Overcoming that overwhelming feeling: where to start when building a new community

Building a new community is a big deal.

You may feel overwhelmed when tasked with building a community from scratch. Even when your community is up and running, that overwhelming feeling can remain, especially as engagement grows and you’re wondering how to manage it all.

Here’s a list of common questions during the process of building and managing a community.

Build and they shall come…. or will they?
Q: How do I encourage members to join my community?
Q. I’m not sure which platform to use? There seems to be so many options out there and I’m not sure which one has all the features I need for my community?
Q. What rules should I set up in the community?
Q. I’m worried about trolls? How do I deal with these?
Q. Should I just allow anyone to join my community or should I vet each application?
Q. How do I convince other colleagues in my business that we even need a community?
Q. How will new members know what to do when they join my community? Should I create some kind of guide for them?
Q. What benefits should I be giving to my community members? I have some really engaged members in the community but I don’t have much budget, how can I keep them motivated to stay engaged?
Q. What sort of content should I be creating for the group? And how much should I as the community manager be creating vs. the community?
Q. How do I measure the success of my community?
+ many more questions on a daily basis!

The whole process of building community can feel daunting, and many exasperated souls start by creating a Facebook group (for example), praying it works out and then try to figure out the rest of their questions later…

Although this is not a guaranteed fail, it is quite possibly the most painful path for both yourself, your community members and the business – there may even be dire consequences leading to the early retirement of the community. Most communities struggle to take off because they have missed focusing on the one thing that pulls community together.

Simon Sinek says it best: start with why.

Community members engage with each other when they understand why they are there. 

Community means nothing without purpose.

It is vital that you build a community where the members clearly understand why the community exists and who belongs in the community.

Note: this is NOT the time to come up with buzzwords to create some external marketing spin of why your community exists. This is the time to dig deeper as to why your community members would come together, and why your business needs to build community.

Some examples of the “why” for community members may include:

  • Helps them work on their own passion project/ hobby
  • To feel a sense of belonging and connection with others
  • Legacy: to work with others on something bigger that they would not be able to achieve by themselves
  • Helps them with their own business needs/goals
  • Alleviate boredom/ have fun

Some examples of the “why” for businesses to build community may include:

  • Needs to understand their customers better
  • Needs to receive feedback on new products/ pipeline projects
  • Increase sales
  • Increase brand loyalty (retention)
  • Customer support is struggling, needs to answer questions in a more scale-able manner

Once I have the why, I am in a better place to figure out all the other questions for consideration when building a new community.

Story behind the featured illustration
“Open Peeps” by Pablo Stanley.


Pablo Stanley, a graphic design artist, has developed an open source library in the pubic domain for anyone to use his work titled Open Peeps, without asking for his permission. Anyone can copy, modify, distribute, remix, burn, and use the work, even for commercial purposes.

What is even more inspiring is how Pablo has built a community around his work. Developing a library of images that can be used as building blocks means that creators can come up with their own designs.

Here is where things get interesting. Pablo Stanley has managed to increase awareness around his work and his brand, and his community of creators is helping him do it! See below for some examples of community shout outs on Twitter.

This is a clever example of how an artist can raise awareness of their work and personal brand by using the power of community.

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