In The Indispensable Community, I explain the only communities which thrive in the long term are those which are truly indispensable to their brands and their members.
It’s incredibly hard to build a community that offers members something they find absolutely necessary and would struggle to get elsewhere (and you need both). Yet it’s the only way your community can thrive today.
If you’re wondering why your community doesn’t seem ‘sticky’ (why so few people stick around), this is it.
What’s Absolutely Necessary To Our Members?
The reason you have a community and not just a help (or information) portal is a community offers unique benefits that your members can’t get from just browsing and reading.
A community offers four unique psychological benefits; a sense of belonging, greater influence, a chance to explore things we find interesting, and mutual support.
If you’re building a community today, you have to push hard towards at least one of these benefits.
Each avenue takes you down a completely different path, and each has its pros and cons.
1) Sense of belonging.
You focus on creating a powerful sense of community.
You build a warm, welcoming, friendly, environment. You introduce rituals and traditions. You create a shared, written, history. You make it private and exclusive. You bring people together for shared events and activities as much as possible.
CampJeep is an incredible example of this.
Warning – this only works if people feel your brand is already a strong part of their identity. This usually means it’s something we spend a lot of time doing, invest resources in, or represents our identity in some way.
VERY few brands fall under this category (yet most think they do).
2) Greater influence.
You build a smaller, more dedicated, group of people around you who want to have an impact (either helping you or each other).
You set targets and drive people towards them. You celebrate wins, commiserate the losses, and provide the support people need at each stage.
Art+Feminism is a great example, as are advocacy communities (DocuSign), communities around crowdsourcing (Kickstarter), and many campaigning groups (Greenwire).
Critically you’re targeting a tiny slice of your audience who are most committed to you (look for highest NPS/satisfaction scores) and working with them to have maximum influence.
3) Exploring exciting things.
You provide a unique environment for members to share and test ideas. You might host competitions, set challenges, and highlight the newest and most exciting things.
This works well for Kaggle, Github, Lomography, ProductHunt, and many others. Each has created an entirely unique platform where people can test things, report back something new, and adapt/improve their efforts.
Warning – this only works in fields which are genuinely new and exciting. Technology figures highly here, but it’s not the only option.
4) Mutual support.
You help people with questions get answers as quickly as possible.
You ensure members feel empathetically listened to, appreciated, and respected. Many of these are about discussions you can’t search for. This means you offer information via members that isn’t easy to search for. Google can tell you warning signs of cancer, but it can’t easily prepare you (and support you) for the emotional journey you’re about to go through.
Become Absolutely Necessary To Your Members
If you want your community to be absolutely necessary over the long-term to members you have to zero in on something that offers incredible psychological value.
Something that goes beyond just providing members with information and lets them feel emotions they crave, emotions they can’t easily find anywhere else.
Pick at least one of the above and push it to the edge. If you’re doing belonging, really push that sense of belonging. If it’s exploration, then design your entire community around that principle etc…
The last thing we need is just another brand community creating yet another forum and praying members want to hang out and chat. That’s not indispensable.
Identify which of the four above you’re targeting and go all the way to the edge with it. Create something unique, different, and remarkable. Create something indispensable.
If you want to buy my book, click here.
p.s. Speaking at CMX Summit in Portland tomorrow. If you’re around, please say hi!