How to Build a Community for your Startup From Scratch



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 in the place from the beginning. It turns out that it’s extremely simple to do but 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 as much as possible. Their whole business is all about growing as quickly as possible. The problem is that communities usually don’t work that way.

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

The truth is that you can’t build a community over night the same way you can’t build a company over night. 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.

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. 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.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image Credit: CC by Susanne Nilsson

About the author: David Spinks

David is a community builder and entrepreneur.  He’s the CEO of The Community Manager and Feast, an online cooking school for the common man.  He’s been building communities both for fun and professionally for over a decade, working with companies like Zaarly, LeWeb, SeatGeek and many more.

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