How To Build A Community From Scratch

by David Spinks on Mar 15, 2012

Originally published at The Community Manager

How do you first get started building a community?

It’s probably the most common question I hear.  Communities are awesome, right?

Every company wants one!  But where do you start?

Having built a number of communities over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot about what a healthy community looks like, and how to put the right pieces into place from the beginning.

Turns out it’s extremely simple, yet easy to avoid because the task can seem very daunting.

Ok ready?

Come closer.

Here’s the secret…

One person at a time.

Both startups and larger organizations have a problem building a community from the ground up.

Startups have a problem, because they just want to scale scale scale as much as possible. Their whole business is all about growing as quickly as possible. Problem is, communities usually don’t work that way.

Larger organizations have a problem, because they feel like they’re “established” and they have strong brand recognition. So, they can throw money at it and BOOM, instant community.

The truth is, you can’t build a community overnight, the same way you can’t build a company overnight. Both require that you give every small aspect of the larger goal your full attention, and build up toward your vision.

Want a foolproof community building 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.

Keep doing that until the discussions in your group are flowing smoothly. Keep at it until you feel that your users are connecting with each other and a true community is forming.

Forget all of your plans for an “ambassador program” with rewards, exclusive swag, badges, moderators, big events, etc etc. Start simple and focused. When it’s time to build more structure into your community program, you’ll know.  Your community will tell you.

It’s tempting for companies to think “I don’t have time to call all of our users!”. I’m not saying call all of them.  I’m saying call one. Then call another. And another and another, until it starts to grow organically. Eventually, it will.

There’s no interaction too small to be worth your time, when you’re trying to build a true community.

It may seem tedious, but once it’s all done…

…nothing is stronger than a well-built community.

Image source: Shutterstock.com single brick

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Post Author

David Spinks is the CEO of LetsFeast.com and TheCommunityManager.com....

  • http://twitter.com/ScenableApp Scenable

    There’s a lot of truth in that — there’s really no way to take shortcuts when trying to build genuine, lasting communities. Thanks for the post!

  • http://rmctech.net/ Ryan Critchett

    I like it, David. It obviously takes time right? Like a long time!! If people knew that going in, and were openly accepting of the fact that it’s about to take them 6 + months to really start having a strong impact, they’d be better equipped to dominate out there! 

  • http://www.whatspinksthinks.com/ David Spinks

    Yep.  Think about how you want it to look 6-9 months out and work towards that goes, rather than how you want it to look tomorrow.

  • Amandah

    “Startups have a problem because they just want to scale scale scale as much as possible. Their whole business is all about growing as quickly as possible. Problem is, communities usually don’t work that way.” I would add small business owners don’t understand that “communities usually don’t work that way.” 

  • http://www.realtor.com/blogs Audie Chamberlain

    David- I agree, when you’re thinking about building a community from scratch you have to focus on one specific goal at a time but also never forget the long-term. There are no secrets or shortcuts to community building success because each community is different. It might be easy to create a private Facebook group for a company’s customers in one instance and not in the other. When I built my company’s social networks I did so without any advertising or marketing of any kind because building a community, no matter if it’s for a startup, small business or large organization, is about one to one relationship and making personal connections.

  • http://www.captivetouch.com/ Sherry Nouraini

    Loved reading this post!  You mentioned inviting people into a Facebook group.  How difficult do you think it will be to invite people to come to a community built on your own website? What sorts of things do you think would encourage people to join a private community outside of mainstream social networking sites?

  • Andres D. Manlapus

    thank you of refreshing my mind in how to build community. you give me an idea that my business will grow. thanks a lot and god bless.