Private, Exclusive, High Signal Communities

In a research call this week, a prospective member told me about the most valuable community they participated in.

To gain entry, you have to be at the VP level (or higher) and be one of the 300 firms or partners funded by their VC.

When members join, they complete detailed bios and identify precisely which topics they can and can’t help with.

When members create a question, they tag the question from a set number of topics and anyone with expertise in that topic receives a notification (if the question doesn’t match an existing list of topics they advise you to ask the question elsewhere).

Communities like these, which are private, exclusive, and high signal, are probably the most valuable professional communities out there today. But we’re so rarely willing to make the painful trade-offs to create them.

We want the community to be public rather than private so it might attract more search traffic.

We let in people who don’t quite meet the criteria to get more members (at the cost of the members we want).

We accept any kind of question in a community, regardless of whether our audience is likely to have the answer or not, for fear of upsetting a single member at the expense of the majority.

The lesson is fairly clear. The most valuable you want your community to be, the more difficult decisions you’re going to make.

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