The empty restaurant

Did you ever walk down a street looking for a good place to eat and end up in an empty restaurant? No you probably didn’t, why? Nobody will go and eat in an empty restaurant, because people think there is something wrong and that there is a reason nobody is eating there. If you end up in an empty restaurant you either like to take a risk (will the food be really good, will it be worth my time) or you know the place and you’ll know what to expect and you’ll know how much value you will get for your money.

Same goes for your high-end-enterprise-like-software-product you bought to enable collaboration in your enterprise. If there are no discussions present and no other activities. Why should people join? Why should put their effort in it? Some will do it, but many more will not.

How to overcome this?

It is simple, it is just like the restaurant: start exclusively for your friends. Only invite the people you know and of who you know they are willing to invest some time to create value. Let those people create content, let them invite other people (for example 5 at the time) and let the community grow member by member. Listen to their feedback and make changes that they need to have a better experience. Create enough buzz that people are longing for invites to participate. After time enough people can participate and you’ll have plenty of content. This might be the moment to open up for all others that did not have an invite. They are more likely to participate since there is already an active community.

So if you want a successful internal community, you should not open it up for everybody at first, but start with just a small selection of people. Grow it one member at the time and before you’ll know it people are stalking you to get an invite for the community.