How to Start Your Community
There are many approaches and best practices you can follow when starting your community. From articles on community engagement, podcasts with community leaders, to a couple of frameworks and websites you can follow. The one thing we learned at Spaceflow is that what matters the most is the work and research you do before you actually launch your community. Here is how we go about it:
As they say: Start with your WHY
Defining the very reason why you or your client wants to launch a community is essential to every decision you are going to make moving forward. Without having a clear mission and purpose you are always going to circle back to the typical doubt questions like Is it worth investing in this community? or What is starting this community going to bring us?
For example, the way we start this conversation with our clients is by asking them What experience would you like to provide? Then, after some ideas are brainstormed around, we help them to answer their ideas via How can creation of your community help you provide that experience?
Defining the pure purpose of your community will be your mission and your superpower in case you are not sure where to go or what to do next. To help you define your purpose I recommend taking a look at the Community Canvas.
Find out who is your community
Once you know your WHY you should find out the -why of your future community members. Your community's mission should be clear and answer why your new members should join. The actual definition of your community always goes beyond the way you understand it. The best way to find out what need you should be fulfilling is by getting feedback from your potential audience.
Delivering your promise to your community members should become the mantra for everything you decide to do in the future. You can use your community's purpose to help you with quality assurance for anything you do.
Define the right channels for you
Knowing your brand and tone of language is important for any business or community. However, it is crucial to define your communication channel, eventually your community space (virtual or physical) right at the start.
Make things easy for your community and choose wisely. You don't want to create multiple channels to confuse and decentralise your community members. Imagine being a part of a community with its own online communication platform, Facebook private group, Slack channel and a LinkedIn group message.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about having a presence on multiple social media channels along with sending the occasional newsletter! However, your members should have your community group as the primary source of information and follow other channels if they feel like it. Good presence in media should also help you gain new members, not the other way around.
To help you choose the right channel(s) I recommend The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Platform for Your Community by CMX.
Test. Fail. Repeat.
The only way you'll discover if your community works and addresses the need of your (potential) members is to test it out. Your test group should be 1. Close to you, for you to be able to get qualitative feedback and 2. Experienced, to ensure they can stop the bugs early on. Inviting different community leaders or influencers is a great way to get your initial feedback.
Once you get the desired feedback, make changes accordingly and then collect feedback again. Or course, not everything must or should be implemented, so focus on the biggest blockers and question marks your test group gives you. If your first community members and testers like your group, not only you've got something great in the making, they'll recommend your community to others as well!
1. Start your community as an MVP and grow by adding more value.
2. Make sure you engage your first community members when they join.
3. Support your ambassadors to spread the word.
4. Never stop collecting feedback.