Provide Useful, Relevant, Trustworthy Information First
I used to try to build a sense of community among members far too early.
The problem was people didn’t know each other yet. They didn’t know if they wanted to be associated with one another. They didn’t fundamentally trust that this was a useful place where people like them hang out.
In psychological terms, this is known as cognitive trust.
In most types of communities today, you need to establish and sell the quality and reliability of members and the information they share before you can build a sense of community.
Try to build a sense of community too early and you will drive people away. Once your members perceive the community to be trustworthy, reliable, and of high quality, they want to associate themselves with it. They want to spend more time there and get to know other members. They feel a common identity with others.
Cognitive trust emerges from authentic responses, featured and accepted solutions, attracting and keeping smart members to answer questions, showing impact and consistently sharing useful ideas.
If you’re building a new community, you can focus on the socialization side later. Focus on providing useful information above all else.