Building the first online community of it’s kind is tough.
You have to overcome resistance to new technology and distrust of people online. You have to work much harder to demonstrate the benefits of being a member of an online community. You might have to convert 3 hour per week internet users to 6 hours a week.
It’s tough work, but it can be done. Here are some ideas that might help.
- Build An Offline Community First. Focus on connecting people offline first. Perhaps introduce regional customers to each other. Build up regional groups that can meet often. Then stress the benefits of the internet for connecting them to each other.
- Invite People Who Have Shown An Interest. People who have written to customer service, trade magazines participated in related online forums are great people to invite. They care. Invite them first.
- Ask Your Key Members For Advice On Building The Interface. Get popular people involved before you begin building the online community. Be sure they write the guide about signing up and the benefits.
- Use One Key Event To Get People To Join The Community. Use one major event or opportunity to get people to join. Like receiving a free copy of film if you join the online community first. Or a major debate with a popular figure only on your community.
- Champion Stories Of Your Member’s Online Achievements To Offline Customers. Celebrate the achievements of your online champions. Make sure your offline users hear about them often. Success stories work wonders.
- Train And Recruit ‘Just-Like-You’ Experts. You, big brains, are cursed with too much knowledge. Train up some people from your community to teach and assist others. Find a way to reward them.
- Use The Easiest Technology Possible. Strip out every possible feature which doesn’t absolutely have to be there at the launch. If most of your target members are on Facebook, begin with a Facebook group. Then upgrade to your own website/forum/socialnetwork once you’ve got a tight group.
- Panic Buttons. Have a big button people can click for help at any stage with technology. They click the button, enter their phone number/convenient time and you or one of your helpers give them a call as soon as possible.
It’s harder to build an eco-system than join one. It’s harder to build a community for steelworkers than another Apple-fans community. But it’s not impossible. Work harder, find smart ways to overcome the technology hurdle and don’t let any member slip away.