In August 2008, Dell launched Digital Nomads. A community for people that work from anywhere.
It was widely hailed as brilliant. It was a perfect fit for their lattitude range of laptops. It gained coverage in numerous publications both online and offline. A number of A-List bloggers were involved; John Jantsch, Chris Brogan, Shel Holtz, Hugh Macleod, Andy Sernovitz etc..
In October, activity remained high. It was getting coverage. Content was produced on a regular basis. People were joining and participating.
Then it began to taper off. The A-listers moved on to new things. The number of interactions began to die down. The number of visitors dropped. It quickly became another short-term marketing effort.
It lingered as a dormant community for years until Dell quietly decided to kill it.
This is a natural evolution of a big-launch community. Lots of excitement, a burst of activity, a decline and then death.
This isn't a complaint against the A-listers. No community should begin by targeting the influencers first. It's a complaint against this entire approach to community building.
The way most organizations approach communities is broken. The big launch doesn't work. Targeting the big influencers doesn't work. Issuing press releases, getting press coverage and gaining a larger amount of attention for a short amount of time doesn't work.
This is the opposite of what you should be doing. You need to start small. Focus on getting your first few members. Keep them highly active. Grow steadily. Invite a few more people at a time.
Hold back on your big promotional assets for now. Hold back your PR team, your 100,000 strong mailing list and your blogger outreach campaign. Your community isn't ready for this yet.
Start small and grow big.
p.s. You can still download The Proven Path, a free eBook explaining how to launch an online community for your organization.