What I learned this week:
This is kind of a small breakthrough for me. I've tried to start communities before, and it's always failed - and it's because there's an inherent paradox in community building.
In order for people to want to join your community, there need to already be people in your community.
Your community is only valuable - it only solves a problem - if it's already loaded with active, participating members.
In order to build a community, you need to already have a community. So how do you start one?
You have to start small, obviously - but make it personal. In the beginning, the community is you. The only reason anyone is going to join your tiny little group is because they like you.
So, start by making a close, friendly, and personal relationship with some ideal community candidates. Maybe choose people with small audiences of their own - maybe start with your existing friends as well.
For example, I'm trying to build a community of starting artists that need help with marketing. So, I followed around 20 different high school / college writers on Instagram, and messaged them in the most wholesome way I could.
I only sent them simple text DMs at first, but I'm going to send personalized videos to each of them as well. I want them to think of me not as a community manager, but as someone cool they can trust and ask for help.
My community is going to try to solve the marketing problem for these artists - but right now, the community is me, and thus, I need to directly help these initial members.
If they like what advice they get from me, they'll tell their writer friends to join them - and people will start to help each other out. All this applies to just about any community type out there.
And, if you plan to make a monetized community, the path is the same. You can't charge until that community is loaded with active participants, so you need to hand-pick the first batch, then grow it to a point where it's valuable enough for that price tag.
To get started, find out where your ideal community members sit already. Mine are on Instagram - yours might be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, online forums, Reddit, or you might just need to shoot them an email - but you're going to have to hand pick the first 100 members or so before the snowball starts rolling.
And I am speaking from experience here - I helped scale Moss Generation, a community of entrepreneurs - by hand picking and vetting almost everyone. It takes time. You can't just throw ads at a Discord channel and hope it works out. Plus, in my experience, the best communities are those with a rigorous white-list, instead of the typical open-to-everyone style. More members looks good on paper, but I think the quality drops the less picky you are.