Building a community isn’t something that happens overnight. But with a roadmap, realistic and goal-oriented expectations, and a good attitude, a well-developed brand community may not be so far out of reach.
Make a plan and stick to it
The key to community building is putting effort and value into a strong foundation. Even if it’s brick by brick, a community with a carefully thought-out strategy is going to come out on top. Cement between bricks takes a while to dry, and if you stack your bricks higher too quickly, the structure is likely to collapse. In his article “How to Build a Community From Scratch,” David Spinks offers a one person at a time strategy:
Step 1: Pick up your phone, and call a user/customer. Ask them about themselves. Ask them about their experience with your company. Make a personal connection.
Step 2: Invite them to a private facebook group for your customers.
Step 3: Introduce them to the group and help them get involved in the discussions.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Although tedious, it’s this type of focused strategy that will produce results.
It’s also helpful to create a design persona of your target audience in order to always keep your messaging focused. Dino Dogan (@DinoDogan), co-founder of Triberr, wrote a piece for Business 2 Community, in which he describes the process of creating this avatar. The purpose, he notes, is to become one with the consumer—get into their head and know their fears, problems, and passions. It also ensures that your messaging is always human in nature, because in essence, your community is speaking to this avatar that you have created.
Richard Millington’s book Buzzing Communities also outlines various types of communities that help focus your content: communities of interest, place, practice, action, and circumstance. Considering the type of community you are looking to build, in addition to the demographics (geographic location, age, gender) and psychographics of the audience gives your new community a better chance for success.
One of the most important things to remember when building a community from scratch is that you cannot expect the community to appear instantaneously. This is a problem that according to Spinks, both large and small companies face. Startups just want to scale as much as possible and grow as quickly as possible, but that is not the nature of communities. Larger companies feel entitled, established, and as if they have strong brand recognition that their community will grow instantly. As Millington describes, creating long and short term audiences helps remind us that we need to reach critical mass (via a well-developed plan, of course) before we can think about reaching as many people as possible.
All the tedious work is worth it
Remember, as Dogan carefully points out, a successful community will create fanatically engaged members. These fanatically engaged members will market for you while you sleep — and they’ll do it all for free. I can’t think of a better reward.
Have you started your own community from scratch? Go ahead, what are you waiting for?!