Three pillars of community strength
Aligned People || Goal Infrastructure || Shared Experience.
Before we cover each of these pillars, it’s important to take note on how much they vary based on the community purpose.
- A running community may have the purpose to improve the endurance of members.
- A professional community for marketers may have the purpose to stay in the know with advertising trends.
- Even if there’s no explicit purpose, there’s always an implicit one (A brunch community for founders may have the implicit purpose of “bringing founders together over a meal to share struggles & help each other succeed in a socially comfortable environment.”).
As you can imagine, all 3 pillars will have a very different criteria for “strength” depending on the purpose of the community.
Now, let’s dig in!
A strong people pillar means the community is made up of those who align with the purpose, meet the “member requirements”, and are a strong culture fit.
Also known as “person community fit”.
- Running community: someone training for a marathon aligns well with the purpose of “improving the endurance of members”.
- Professional community of marketers: someone who researches social media advertising aligns with the purpose of “stay in the know with advertising trends”.
Requirements should be explicitly defined.
- Running community: requirements may include “all members must run over 30 miles a week” and “all members must live in New York City”.
- Professional community of marketers: requirements may include “all members must have at least 5 years of experience in advertising” and “publish an article at least once a quarter.”
Culture fits usually deal with community vibe and value alignment. This is unique to each community — there’s already a whole lot of writing on this!
The Goal infrastructure is any system in place or manual work from the community team members (ie. community manager, creator, in-house engineer, etc.) that enables community members to achieve their community-specific goals.
Running community: a manager who organizes a 10-mile run empowers others to “improve the endurance of members”.
Professional community of marketers: a manager who posts an article on “5 emerging ad-tech companies” enables others to “stay in the know with advertising trends”.
Sometimes the goal infrastructure is provided by community leaders. Other times, it’s provided by members (either as a requirement for membership or strongly encouraged / rewarded).
In the early days of a community, almost the entire infrastructure is manual work by the community managers. As time goes on though, all healthy communities find ways for the value creation to get more and more distributed. Eventually, members start doing tasks that the community manager would previously take lead on.
Common Goal Infrastructure can include:
Community Team: sharing personal observations on recent advertising trends in the #general channel.
Member: commenting on each other’s posts with followup questions or offers of support.
Community Team: Manager shares a relevant article.
Member: Member upvotes or vouches for an article that another member posted.
Coaching / Office Hours
Community Team: Job advising for members (like Teal).
Member: Offering advice to other members.
Community Team: Paying for community software to improve the member experience (like www.intros.ai)
Member: Building software that other members can use (this one is rare, but quite a few DAOs have contributors that create software for the community itself).
Community Team: Hosting a member speed dating event (also through www.intros.ai, don’t mind the shameless plugs!)
Member: Host a fireside chat or create an AMA thread where you answer questions for 30 minutes.
The most interesting relationship between these pillars is that of Goal Infrastructure and Shared experience.
Oftentimes, the Goal infrastructure of the community includes setting up the space for the shared experiences to happen. The two types of shared experiences are Asynchronous shared experiences and Synchronous shared experiences.
Async shared experience
These are experiences that members go through individually, but connect over at a later time.
Imagine prepping for an exam and your friend Emily invites you to a study group. You meet a few of her friends and instantly connect over the async experience of taking the class together. You may have not known them beforehand, but all the time spent in class is still a shared experience. Taking the class builds potential for a future connection to take place.
Note, if two members go through a course, but never connect with each other, the experience does not benefit the community as a whole. There’s simply untapped community potential.
All newsletters and all podcasts and all online courses are untapped community potential. Finding out how to connect your audience will turn your audience into a community.
Synchronous shared experience
Synchronous shared experiences are more intuitive and include going through shared rituals, events, physically sharing a space with others, etc.
These deserve a whole separate article — or dozens of tweets about brunches.
Building community is one of the most important, yet challenging feats. Be sure to share this article, give some claps, reach out over twitter, and check out www.intros.ai for your chief introduction officer to build meaningful connections between your members.