Easy steps to Build Online Communities? It ain’t easy.
Whoever gives you his “10 Easy steps to build online communities” has either never done it before, or works for a big brand and has no idea about the real world, or is trying to sell you something so he has to make it look really easy. Whichever way, it ain’t easy. It is a lot of work and very rarely does it come with instant success. As an example, I will use a group that I started building just recently. It is a brand-based community where I got hold of a nice set of digital assets. (I’ll write more about acquiring and managing digital assets for communities in a later post.)
From Zero to Hero – Rule #1 when you create your online community: The winners take it all
The first 2 or 3 groups take 90+ per cent of new members. Nobody registers for 3 groups in the same niche. They will register for 2, but not for three. (Spammers excluded)
I started the group about 6 weeks ago and only managed to put some real effort into building it over the past couple of weeks. This is a LinkedIn group – I like the platform, and got the brandname for my group as well. For my keyword, there were another 34 groups that already existed. I started on page 4 as #35. Today, I am #4 on page 1 with over 600 members. I am above the fold – visible when people see the search result. But in building the community, this is still only the ground-floor level. There is still fierce competition with the guy on #5, and a giant leap to the #3 position – over 2000 members. And unfortunately time is on their side.
Every week #2 and #3 – the real competitors for my keyword get 30-50 new members organically. They do not lift a finger, and still get 1500 to 2500 new members a year. So this is definitely an uphill struggle. So I need to be able to get in about 100 new members every single week over the next year to catch up. This is where building your own online communities gets rough. I need to keep up momentum, moreover, I need to move faster. The shorter it takes for me to draw in new members, the easier my job becomes.
Rule #2 for building online communities: Keep up the pressure until you are at the top
The winner at the top of the list is carried by its own weight, thus they tend to be lazy. And hopefully they will also be ignorant. Lazy in that they think organic growth will always keep them on the #1 position. Lazy in that they do not regularly check how much the surrounding social landscape has changed so they will not realise the threat until it is too late. Both depends on their professionalism.
Thus I need to keep on recruiting new members harder than ever, and I also need to generate activity that engages people in the group. Every new job, post or comment increases the buzz and attracts more people.
Rule #3 What your platform giveth your platform can also take away
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you build an online community on a third party platform such as Linkedin, you are at their mercy. At any given time, they can take away features, or add ones that may make your effort completely futile. While they give you an easy to use tool, you also become dependent on them. Thus if you really mean that you want to build online communities, you need to diversify your digital assets to be able to reach out to the community through various other channels too. This portfolio diversification is what I am going to talk about in my next post.