Hi, Rafy here.
This is Uncommunity’s bi-weekly newsletter. We bring you community experts interviews, resources related to building and growing communities, tools that you can use to scale your community or events and books that you can read to become better community builders and jobs to be applied.
Ethan Brooks is a Senior Analyst at The Hustle. Prior to his work at Trends, Ethan worked at a hypergrowth startup Toptal, where he helped grow community on 3 continents. He's written extensively about community-building, and teaches the subject to founders in New York and London.
How do you build communities in 2021?
Great question. At the end of the day, the difference between a community and an audience is that an audience is a one-to-many platform (you speak to your audience, and they speak to you). A community, on the other hand, is a many-to-many system. Your main job is to foster connections between people, and your goal is eventually to become so unimportant that the community can go on without you. In that sense, community building hasn't changed in ten thousand years. If you ever get lost, take it all the way back to basics, and find two people in your community that you can introduce to each other. That will put you back on the right track.
How do you scale your community? (What are scalable community-building tactics used with large-scale communities?)
The only way to scale a community is to foster leadership inside that group. You need to identify, recruit, and train community leaders who are able to build those connections between members without your help. It's never too early to start looking for these people within your group. The first ones are often easy to spot -- they're highly active, quick to offer their advice to new members, and often self-organize events or support groups even without your go-ahead. In short, they're bought in on what you're trying to build and they're worth their weight in gold. Once you find them, your attention shifts from day-to-day interactions inside the community, to mostly focusing on the core group of leaders -- coaching them, helping them execute on their ideas, and developing programs and perks that keep them around. For more on this, check out this article I co-wrote with community genius, Eryn Peters, back when we were building the Toptal community leader program on 3 continents.
What should be the ideal community platform? Should there be a different platform when you have few members vs when you scale to 1000 members?
The ideal community platform is the one your members are most familiar with. Most often, that actually means choosing the "least bad" option. The reality is most community-building platforms do one or two things well and suck at the rest. But at the end of the day, a platform needs to be able to answer 3 questions:
How are you going to keep track of all your members (e.g. see who's joining, who's active, and who needs to be removed, etc...)?
How are you going to communicate with them (one-on-one and also to small and large groups)?
How are they going to communicate with each other?
What's so magical about Trends Community?
The people. The peer group is just un-matched. I can't believe they let me hang out.
Not everything that can be counted, counts. So how do you measure what a successful community looks like?
There are some traditional measures, like growth of the community, or number of active users. But you've got to balance them with your own built-in sense of how healthy the group is. We're communal creatures. We're literally hard-wired to be very attuned to the health and well-being of a community. You can't measure that. But if you're serious about building a community for your business, it needs to be okay. Accountants always get nervous about this stuff, because there's often no clear ROI that you can tie directly to a community event. But if you're the one on the ground, hosting, you know they work. I've literally seen people pass up jobs at Google for less pay and less prestige in order to stick with a company that made them feel a real sense of connection. When you look at the cost of replacing that person, it's clear that there's a very real ROI to community work, even if it's hard to measure precisely. To any community manager battling with the bean counters for budget, my recommendation is this: Invite them to an event. Make them the VIP, and show them first-hand what's going on. Once they experience it first-hand, it will be easier to make your case with them.
Advice for community builders.
Turn off slack notifications on your phone. Community managers already know this, but people outside the community-building world might be surprised by how hard it can be, emotionally, to look after hundreds or even thousands of people all day every day. Most community managers don't get a lot of downtime. They take meetings all day, work on event logistics, or community programs, then host events or do talks a few nights a week. It's a lot. So to all the community managers out there, you're awesome. Make sure you take care of yourself and take some downtime.
What's the interesting community that you've been part of and why did you decide to join?
This sounds like bullshit, but Trends is number one. I would be a member even if I didn't work here. Interestingly though, I haven't been part of many communities in my life. I grew up moving around (30+ houses, 20-ish schools). That's part of the reason this work is special to me now. I grew up without it.
Follow Ethan Brooks on Twitter.
What else we’re reading?
Micro-Communities - and why you should start one too. Read the full piece by Agam More.
I truly believe it might be the right path for many others - you don’t need to create a 5k community from day one, start with a Micro-Community next time ;)
Classifying Communities with the 3Ps: Product, Practice, and Play. Read more on how to define and discuss your community by Patrick Woods of Orbit Model.
Communicating the kind of community you’re building
Assessing the gaps in your community strategy
How Dunbar’s Number Makes Or Breaks A Community. Read about the History of Communities and Dunbar’s Number from Ian Vanagas here.
Dunbar’s number exists and internet communities must handle it. Most handle it passively, barely realizing the changes it causes. This may work for some, but many will have to actively handle Dunbar’s number or see a loss in quality.
As more attention is paid to internet communities, we will see new ways of handling Dunbar’s number. This helps people find and benefit from communities matching their goals. It creates healthier communities and, overall, a better online environment.
You should use forums rather than Slack/Discord to support developer community. Dan Moore breaks the problems of having Slack/Discord or chat platforms while building a developer focused community. Read the article here.
Problem #1: the memory hole
Problem #2: Google can’t see inside chats
Problem #3: synchronous communication is synchronous
Problem #4: less capable moderation tools
Problem #5: you’re missing out on long tail content
Problem #6: questions can be flippant
Getting better at community building, one tiny habit at a time. The idea behind tiny habits and community building is that they build up over time and are triggered by existing behaviours. Read the full article by Rosie Sherry.
The best thing is community building is hugely down to the art of conversing, connecting, and building relationships. This means that you don't actually need to have a community to practice this on. You can practice any time, anywhere.
I’m proud of all community builders. You are the best.
Remember while building you do things that don’t scale and remember the little things. It matters.
True for community. NEVER AUTOMATE RELATIONSHIPS.
First rule of community. Start uplifting.
Take inspiration from games. It’s unbelievable how your thinking can change when you play games. Learn from Games & Build paid communities.
What’s in the News?
Uncommunity’s featured community tool Geneva is open for business - A home for groups of all shapes and sizes. Check out Geneva.
(We had Kim Johnson, Head of Community at Geneva on our podcast Community Stories. We spoke about building communities, designing ambassadors program, etc. Give it a listen here.)
Arvid Khal’s The Embedded Entrepreneur is out. In this book, you will learn how to: Find your audience, Explore their communities, Discover their problems, Build a following and a business.
(We had Arvid on Community Stories where we spoke on how to build audience, how to leverage audience to build business. Give it a listen here.)
If you use Notion for day to day community related work then you should know that Notion’s API is live and you can integrate with Zapier, Typeform, etc.
What’s new at Uncommunity? ^Upvote your favorites^
Social Chemistry - Decoding the Patterns of Human Connection
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