A Powerful Community Experience For A Short Period Of Time

Don’t try to imitate major community programs without their resources.

Ideally, every community effort would have a full-time community manager with a six-figure budget to build and support their audience.

However, most people are juggling community around other tasks with limited financial support.

The temptation is to launch a platform, drive members to it, and start responding to questions. But without a decent amount of time and money, this probably isn’t the most effective approach. It sets high expectations, spreads resources thin, and requires a big, long-term, commitment.

An easier approach is to deliver a powerful community experience at regular intervals.

Instead of having an ongoing community you can’t fully support, focus on powerful community experiences you can deliver.

You can nurture a sense of community in many different ways:

  • You can host monthly webinars with product experts where customers can join to ask questions.
  • You can invite customers to join you at headquarters a couple of times a year.
  • You can host weekly live twitter chats.
  • You can solicit contributions of customers each month and publish the best advice and tips in a newsletter digest.
  • You can create a podcast and invite contributions from members. You can encourage and promote the meetups of your members.
  • Etc…

A hosted platform is just one of many approaches to foster a strong sense of community. It can deliver great results, but it’s both time and resource-intensive. If you have neither, take a different approach.

It’s always better to deliver a powerful community experience for a short amount of time than a mediocre experience for a long period of time. It’s easy to build upon a powerful community experience than a mediocre one.

Comments

  1. Hilary Jirasek says:

    Thanks for this article. “It’s always better to deliver a powerful community experience for a short amount of time than a mediocre experience for a long period of time. It’s easy to build upon a powerful community experience than a mediocre one.” Yes - and with a limited budget (think under $1K for the year) and no platform aside from Facebook, we have to be creative! We will be moving into year two and I’ve learned so much - really looking forward to applying things I’m learning about more formal community management practices.
    Here is my conundrum… our community is built for volunteers in their first time in a specific role. This community gives them 18 months of a kind of nest to learn to fly from. But, after 18 months - we will start removing them from the group. And yes - I truly HATE how that sounds. I want to frame them as launching them into their next adventure or something that doesn’t sound like we are completely letting go, just moving them our of this specific resource into our more general ones (where we will see them again - both in person and online!) We have rolling membership adds, and starting in October will we be at our 18 month mark and start our farewells. (I saw farewell, because we want to come up with a great ‘send-off’ for them that leaves them feeling great about the experience and encourages them to stay plugged into support on other channels.)
    Has any other group done something like this? How can we build their sense of community while both welcoming new members and removing other ones? Any suggestions are appreciated!! Thanks

  2. Robert McIntosh says:

    Why not have a separate community for alumni of the programme? Then you are simply ‘graduating’

    It makes sense to keep in touch and create a network even if you are no longer providing them with services. It only needs to be a place to stay in touch, so no budget required.

    On a related note, I once had an idea for a REVERSE fitness programme. You could only join if you could prove how unfit you were, but you would at least see posts by the community, join conversations and see incentives to get fit. As you got better, you were given rewards that sounded negative (e.g. “Wasted 100+ hours on a stationary bike”) that were in fact gains. The kicker was that at a certain point you were literally kicked out for being TOO FIT.

    The domain was unfittojoin.com (I think I gave up the URL)

    However, maybe a fun idea to borrow in there somewhere? :wink:

  3. Hilary Jirasek says:

    Thanks @thirstforwine
    There is an open group we were going to encourage (those who had not found it already) to go into so they can stay in touch. Its not quite the same, but its a format they are used to and pushes them out of the nest into a larger pool of volunteers. (If we could have a digital badge for ‘class of xx’ I so would - but we aren’t quite there yet. Hoping another pilot we are launching this year for something else will go well and we can move this community into that platform next Spring.)
    Am I just over thinking the act of a farewell message in our group in advance, and then actually removing them from our closed group, is going to feel harsh? If I word their farewell messaging well and the timing be in a way where they can have a little bit of time to do some last minute connecting - I would hope that they don’t feel kicked out into the cold. Am I just over thinking it and being dramatic??

    Side note - What a fun idea - I would have totally joined the unfittojoin community! (I just can’t with all these health trends!)

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