How To Find Your Community’s Founding Members

It helps if you have an existing list of contacts to launch a community.

This is how most communities founded by amateurs begin. The founder reaches out to people they've known for years. They know these people are interested in joining a community. 

Some organizations confuse a list of contacts with their list of customers. They confuse the people whom know the founder personally and have developed relationships with the founder with those that purchase their products. 

The difference is big, the latter feels like another marketing-led approach to get people to do something that you want. It's selfish and usually fails. 

The better approach isn't to pretend you have good relationships with prospective founding members, but to build good relationships with founding members. 


Build your list of prospective members

That begins with building your list. You want a list of 50 – 150 prospective members of your audience. This audience needs to pass a two-qualifier rule.

They need to be {x} who {x}. For example:

'HR professionals based in London'

'HR Professionals under 30'

'HR professionals who believe social technology will transform the profession'.

Those qualifiers will be demographic, habitual, or psychographic in nature (who your audience are, what they do, and what they think).


Founding Members

You first members will typically be those who aren't influencers, and have shown an above average level of interest in the topic. There are several ways to identify prospective members. Let's imagine we're building a community for you; community managers.



Twitter provides you with a clear list of members you can reach out to. You don't get the e-mail address, but you can still add and engage these people online. 

The people that Tweet about the topic typically have an above average level of interest in communities. 



Facebook isn't always a terrific tool, it can be hard to identify the people that have liked a page, but it is useful for finding people who actively participate.

It's not only a case of identify the relevant groups/interests, but then finding the members whom active participate on these pages and groups. They can also be approached by a private message.



LinkedInContactsLinkedIn is excellent for professionals and has terrific search functionality. You can use LinkedIn to identify not only prospective founders, but also some of the most connected people in your industry. 

LinkedIn also allows you to contact individuals directly and begin the relationship building process. 



Conference attendees and meetup groups can also be an excellent source of founding members. Many publish their attendees online. It is easy to find channels to contact members. 

Meetup can be especially useful here, but don't ignore eventbrite and other event registration systems. You might need to search individually for conferences. 



Those that comment on relevant blogs and news articles are also a good source of contacts. You may not be able to find a direct channel to contact them, but with a little effort you can engage this audience in a conversation.

This is an audience that have shown an above average level of interest and are, generally, approachable. They also have opinions which they wish to share. 



You can also use sites such as StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg to identify those that have tagged popular contact. 

DeliciousYou may need to identify the names and search for the contact details elsewhere. However, those on social bookmarking sites typically are linked to other channels. 


Other channels

This is not a comprehensive list. You might also like to approach people that have written to you by e-mail previously, those that have reviewed relevant books, those on different platforms such as Google+, and friends/colleagues of your current employees interested in the sector. 


The Permission Approach

In addition, you might want to interview 10 known experts on the subject matter, publish this as an eBook and collect the names of people that download the book. 

You can then invite these people to apply to be founding members of the community. This gives you a direct contact and an easy means of reaching out to people you need to connect with. The key is these 10 experts need to help promote the book on your behalf. 


Build the list, then build the relationships

Once you have a list of 50 – 150 names, you can begin building the relationships. Don't rush this. If you personally reach out to 10 people a day, it will take you a maximum of three weeks. 

You need to sustain those relationships over a short period of time. Once you have trust, you can ask for their thoughts on the community idea and invite them to become a founding member. 


Founding members

Founding members need something to do in the community. It's not a fake role, it's a role with real responsibility and commitment. It embraces the real motivations of your members

If you get this right, you launch the community with a dedicated group of members to use it. If you get it wrong, you launch an empty platform.

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