The first people that join a community will do it through a commitment to you, not a commitment to your mission.
For this to happen, people need to know and trust you. This means increasing awareness and building relationships.
It’s hard to launch a community for an audience that doesn’t already have strong relationships with your team. You can’t launch it and hope for the best. You need to begin building awareness and trust months before you open up the platform.
Begin this process at least three months before the platform is ready to go live. The more time you spend on this, the faster your community will grow.
We use a four-elements framework for this; participate, create, host, and interact.
- Identify and participate in existing discussions. Be genuine, ask questions, get advice, give advice when you feel ready.
- Attend as many in-person meetups if you can. The cost of sending someone to another city/another country for a meetup is always worthwhile.
- Launch a blog/newsletter/e-mail series on the topic.
- Publish white-papers based upon interviews and case studies you’ve picked up from the community.
- Organize a series of popular events on the topic. This will begin with a tiny number of people, but will grow gradually.
- Host and attend meetups, even if just a tiny number of people attend – a tiny number if enough to get a community going.
- Contact 5 to 10 people a day for 3 months. Reach out to them and sustain these discussions.
- Schedule interviews with the top experts in your space. Discuss how they might be able to promote their material in the community.
During this time, never ask members to join a community or do anything that benefits you. Your goal is simply to tackle the awareness and trust stages. Ensure that people know you and that they trust you.
By the time you launch the community, you should have a huge number of people you can invite to participate.