With some of our audiences we have somewhat of a hybrid online/ offline community. I hate it when you have to answer a question with “it depends”, however, it totally does. It depends on your audience, how they prefer to interact, where they prefer to interact, when, and what you want them to do and why. For example, we have support centers across the world and we’ve talked about having the helpers introduce their patrons to the specific and relevant community groups they should participate in for further ongoing support as they leave.
We have massive libraries the which get tour buses that come through with a lot of Chinese tourists. As they leave the tours, the library guides could give them resources or get their emails to invite them specifically into Chinese research communities. Those are different audiences at a different time and location but they follow the same concept.
Instead of having a blanket announcement at a large conference to “come to our community”, you have the presenter announce inside of the breakout classes that they will have follow up discussions inside of a particular relevant group. In our case, specific community groups are connected to a larger community. It is more of a community ecosystem.
Sorry to talk in generalities. Maybe if you could give us more information about the experience you are wanting them to have and how they interact and how you engage with them. Basically, introduce it to them when it is absolutely most relevant to them. When they are thinking about the subject, performing the task, and when you have their attention. Something that also dips their toe in the water for broader activities they can engage it. Make the first interactions simple, specific, and relevant. Like a taste or a gateway drug for further engagement later. I’m not sure if that helps.