The 3 Phases of building an online community

The Growth Report - #14

Today's topics include

📈 Growth Marketing:
The 3 Phases of building an online community

🏗️ Technology Trends:
The Second-Order Effects of the Coronavirus

⛑️ Reflections from the trenches:
Entrepreneurship is a personal growth engine

📈 Growth Marketing

The 3 Phases of building an online community

Precursor on the size of a community

2020 killed large gatherings, and the same trend has been going on online as well. Pitches like "Join 10'000+ members in our exclusive Facebook Group" don't work anymore. People crave more private conversations and tighter communal spaces to share and discuss what's on their minds. So the danger is to grow a community too quickly, because size no longer equals quality.

I'm currently part of three communities that have no more than 80 people in it. They are so much more valuable, because you are actually feeling like part of a group and build meaningful connections with people in your space.

More and more, I’m seeing restricted access as a key selling point for companies and communities.

The successful and meaningful communities that I am seeing out there set clear boundaries on who is a good fit and who is not. Even more so, annual membership fees seem to be a very useful hurdle for getting only people on board who actually want to have a genuine discourse instead of just promoting their products or services. You are not trying to build a broadcast medium and compete with Twitter or LinkedIn here, but to provide people in your industry a space where real opportunities and connections happen!

Communities are typically formed in this order but sometimes in reverse or in a mixed order. When people talk about the “unbundling of LinkedIn” this is what they mean.

Phase 1: Group Messaging

Whatever platform you are using: Slack, Telegram, Discord or a full fledged community platform like Mighty Networks, the first step usually involves building a space where people can discuss a certain topic that they are passionate about.

The question that’s being answered is, where do you go when you’re looking to connect with people in ____ category?

So, every niche, in every category will have at least ONE core space that contains most of the highly engaged people within that niche. General power laws will apply in terms of brand.

Y-Combinator is not the only accelarator, it’s just the one that’s most top of mind in it’s category.

So step one will be the filling out of every niche into groups like these. And if you think about it, that’s really efficient. You get to go directly to where all of the people you’d want to meet are at. Amazing! Ditto goes for hobbies, and even micro-pop-up groups like a Covid support group.

Phase 2: Online Resources

As a strong community of engaged people in a certain career group start trusting each other and helping each other out, something interesting happens. Over time an incredible wealth of resources, best practices, opportunities, opinions and article links starts to build up.

Think of it as a highly curated social feed that only consists of things that are related to your industry. These are learning communities where the teachers are all actual practitioners of their craft.

The question being answered in phase 2 is, where is the wiki-for-x ?

What almost always happens next is your community members will want to create a repository of all the best information that is shared. Sometimes they are in the form of a shared Google Docs, a searchable wiki page on Mighty Networks, an internal newsletter, or a shareable Notion page. A lot of these pages can also be shared with the public and give both your members and your company the visibility they deserve.

Phase 3: New Distribution Channels

So you’ve got the best people in one industry, all connected, in a 24/7 conversation sharing resources, deals and opportunities.

This group has built it’s own repository of information which captures the learnings and discussions such that you can reference it later when you’re looking to solve a problem or find that one tool that was recommended that you can’t quite remember…

The next phase is to build distribution between the niche community and the wider public of interest in the same area.

The final question is where do you go to SHARE about x?

For example, community newsletters, blogs, social channels, and the directories mentioned above will be entirely open to any and all who wish to engage. What this does is it creates new distribution channels for the group to communicate through.

This article obviously only scratches the surface and serves as a framework on how you can think about setting up a community and the paths it can take.

There is still massive opportunity across many spaces to become the de-facto leader in your category and to build out a community.

Again, professional communities can be seen as an "unbundling of LinkedIn". Treat them as such and think about what kind of community you would wish to see in your business niche.

These companies have all done it, so you can do it too! (btw. it's sometimes not obvious that a company is behind a community and it shouldn't be!)

Future Careers

Demand Curve




Shoutout to David Sherry whom I'm taking a lot of inspiration from when it comes to community building.

🏗️ Technology Trends:

The Second-Order Effects of the Coronavirus

I'll keep it short here today. The real value is in this document that outlines all ongoing coronavirus-induced trends and their second- and third-order impacts on the economy.

Here are all the topics they cover:

Failing to consider second- and third-order consequences is the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions... Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored. — Ray Dalio

An introduction by Emmerson Spartz of the Mental Model Club:

"Second-order effects is a mental model that helps you make better decisions. It is particularly important now during the Coronavirus crisis.

When we think of the future, we tend to think of obvious and immediate consequences. As a result, we tend to ignore the domino chain of effects.In life, the more you consider second-order effects, the more successful you become...

When you see future challenges, you can avoid them. When you see future opportunities first, you can capitalize on them first."

Have a look at this insanely detailed Google Doc

(btw. this document has been put together by the Mental Model Club community. A sublime example of what I was talking about in the first article of this newsletter)

⛑️ Reflections from the trenches

In this section, I share my weekly thoughts and reflections that come up during our journey of building our company GrowthBay.

Entrepreneurship is a personal growth engine

From the ever wise James Clear:

Entrepreneurship is a personal growth engine disguised as a business pursuit.

I'v been involved in building companies for the past 8 years. But I've always worked under the wings of talented and brave founders that have put the flag into the ground and paved the way in front of me. Met with constant uncertainty and ever larger challenges to overcome, I was fascinated by the pace these founders grew both personally and professionally in front of my very eyes.

Only recently, in January of this year, have I taken the plunge (together with my business partner Kevin) and left the safe harbor of employment. So this time it was us paving the way into uncharted territory. And while I started this adventure under the pretense of wanting to be my own boss and of craving the freedom to decide on what and with whom I want to work with, I am starting to realize that there is more to entrepreneurship than just building a business.

If you make a mistake, there is nowhere to hide. If you are faced with a difficult decision, there is no one around to take it off your shoulders. Day in, day out, you uncover new things you didn't know you don't know.

You are vulnerable and out in the open. And yet, you prevail, you fail forward, you take that difficult decision, because you have to. Being your own captain forces you to learn and adapt on the fly. I can certainly still put off and procrastinate, but this time around I have skin in the game and it's me who has to face the blowback of my shortcomings.

The responsibility that comes with steering your own ship creates a perpetual learning process that doesn't let us off the hook on days that we just don't feel like it. We need to show up no matter what.

Taking ownership of that process and learning to love it, is what I think entrepreneurship is really about. And even though I am still a rookie at this, I think it's a rewarding and worthwhile path to follow. Because you can't really loose:

"I will not lose, for even in defeat, there’s a valuable lesson learned, so it evens up for me." - Jay-Z

That's it for this week.

The veil's been lifted, don't go crazy 🏡

See you next week,