I’m a big proponent of soft launches. Invite your most passionate customers (Evangelists) early and have them test drive your online community before you release it out to the masses. They can provide some great feedback of what works well and where there may be pit falls.
It’s always a good practice to have content seeded before officially launching. It would be quite embarrassing to drive members to a community where there’s nothing for them to interact with. That seeded content sets the tone for the type of future activity your organization deems acceptable as well as the type of behavior that is expected from members. Have your evangelists assist with this content seeding exercise.
Once you feel comfortable with content volumes, officially launching (hard launch) is a strategic move. Line up the official launch with a major company or industry event like your annual customer conference to make a big splash. Have an exhibit booth to demo the capabilities and benefits.
What was your approach? Did you skip the soft launch and go straight for the hard launch? Did you tie the launch to a major company or industry event?