The organizations that have the idea for a community, quickly develop a simple platform, and begin inviting members to it within a few weeks tend to succeed.
The organizations that have the idea for a community, spend weeks selecting a platform, months developing it, and a year before they invite anyone to participate, tend to struggle…a lot. Typically they splutter along for six months before being mercifully cancelled.
I suspect there is a simple reason for this. It's a reason familiar to those with a start-up background. It's the rapid speed of failure and revamping.
The culture of organizations that move fast seems ideal for community development. When you're launching a community, you're constantly testing and refining different approaches, platform features, and even concepts for the community. A community for book authors based in London to critique each other's works, might become a community for those in the book industry to share publisher leads within a few months.
In the start-up world, this happens a lot. It's called a pivot. Twitter didn't stay a tool to inform people about what party you were at for long. Nor did Flickr remain as a real-time photo chat-room for more than a few months.
Looking at the long list of organizations we've worked with, the successful communities tended to go through one or two pivots. The slower you move, the less pivots you can undertake before a senior exec cancels the failing project.
The message, unsurprisingly, is move much, much, faster. Start simple. Start small. Focus on a few individuals. Identify what's popular and pivot towards that. Like many other things, failing is part of the process to be successful. You need to push through the failures quickly.