Fight the pressure to set clear objectives for your online community. Especially objectives with measurable metrics.

When you set fixed objectives (e.g. get 50 great product ideas, increase repeat buying by 15%, 250 mentions on blogs) you create a chasm between what you and your community members want.

Did members join to give product feedback, buy more or get you mentioned on blogs? No. They joined to meet others like them and have a good time. When you start pressuring members to give ideas, buy more or help promote you – you’re asking them to do something that they don’t want to do. That doesn’t end well (for you).

Every major successful online community has its objectives aligned with what members want. This is usually being awesome, like getting exclusives, arranging meet-ups, having influence over the topic itself etc..

Here is the important thing to understand. The benefits you get from thriving online communities are the derivatives of its success. They should not be the objectives for the community itself. You still get what you want, but they get what they want first.

First you have to create a successful online community – then you can enjoy its benefits. If you can understand this, your online community will be so much better.

(Image: Success is this way, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from rmgimages's photostream)

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