2 min read
Saksham Mendiratta
Building Strong Communities

We dive into the constructs of 'Strong Communities’ through a tactical step-by-step guide into building niche, but emphatic communities.

Hey You,

As you enter another Sunday afternoon, I hope it’s been a pumped up week for you. Well, if not, here’s one that would give you some food for thought.

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Well, today we’re talking about the ‘Constructs of Strong Communities’ through a tactical step-by-step guide into building niche, but emphatic communities.

Now whether you’re a brand that’s just getting started or you’ve existed for a long time, you could totally use this to amp your community engine. All I would say about building communities is: do it once you’re ready to commit. It’s a long and demanding road ahead, once you get started.

Everything in here today could be used for:

  • Strong niche communities
  • Launching waitlist campaigns
  • Crowdsourcing new ideas
  • Building a group of superfans
  • Do they define the absolute core of who would buy into your product?
  • Will they evangelise your brand to their peers, without any tangible returns?
  • What’s their motivation to get associated with your brand?

Three Major Steps in Building Communities:

  1. The Cold Start
  2. Conversations
  3. Sustenance & Scale

Step I) The Cold Start:

1. Identify Users & Motivations (Your Why)

Most businesses look to build communities because they feel it’s a to-do on a brand scale-up checklist. It’s not. You build a community if you feel there’s a genuine need for it to exist and scale. 

The core members of your community aren't the ones who you have to persuade to buy into your product, it’s actually your HXC. So first things, start with identifying your HXC and building more personas or traits that they would typically have.

(The High-Expectation Customer (HXC) is a 3-in-1 customer who is a benefiter (someone who is going to benefit the most from your product), a hacker (someone who is using multiple hacks to solve the problem), and an expert (people aspire to emulate them)).

The motivations of your core community should be aligned with values of the brand and NOT necessarily it’s core product features or offerings. Here are some examples:

  • For a coffee brand: community members would be people who like to embed coffee in their lifestyle, say while travelling. So ‘travel’ becomes a reason for the community to kickstart
  • For a wellness gummies brand: it would be people who’re progressively aware of preventive wellness and are keen to embed it in their daily routines. So ‘work-life balance’ could be a starting point for the community.
  • For an apparel brand: based on the demo you’re targeting, but subcultures are good enough reasons to kickstart community: say LGBTQ communities, pop-culture or women empowerment.

You get the drift. Focus on what challenges your core demo would like to build conversations on. Something that can go beyond you as a brand having to fuel in ‘talking points’ all the time.

2. Finding Your Users & Channels

Now that you’ve cracked what your community members would likely talk about and who they could be, the next step is to find them. Based on your target demo, zero in on where (which channels) they would most likely exist. A more mature set of audiences would be on Facebook, the younger set on Instagram & Twitter and the more professional set on LinkedIn. You could also test out other routes like existing communities on Discord (gamers, tech geeks), Quora or Reddit.

In your initial few engagements on social platforms ,try and include a question / call to action. 

This is important because it drives engagement on your post, and also FOMO in not being included if they don’t comment. Share the posts internally within your inner circles or teams when you post so you can drive eyeballs / retweets / shares. This gets the ball rolling.

3. Gatekeeping Non-Core Members

It’s essential to filter out genuine members from the inactive ones. This can be done by adding in a layer of questions while you ask them to fill in a form. In this form, focus on:

  • Background Basics
  • Their Why? (to see if it largely aligns with your why)
  • Their Challenges?
  • Their fav brands in the same / competing categories (to understand more on their knowledge of this sector: likes & dislikes)
  • Lifestyle Choices (Netflix vs Hotstar / Morning Workout vs Evening Workout and so on)

Once you have say 50 people who’ve filled in this form, try and schedule a really short call with each of them. Say just 15 minutes.

The call would typically help you / your team gain better understanding of their answers (that they filled in the form). Ask more on:

  • How would they want to contribute to the community? (active discussions, passive content consumption, etc)
  • What are they looking to do with other members?

Given that the community is built on ‘beyond product’ values, it’s essential for you to bring in a mix of active & passive content creators. But largely ensure that discussions remain in a state of flow and you (as a brand owner) don't really have to fuel topics all the time.

Well, let's assume you weed out 50% of the members and are now ready to start with 25 core members as your community. That’s a great start for a close knit group of people who share multiple common interests.

Step II: Kickstarting Conversations

Let's assume you’ve chosen ‘Slack’ to be your community channel of communication. Once you create a Slack group, basically just ask people to introduce themselves in the main channel. As that happens, do announce your first event right in the first week. This should be: An Intro Call.

It's essential to capitalize on the euphoria of a new community and hence in Week 2, you should round up everyone on a call. No doubt, there would be very little engagement beyond just saying hello at this point because again, no one would know each other. But as a community leader, your team would know them; and  so it’s your responsibility to light the fire.

The First Call / Meetup:

Before the event, create an agenda for the virtual event & more importantly, curated break out rooms. You know every person’s geography, sector-focus, age, and personal interests through your initial phone call, so you pre-set the breakout rooms for groups of 4–5 people per room.

The initial call should ideally be a little less than an hour long, ~30m of intros going around as a big group, and then 15–20m in a curated breakout room with a leader in each room which you pre-select to drive the conversation. These are typically people who are super outgoing & pull people in — you know the type.

Treat your community like a dating app. Let people meet out there, but they build meaningful relationships beyond the community 1-1 with other members, This would keep the fire burning in them to keep coming back to the community and contribute more.

Step III: Scaling & Sustenance

Based on whether you choose to keep your community open or closed, let these initial 25 members become ambassadors in some sense. 

  • Announce addition of new members in a few weeks. That gives time to the existing members to settle in, know each other and feel privileged. Well, that’s what closed communities (or clubs) are for: making people feel part of a privileged group.
  • Setup a monthly call with your ambassadors: these calls would invariably get easy to set up and breeze through as the members know each other better. Have a crisp agenda of ‘community expansion’ and ‘guidelines’ in every call and let your ambassadors weigh in.
  • Once you open up your community, set some ground rules on who qualifies or who doesn’t. Treat it like a growing team. You’ll need some hierarchies and structures in place. So let your ambassadors screen the people they bring in: all you do is set SOP’s for the community and get it approved in your monthly discussions with your ambassadors.
  • Digital Ambassadors: Whether you are a B2B business or D2C, you must encourage your members to talk about the community culture online. In most cases this would come organically, once they feel belonged.

As a business builder, you should enjoy the process of community building. It’s like a full time role: If you focus on the outcome, you won’t have one. If you focus on the people, they’ll help you get there. Community building is all about how you make people feel, and acting with intention in everything you do.

Well, that’s it from me on this one. I’ll write in soon with my next edition on another interesting topic. Until then,

With Gratitude,