Patrick McKenzie’s anecdotes about finding and joining online communities
Patrick McKenzie on finding where your audience currently lives and gradually injecting yourself in there:
The chicken-and-egg — the cold start problem — is a real problem. Your audience exists somewhere. It is likely a combination of both:
- People who don’t yet know that they should be friends
- But also folks that are already friends because they already are an audience elsewhere
So, if you find those places where your crowd (or the people who should be in your crowd) naturally congregates, participating in those spaces and then gradually injecting your stuff into those spaces works rather well.
Too few people remember it, but there was back in the day this forum called the Business of Software that was hosted by Joel Spolsky. There were yours truly and maybe 2,000 other people there who were building software companies all at the same time. If you use the magic math of participation on the Internet that implies there were a couple of hundred thousands people reading it. A lot of those two thousand people went on to do great things. Of the 60 people that read my blog on the first day that it existed back in 2006, I assume virtually all of them saw it because they had seen me, you know, participating on that forum for 6+ months. And they saw it when I posted. “Hey, I started a blog today and I’m going to launch a piece of software in a week here’s my post about it.”
The explosion of social media in the last couple of years makes this easier. Because you can sort of like interact with people who have large audiences on social media. The tricky bit of it gradually, and in an authentic way, introduce your pieces and replies about their pieces, or your thoughts into replies about their thoughts. There’s some deep, deep social technology and nuance about doing that in a way that is both true to your values and not annoying for the person that you are sort of climbing onto and also not annoying for their audience. But I’ve seen many, many people do that, and do that relatively well.
There is also, by the way, people who have a standing invitation — like myself — “Please send me email. I like getting email. I like reading things that people have written etc.”