Now that the CMGR class is well under way, we approach the daunting task of actually building a community from scratch. The current wisdom out there offers many ways to get started on building your community. This post will cover some fundamentals to keep in mind, specifically the Who, What, When, Why and How of the community building process.
WHO do you want in your community and WHY
So you toil and trudge to bring a select and involved group of individuals around a brand, but the glaring question arises, do you want individuals who are just obsessed with your brand OR do you want obsessed brand ambassadors? Is there even a difference between the two? I say yes! And the difference is a valuable lesson in getting that community up and running.
First things first, who do you want to make part of your community? While there is no one correct answer, there is a general idea behind the ideal community member. We are talking about an individual who is interested in the brand beyond just the product — someone who believes in the ideology that forms the brand. You could describe this person as obsessed, as a fanatic. Or you could view them as a potential brand ambassador. The transition from fanatic to brand ambassador takes place alongside the growth of the community. The people that start out at the onset of the community’s creation as fanatics can very well be groomed to be brand ambassadors as the community matures.
So now that you know you are seeking out “fanatics” to turn into potential brand ambassadors it is a good idea to stop and ask why? Dino Dogan, business blogger and founder of Triberr (a social network for bloggers) offers an insight:
- Those fanatically engaged members of your community are the ones that will market for you while you sleep.
- They will field technical questions from other members.
- They will recruit other’s to do the same.
- They will do all this for free.
The last point key. Because no brand seeks to build a community with an unlimited supply of funding, it is absolutely crucial to seek out individuals willing to pull some weight for the community’s cause without monetary compensation. This not to say there is no compensation at all. Much like volunteer work, their compensation comes in the form of engaging in and about a brand/product/cause they are passionate about. But they will not engage with simply just the brand, so a clear human connection must be made at the onset of community creation. Dogan expresses it perfectly when he says
“Communities are people. And people want to interact with other people.”
So how do you establish that vital human connection that is at the heart of a successful community? Focus on one person at a time. David Spinks, CEO of The Community Manager, describes in his blog post about building communities from scratch the first steps to focus on when getting your community up and running:
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.
This process is fundamental when getting a community up and running. More important though is to keep repeating steps one thru three until users begin connecting on their own and the initial foundations of your community begin independently taking form.
The WHAT and WHEN
Once you’ve identified who you want to involve in your community (the passionate, the obsessed, the brand ambassadors!) and why, and have a basic outline of how to get ahold of these people, the next step will be to formulate some kind of long-term plan to assess the growth of your community. The Community Roundtable offers a great visualization to help chart the progression of your community and to make sure you are on track with the direction.
And there you have it…the who, what, when, why, and how to go about starting a community from scratch. Easier blogged about than done is certainly a good mantra to keep in mind when forming a community from the ground up. A well-founded and passionate community will not come together over night. But with the right approach and key success signifiers, a full-fledge community can be created from scratch!