How to start a community?

What is the only thing that differentiates humans from animals?

I think it’s our ability to solve problems in enormous groups over time. If you noticed, everyone wants a successful community revolving around them where they can share their stuff and learn new things from each other. 

But starting one can be a daunting task for many because how this community is positioned and put together from day one is a critical aspect to understand.

The only key is to prepare, assess, and strategize everything in hand before launching. And, with simple planning and a clear vision in mind, a successful launch is easier than you have ever anticipated.

So here are eight steps to successfully prepare for the launch of your new community:

Step 1: Define a cause

Communities are formed when people from different places associated with one another around a common cause.

To find your cause take out some time & think about ‘What will be your cause that brings people together?’ This can be anything: a profession, a hobby, a product, or a social factor. 

Just make sure your cause is relevant enough to have a community around it. 

Step 2: Do research around your cause

Now you have clarity in mind & a cause in your hand. The very next step is to do a competitive analysis about communities that are already there in the ecosystem and working around similar cause you’re having. 

So you can look for various factors such as what values they’re providing to their members, what problems members are facing in that community, on what platform that community is running, and many more.

And if such communities are not there then you are good to go, reach out to a segment of your target audience and to find their level of interest, ask them:

  • Are they interested in your cause or will they become a part of your community?

If you don’t have contacts in your network, you can connect with 5 new individuals each week via social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter and create a database list of your target audience for future use

It’s very important to reach out to members on a personal level. Because a very small number of members especially in the first years can drive an overwhelming volume of community activity.

Step 3: Select a Platform

If a majority of your audience responded favorably to your community cause, it’s time to start evaluating platforms that fits best to the community. Also, keep in mind the activities your audience expressed their interest in, so you can choose a community management platform that will help to maximize their participation.

For example, if feedback shows that your audience is most interested in Q&As experience. Then look for a platform that makes this kind of participation in the easiest way.

Step 4: Create a Content Calendar

It’s important to create engagement opportunities that explain a clear value proposition for joining and participating in your community. You should plan to have at least 1 month’s worth of content in the content calendar. Along with this, you need to put some relevant content from your end before launching so members who will join your community will get to see relevant content and this gives them a clear perspective to participate.

Step 5: Create a list of interested members

Just remember all the connections you made when surveying for your target audience. Now reach out to those interested people to let them know that based on their feedback, you are preparing to launch a brand new community.

This group will be your first set of active members and help you to create strong peer-to-peer ties that ultimately build attachment in your community.

These will be active members that will ensure questions coming from new members will get helpful responses in a timely manner.

Step 6: Create Community Guidelines

Some people come to communities to attract the wrong kind of attention. So be prepared in advance by establishing a clear set of community guidelines.

This should be seen as a guide to member etiquette and details on what is and what is not okay to post in the community. Also, include a link to these guidelines in the community so members can easily refer to this document in the future as well.

Step 7: Make Reports to Track Community Metrics

Before your community goes live on the platform, ensure that you will have access to reporting on community activity, traffic, and member acquisition data. You will need to follow these numbers closely to measure where to focus your efforts, what is working, and what is not working. Make sure you have a spreadsheet/report that will track the full history of each data point over time.

It is also recommended to set goals for the community’s first six months. These goals should be easily measurable and attainable as well.

Step 8: Go for a Soft Launch

Now you’re finally ready to launch your new community. Your platform has completed the implementation process and you have a handful of active members ready to engage with newcomers. Before announcing the community to the public, spend some time ensuring the community is ready for a positive first impression. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the platform appear to be problem-free for members? If not, what adjustments can I make for betterment?
  • Has the content been created to provide an engaging atmosphere for new members when they join? What topics are missing and what resources can I use to fill the gaps here?

You can also launch this community with a small event just to bring all of your target audience at one place where they can also interact and can get a clear perspective about your community and it’s values.

So these steps can work as an overall strategy to start any community. What specific you have to do is dig deeper into your domain and find out more reasons to start a community around it and for that, you need to feel the cause genuinely. 

You really need to go out and do it for your people as you’re not starting this community for yourself. No doubt you will get benefits altogether which is a side product of building a community but always remember you’re building it for others.