Community is something that social media excels in building, cultivating and maybe even repairing. But headfirst and with nothing more than smash and grab intentions of getting a cheap sale from a community is foolish and not the point.

Do I Need to Start a Community?

First, you need to identify the purpose. As with any use of social media -- or indeed use of the telephone, fax machine or other -- the justification for using it is ‘How much is it going to move the needle on the dial from the existing state, to the new?’ What change is the marketing supposed to affect?

If you don’t want to build your own community or cannot afford to resource a community program, you may consider joining an existing group but think about how you conduct yourself. Be open, be helpful and be patient to work your way into the environment of a complex community structure that already exists.

You wouldn’t gate-crash a party or turn up uninvited with not so much as a bottle of wine; same applies to online pockets of interest and conversation. Bring something of value and work with those around you to become part of the furniture over time.

Blend into the Community

Community is not a one-size fits all entity. Whether your community is hosted on your website or an existing, well-established group on LinkedIn, you need to speak the right language at the right time.

It is often said in sporting terms that the best Referees or Umpires are the ones you don’t have anything to say about at the end of a game. If things are ticking along nicely, it makes your job easier, the community better and this sporting reference accurate.

You will not go from Zero to Influencer in seconds, weeks or possibly months. To rush is to fail with this mind-set. Often the biggest challenge you face when building a Community for your company is the internal buy in and managing the levels of expectation of your Seniors.

Editor's Note: Additional articles on building community include: