7 years ago we began advising organisations to build communities. We sometimes struggled to make the leap from giving advice to organisations following our advice.
This changed when we understood the fear.
I’d advise organisations to begin small. Start with the smallest groups with whom you have the best relationships and who share a most clearly defined demographic, habit, or psychographic trait. Become the single best/most useful destination for a small group then slowly expand out.
‘Don’t worry about your other 49,500 customers for now, worry about the 500 you’re going to get started with’.
Unfortunately their bosses did worry about the other 99% of their customers.
When would the 99% join the community? Why not now? Why not just make the scope a little broader? Why not include a few more people? Why pay so much money for just 1% of the customer base? Why not wait to hire a community manager until we’ve gotten things going?
This is all about fear. Focusing on so few people feels risky. Focusing on a lot of people feels safe. The irony is the opposite is true.
I should have armed them with stories of organisations that went big and failed badly.
I should have given them stories of expensive failures and the stress/frustration trying to reach 50,000 people at once induces.
I should have given them stories of people, many I know personally, who began small and could grow steadily, catering to each group in turn and how great it is for members to finally find a unique community just for their specific challenge/interest.
I should have told them inspiring, emotive, stories about all the communities that began small and thrived.
Everyone you deal with today (your members, your boss, and your colleagues) have preconceived notions about what feels risky and safe. If your idea sounds risky (almost any idea does, it’s new and different), people will resist it. You have to change those ideas before you can take action.