One of the biggest opportunities any company has on the Web is to own a conversation. There are small tribes of passionate people forming all around the world. They need a place to talk about their very specific interests, problems, and triumphs. This happens in what we call web communities, or “social media” sites.

I’ve worked with a lot of people that believe that if you build, they will come. Putting up a forum or a blog is only the first step. (Or maybe the second step.) Anyone can do that. If you think that’s all that it takes, then you’re not the unique flower that you think you are.

Practicing what I preach

A few months ago, I adopted and revived a community called CFWheels. It’s been a great experience. The community is a group of people that wants to see something special happen. Most importantly, they want to be a part of something special.

How did the community form? Did someone put up a forum about an existing product? No. A few guys have worked hard on building a piece of free software, and that’s what everyone talks about.

It’s also been a very challenging experience for me. There is no visible benefit to volunteering my time, so it’s hard to stay motivated and to contribute myself.

The takeaway

Any successful web community needs to be based on an asset, and the conversation needs to be interesting. Be it about a book, a church, or a music group, some work needs to happen first. And in most cases, your product is not going to be worth talking about on its own.

Remember, if it was easy, then everyone would be running a successful community.