There was a major fire in my building recently (I’m fine).
The tenants, angry with the property company which manages the building, quickly switched from the company’s official hosted community to a private WhatsApp group. We needed to discuss fire safety issues, legal problems, and next steps.
Likewise, I recently decided not to work with a debt management company that wanted to build a community for people to share debt-saving tips. A little primitive research suggested almost nobody wants to participate in a debt-advice community hosted by the very company they owe money to.
Sometimes you simply can’t build a hosted community because of the nature of who you are and the relationship you have with the people you want in the community. If you have power over them and/or they are angry with you, they want to have their own place.
No one wants to join a dieting community hosted by McDonalds. Trade unionists aren’t going to participate in a community hosted by industry. And we’ve seen many examples in major tech companies recently where employees created private groups to discuss major concerns.
I’ve met many, many, organisations over the past decade who ignored this and still tried to host their own community. They always wound up disappointed.
But just because you can’t host a community doesn’t mean you can’t proactively support and engage with a community. You can help encourage the community (or communities) which do exist, provide support where needed, and most importantly, take the time to listen and address their concerns.
It’s not as glamorous as hosting a community perhaps, but it’s far more useful for your audience.