Online community building has more in common with offline community building than online marketing.
Communities aren't developed through expensive websites, press releases, big promotional pushes, mass e-mails, influencer-outreach, contests and competitions or any other symptom of Big Launch Syndrome.
You're not looking for a large amount of attention for a short amount of time. You're looking to start a movement that lasts for decades.
Communities are developed by identifying the strong common interest (hopes, aspirations, passions, problems) of your audience and connecting people around it. You need to reach out to people in genuine, honest, ways.
That means interacting with people before you launch the community. Identifying that strong common interest. Getting them to talk to each other around that interest. You gradually invite more people. You sustain the discussions and cultivate a sense of identify amongst this group.
This is an entirely different skill-set from online marketing. If we keep thinking of ourselves as doing online marketing; we'll continue to have a high-failure rate, short-term communities, and negative associations with online spam.
If we think of ourselves as the evolution of traditional community builders; we'll build meaningful communities that improve the lives of participants and last for decades.
This isn't a semantic issue. It's an issue about how you approach your community.
Do you start small, connect people and steadily grow? Or do you start with an expensive platform, mass promotional push, and die a quick death? It's a real, genuine, choice you need to make.