How to launch a fan community

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A healthy fan community is a long-term, sustainable word of mouth asset. It takes a lot of effort and hard work to make a great one — but the results are worth it.

The first few weeks and months of a community’s life are critical. Here’s how to get yours off to a great start:

1. Define your purpose
2. Appoint community leaders
3. Create a barrier to entry
4. Give members roles and responsibilities

1. Define your purpose

Every successful community is built on a purpose. The Fiskars fan community offers a safe, encouraging environment for crafters. DeVry University’s DriVen Class gives their students resources and a support network. At Maker’s Mark, their ambassadors are on a mission to help everyone drink better whiskey. Your community’s purpose will be what fuels it. So, what makes yours different? What are you out to fix? What do you believe in?

2. Appoint community leaders

Great communities have great leadership. During launch, this is a crucial ingredient. Identify a core group of influencers and empower them to lead your community. Early on, the biggest thing you’re going to need is contributors, moderators, and advocates — and a core group of inspired leaders can do all of these things.

3. Create a barrier to entry

Ask people for an investment in your community from day one. Test them, make them wait a few hours before joining, ask them to sign a pledge, make them apply for membership — anything that takes some effort on their part. Sure, making it really easy to join will help your initial membership numbers. But a barrier to entry puts some of their skin in the game, and the result is more participation, more engagement, and more of a sense of ownership amongst community members.

4. Give members roles and responsibilities

Your members need jobs, goals, tasks, and responsibilities. This is especially important in the infancy of your community. Appoint bloggers to contribute new content, charge members with recruiting new members, and create ways for members to gain status by accomplishing tasks. Giving your members direction on exactly what to do makes it easier for them to participate — especially in a new community.

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