The biggest mistake businesses make when building a community and how you can avoid it.

Standing on Giants lightbulb
By Rob Fawkes on 18 Sep 2019

By Co-Founder, Robbie Hearn…

The biggest, most common mistake made at the beginning of many community-building journeys is to waste time asking “which community platform should I choose?”.

It’s as simple as this: The success of your community depends on things that have nothing to do with technology. 

What motivates a community to act, and to stay together when things get tough, is a common purpose, not personalised interfaces or advanced analytics. What attracts people to a community and keeps them there is a stream of active engagement from the brand – not the rest API or the integration with Salesforce. What encourages people to post in a community and join discussions is a welcoming atmosphere, not the range of emojis or media sharing options available.

So, if you find yourself getting bogged down with technology choices, try to remember that a community is, by definition, simply a group of people. And we are the same people now as we were at the dawn of our species. As popular science writer Adam Rutherford says:


“Our bodies have not significantly changed in 100,000 years. A woman or man from a thousand centuries ago would fit in perfectly well in any city in the world today if we tidied them up and gave them a haircut.”


What is true of our bodies is true of our minds. Our hopes and desires, our drives, our deep need for a sense of meaning and belonging. These core aspects of being human are the same today as they were even before we had language. This is why we all still crave community. And why so many attempts to create communities, online and offline, fail. Meeting such deep psychological needs is not a straightforward task.

Technology has facilitated the forming, growth and maintenance of communities – enabled them to exist in new ways. But no amount of technology can hide a vacuum where the human heart of a community should be.

Before you even start defining your tech requirements, you must define your requirements in other areas:

  • Who are the members of this community? 
  • What needs do the members have and what values/beliefs do they have in common?  
  • What do they want to do together? 
  • What do they want to talk about? 
  • Why have they joined this community? 
  • Why do they feel this community will fulfill their needs?

The success of your community will depend 100% on how you answer these questions. We’ve distilled this process into ‘The 5 Elements System for Community Success’. You can download a guide to this below.

Download the 5 elements guide

We’ve created this free guide to the 5 Elements System for Community Success featuring insights from community leaders around the world. Click below to download.

It’s not easy to do this well – because people are complex and companies are not used to meeting these types of requirements. It takes effort, insight, courage, co-operation and belief. But it will pay dividends for years to come. And that’s why I know you should devote much more time and energy to this than to your platform choice.

A community that has a million dollar platform, but does not have a clearly defined purpose, does not share authentic information and is not welcoming and inclusive, will fail. However, if you’re able to get incredibly clear on the ‘essence’ of your community, you’ll be on the route to success. If you’d like to find out more on this subject, you can read and download our 5 Elements System for Community Success.

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