your customers) don’t feel compelled to talk to each other. If your target audience doesn’t already have the strong desire to talk to each other, creating that desire (not the platform) is your first goal.
There are many ways to create a desire for people to talk to each other. Three easy ones include:
- Prick egos. Talk about the people you want to join or issues/groups that they care about. Be sure they know this is being discussed. You can also rank and rate various issues/people in a manner that will solicit their engagement. It’s hard to avoid comparing yourself and trying to be more popular.
- Have a cause/create a movement. Position the community as a movement to participate in. People want to be part of something. Momentum is a powerful thing. People jump aboard things that are successful.
- Threaten their way of life. Focus on the threats facing their way of life. What is changing? What social/technological changes are affecting them? Create the desire to co-operate to preserve that way of life.
- Appeal to what they want to be. Create the community for what your audience wants to be in the future. Celebrate those that get closer to it. Identify and share advice on the steps it takes to get there.
Notice what isn’t mentioned above. Talking about your products. Guiding people to give feedback on your services. Controlling the conversation.
There is a big desire barrier to joining online communities. Unless you can prick their egos, provide a movement to join, threaten their way of life or appeal to their inner needs, you’re not going to break through it.