The explosion in conversation around the importance of community is certainly welcome by those who've been doing it for years and feeling misunderstood. I'm curious, what happens when others start building communities just because someone on Twitter said it's the thing to do?
Suddenly, someone who's never built one or had any interest in is getting promoted to "community manager" because the company won't invest in hiring an expert. We've decided it's important to us and something we should do but not important enough to actually invest in.
This is already happening. I've had a few conversations over the last few months that typically go like this:
"We're thinking about building a community, and I've been tasked to figure out if we should start a slack group and a newsletter and a Linkedin group (lol)" etc. You get the picture.
My question back is always - why? Why is it important for you to build a community, and why now? What value is this going to bring to your members? Do you even know who your members will be and where they tend to hang out or consume content typically?
And the answer is usually the same - "not sure, we just hear a lot of chatter that having a community is important."
This isn't going to end well.
We'll end up with thousands of communities built by stressed-out newly promoted "community managers" and an army of disappointed members when all they get is another place where they are heavily marketed to.
My suggestion always has been and always will be - take a pause and dig deep into answering the purpose of this community and what value you can provide to your members. I can't stress this enough. You can figure out most things later, but understanding the value and relationship between you and your members will make or break your community.
And I get it. It's so easy to get lost in the noise and make it seem like this is something you need to act on now. Take a step back and think about this:
What is the purpose of this community and value exchange can we create for both sides?
Where will this community live and in what form?
Who's going to run it? It's an investment of time to start with, and money later.
What are the activities our members will take part in, or even want to take participate in?
Why will anyone care that we're building it?
Albert C. Nichols's post is a great starting point that I usually share with anyone unsure where to start.
What are your tips for building communities?