Community around a service, or a service around a community?


So, I made the entrepreneur leap a few months ago. I've been tinkering and trying new ideas and learning a lot. I know the specific niche I want to work with, and I have been building up a community in that niche in the meantime (mainly just connecting with people over social networks, conducting interviews, etc).

My goal was to set out to cater to this certain audience... learn about the market, find a need, and fill it. Well, I found a need, and the name that I gave the community is, well, a name for the community. For a while, I thought about a membership site for this certain type of community and I figured I'd sell them on an "exclusive" high quality community.

My dilemma:

A) Do I keep the community, but focus a lot more time on the service on a separate website/domain (and promote it through that community)?

B) Do I keep the community and integrate the service "into" the community? eg. online community/website, with several services offered to them.

I'd like to do A, but I'm about a month into building this community up. My concern with B is selling people on a "community" is too abstract for me and I'm afraid the real value added services will be buried too much. I like to keep it concrete and tangible. I have no doubt that this community will be able to use this tool I'm providing them, and I really think community should be built around the service... but I'd like some people to reaffirm that I'm on the right track (which is leaning more towards A).



asked Jan 9 '10 at 08:02
460 points
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2 Answers


Without a concrete example I am not exactly sure I am addressing what your question is, but for now I would continue working on both and not trying to "Push it" too much. If you try to force it it may not work.

If it were me I would probably keep the entities separate - different web site etc, but have subtle, but prominent links that are not intrusive but in the framework of the site.

Be sure you are clear in your statement/representation that you provide the service.

Provide as much value on the community as you can without continuing to beat the product part.

That is just my opinion. It may be useless and way off. I have never built one, but am basing this on my experiences as a consumer.

answered Jan 9 '10 at 08:28
Tim J
8,346 points
  • Thanks Tim. That's helpful, I think that's what I'll do. The community knows I am trying to do whatever I can to serve them. I've openly said that. Not to mention, the community brings in no money (and isn't designed to bring in money atm)... it was more a starting ground from where (my) ideas would be born. I am not going to overthink this too much, I'm going to run with it. I think you've provided good insight, I just needed someone else to look over my shoulder. Thanks Tim – Matt 14 years ago


I'm in somewhat the same boat: I found I like people who are building startups a lot more than those who run (or are managed in) large companies/organizations. I've done a few things to help those people after that realization a few years back, including my current startup.

But I see nothing whatsoever in helping people I like and making a living and a profit at the same time. I try to operate from a point of view of enlightened self-interest and hope others do too.

I think the juxtaposition of service (which I take to mean money-making business) and community is a false one. No one questions the right of an Apple, Google or Microsoft to build a community of people around their products and vision: why should that right not apply to you?

answered Jan 10 '10 at 07:39
Bob Walsh
2,620 points

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