A few months ago, I wrote an article called 7 Myths About Building a Brand Community. Many people make assumptions about communities, what it is like to create and maintain one, and how it is a tool for branding.
But to truly harness the positive impact of community, it's important to take a step back and understand the work that goes into community building.
Much of the discourse around building a brand community centers around myths that are rooted in assumptions. Here are three more of these myths:
You need a lot of content
This is one of the key myths I encounter in my line of work and I talk more about it here. We believe this myth because we mistake our community for our audience. Audiences want to be entertained and you need a lot of content to keep that entertainment going.
However, you don't have to churn out a lot of content to build a community, nor will a feed with huge engagement make a community. People in a community ultimately want to connect and belong, which takes way less content from the brand and way more thoughtfulness around how you invite members to show up and share in your community.
You need to be polished
While it’s always nice to have your branding, community guidelines, values, events checklist, canned responses, and *insert process here* ready to go, it’s okay (and better) to launch your community without having everything buttoned up.
When presenting to an audience, any flaw or missing part of your structure is a weakness. But in community, those missing pieces become opportunities for your community members to step up and into more leadership with your community. Look out for the people who point out that something is missing and invite them to be a part of creating it.
You need to have a big launch
Launches are an important part of any brand. Some of the biggest events today are essentially product launches (e.g. film premieres, Apple Event, New York Fashion Week). However, I always say communities are grown, not launched.
Yes, there needs to be an inception point for your community — the moment you send the invite for your first member to join your community platform, for example — but if you’re waiting to launch your community because you want to plan a big tadoo, think again.
Communities are best formed when they are grown through an iterative approach rather than in one singular launching moment.
Communities are living and changing organisms made of living and changing organisms. As such, the needs of your community will shift quickly and your community framework needs to be able to pivot appropriately so that the community continues to provide value for its members. Community frameworks that are driven by member content can do this more easily (i.e. it will happen naturally) than spaces that are dominated by a top-down approach from the brand.
Take it from someone who has made this mistake before, when you are initially starting your community, you have a lot of assumptions about what people want from this space.
Start small by testing those assumptions and building in the direction your community is leading you. Otherwise, you’ll spend months and months fine-tuning a launch plan based on assumptions that haven’t been proven to be correct yet.