When beginning a new relationship, are you more likely to connect with the outgoing person who really puts themselves out there and makes an effort? Or the guy who is reserved, tests the waters carefully, and starts with all kinds of ground rules about how you can interact with each other and when?
It is deceptively like common sense to start small when you are trying something new. After all, it is generally accepted as a best practice to launch a new campaign, product or program with a beta or pilot phase because it allows you to validate your ideas and approach with a lower degree of risk than a full deployment. But the problem with applying this concept to deploying your community is that you increase your risk instead of lowering it.
Communities are about building relationships. To start a community, you need to create an environment that is conducive to forming relationships among your members. Members show up for a variety of reasons, but what keeps them there is demonstrable activity by other members and an overall commitment to the community as an entity of its own. Pilots and beta programs actually increase your risk rather than limit it.
Here's some things to consider if you are thinking about launching a beta version of your community:
Betas and pilots are limited in size.
But a community needs to reach a critical mass to succeed.
Do you want to limit your chances of success?
Betas and pilots are of limited duration.
Will temporary and superficial relationships get you the results you want?
Your relationships with your community and the people who comprise it are not a technology, they're not a campaign and they're not a project. Don't make the mistake of treating them that way.
Photo by Mel B.
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