Common mistakes with starting communities

(This is part of Ask the Community Guy, an ongoing series of questions posed by readers for Jake, the Community Guy)

Question – via Bill Johnston from ForumOne:
What are the 3 biggest mistakes you have seen teams make when starting on a community building/engagement project.

Answer: Thanks, Bill. Great question.

  • Rushing In: Before you jump into a community forum, introduce yourself a blogger, or start a corporate twitter account, do your research. Learn the community culture. You wouldn’t jump head first into a lake without knowing how deep it was, right?
  • Pushing an agenda: Interacting with a community isn’t a military mission or a marketing campaign, so don’t treat it like one. This interaction is kin to a real world relationship, so think about what you’d do if you were dating someone. Would you show up to a blind date with an engagement ring? Probably not, so when you introduce yourself or your company to a community group, take it slow. It might take a bit longer than you expect but the results will be much, much better.
  • Lack of follow-up: The best way to prove that you’re serious about creating an honest, long-term relationship is to close the loop. When people ask you questions, get them answers. When they ask you to fix some aspect of your product, either fix it or tell them why you can’t. “Maybe” is the enemy of a long-term relationship, and “No” isn’t a dirty word.

The bigger point here is that the best way to “start on a community building/engagement project” is to approach it instead as “building a relationship”. We all know how to build relationships, we do it every day of our lives with our spouses, brothers, mothers, co-workers, and friends. Apply those learnings to your community engagement and you increase your odds of success tenfold.

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