“Community” has become the king of buzzwords lately.
I doubt you could scroll through Twitter right now and not see a single tweet thread talking about the community. But it’s an emerging trend for a reason, as more companies see the power of community and more products are built around community as a central pillar of the experience.
As Senior Community Manager at Morning Brew, focused on our Learning @ Morning Brew educational experiences, here are my top four tips for someone trying to build and maintain a community.
Community is more than a Slack channel
Whether it’s your third Slack, your fifth Discord, or the people you just met at a party all joining a group chat to plan a trip to Mexico, we’ve all seen ‘communities’ come together. form and then die out as quickly as they started.
The community doesn’t just bring people together in Slack, it’s what happens after you do that. In fact, if it’s easy to do, it’s probably not a community yet: community has friction because human relationships have friction.
So before you get super excited and think of your group as a community, think about what things you’ll need to maintain. Ask yourself:
- Why do people join this community?
- What does our community represent?
- What experiences will we have that will enable us to achieve our goals?
Only having a solid answer and game plan for these questions will make a community successful, just having the latest video platform or party chat app won’t.
Don’t automate the humanity of your community
Scaling the community is a challenge and it may seem like an oxymoron. The attributes that make a community special (intentional, personal, relational) are the same things that are difficult to replicate on a large scale. However, if the community is to be a valuable asset to the business, some of its elements will need to evolve.
In the first MB/A cohort, we made individual acceptance videos for each professional who signed up for the program. These were very successful, but an incredible waste of time – something that really couldn’t scale. As we grew, we moved from custom videos to custom copy: still a lot of effort, but something that can be done much faster than video production.
Find the personalization elements that are integral to your community’s success and protect them from the depersonalization that can come from scaling. It may be tempting because it’s easier to scale, but it’s the hard things that are still done manually that define the community.
Community managers are architects, not stars
Community managers must consider themselves as architects.
A community should be like a well-designed building: people understand why they are there, navigation is intuitive based on appropriate signage and indicators, and the different rooms within create different environments.
Much like an architect, you should spend a lot of time thinking about how your community design will spark the kinds of interactions you want. And most importantly, just like an architect who leaves the building when it’s finished, a great community is one that can continue if the community manager leaves.
Comments are incredibly powerful: show that they are valuable
How many times have you filled out a feedback form, only to never know if someone read it because you never saw the changes you want to implement?
Community is powerful for many reasons, including giving you a direct line to your customers and any feedback they have about your business, product, or experience. However, these comments will immediately dry up if you don’t acknowledge the effort it took to share them, and show signs of implementation based on them.
For MB/A, we sent a message to almost everyone who completed surveys telling them that we appreciate their feedback and why we were (or weren’t) going to make changes.
Tip: Do the same for your community. They will feel listened to, which will add to their sense of belonging; you will get amazing ideas that you can ship immediately, which will improve the product/experience; and you’ll engender the feeling that everyone is collectively building community, which increases affinity for everyone involved.