How to build an active community around your startup and have it grow with you.
[00:00:00] Ian Martins: Anne-Laure is a entrepreneur at Ness Labs and a PhD researcher at KingsloPNN with a newsletter of almost 50,000 subscribers and a paid community of 2000 members.
She regularly writes about mindful productivity, creativity, and mental health. And Rosie Sherry is the founder of Rosieland, a 3000 plus member community for community builders. Previously, she was the first community manager at Indie Hackers, which I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with. Thank you both for taking some time to join us today.
[00:00:33] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Thanks for having us.
[00:00:35] Rosie Sherry: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:37] Ian Martins: So I think to kick things off, I'd love to talk about, what is community-led growth from your perspective, I think it's one of the probably the newer approaches to growth or at least one that's gain a lot of popularity and a lot of steam, and a lot of attention right now.
So if, I'd love to get from each of you what your POV is on what the community-led growth is and maybe we'll start with you, Rosie.
[00:01:02] Rosie Sherry: Okay. I think I like to describe things in simplistic ways, and I think community-led growth for me is just like working with your people, but like truly working with your people and listening to them and figuring out their needs.
It's almost like instead of product discovery, you have community discovery. So you are kind of like wanting to take a deep research driven approach, but really focusing on your people and not jump into assumptions as to what people need or want. And it's hard. I think it's hard.
I don't think anyone's quite figured it out yet, personally. But it's definitely the growing niche or specialism.
[00:01:52] Ian Martins: And how about you, Anne-Laure?
[00:01:57] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I'd say that it's in addition to what Rosie said, it's more resilient way of growing your business and your company in the sense that if you look at audience based growth, it's very much a one way communication channel where you have this kind of like central note.
Whether it's the community lead or a marketer, a founder, a thought leader, influencer, whoever is that central note that's basically broadcasting their thoughts and their ideas and their product to other people. Whereas with community-led growth. You have a network where instead of being this one too many communication where it's this many too many kind of network, which means that even if you remove one of the notes, you're still going to have value that's being organically generated by, just by the fact that you're not just broadcasting, but you're fostering a community where there's this many too many communications.
It's yeah, a resilient approach to growth in my mind.
[00:03:14] Ian Martins: And in your mind who should be leading community-led growth for an organization, it's not an obvious role at least as of yet. Is it a community manager that should be stepping into that seat?
Is it somebody from the marketing department? Who should be taking ownership of that approach to growth and in your mind? And if you wanna add to that too, like what kinds of skill sets do you think that person should have?
[00:03:45] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I don't know about smaller companies like mine in the sense that it's just the founder doing everything . But I remember that when I was working at Google, I used to do community management there too, and it was incredibly difficult. It was 10 years ago because it was considered a separate role.
You were doing community management and that's it. And so someone who was head of marketing was not doing community management. Someone who was doing PR was not doing that. People who were working on products were certainly not touching the community, even though a lot of amazing and useful feedback was in there, if they had looked.
It was very interesting how community was living in a silo at the time, and I think things have changed for the better, but not there yet. But if I, when I talk to friends of mine who are still working at bigger companies in roles that intel managing communities, I think there is an understanding now that you cannot have this one person who does
community it has to be something where everyone contributes and everyone knows what's going on and everyone learns from what the community has to say in order to improve the product and the whole business.
[00:05:12] Rosie Sherry: Yeah. I can add to that. Everyone we talk to, especially like in all my kind of Rosieland work, everyone has like a different opinion of where community should sit. And I think, it's, at the end of the day, it's like it should sit where you can have most impact to some extent. And perhaps not get too carried away with having a VP or like a Chief Community officer.
It's definitely been a trend in the past couple of years, like more roles coming up for VP of community and Chief Community Officers. There's also a trend of just community having touchpoint. All the departments, so it sits on its own, but like with the recognition that community impacts product, it impacts marketing, it impacts product, the research and sales.
It impacts so much and it can provide so much to the company and to the products as a whole. If we're talking like small startups quite often you can't like have your own community person. But I've started calling myself a community executive officer. So it is like I'm the founder, but I'm the community founded, community minded founder.
And I had that role in my previous business that I founded. And I think it's important. Like instead of if you really want to be community led, you have to have it, in my opinion, a deep understanding or someone really leading with community and being able to make decisions about community and not being like disregarded.
Cause when you're disregarded about the work you wanna do this, it's really hard to make an impact so having I guess like a community executive offices, like in my previous role, I was the community minded person. I was making all the decisions, but I made all the decisions with community in mind.
That was always like top of mind. And I'm not sure, like all CEOs at the moment who run community-led companies think like that. They often think thinking like too transactionally or not really giving back to the community. So yeah I'd love to see more community executive officer. Pretty cool.
[00:07:42] Ian Martins: Yeah, I'd love to double click on that. And, speaking from a founder's perspective in particular, community-led growth is a bit of a hot topic right now, right? And so it would be easy for someone to say, Hey maybe that's our growth channel.
Maybe we can just go into to community-led growth. But to your point, it, you believe that it should be led by somebody who truly understand community. And so it's not just like paid media, let's just turn on paid ads. It's not that kind of function, right? There is a certain orientation your whole business needs to have in order to truly take advantage of community-led growth.
So how do you think a founder should evaluate whether this might be the right approach for them or not? Whether it might be right for their business? What kind of things should they be asking themselves?
[00:08:33] Rosie Sherry: I think if it's right, they need to believe in it to start work. Like they need to believe in the power of community. I think a lot of people don't, and I think that's perhaps the biggest problem. And I think partly to believe we need more good examples of how community can impact companies as well.
And I think that will come in time that there are some examples out there. But not enough. And I hope like the best the next kind of, I guess five years will show us some more examples. I'm hoping like some companies can really dive into the power of community because it's special, it can be really special.
[00:09:21] Ian Martins: What might some of those reasons to believe be? And then I'd love to get your take on this Anne-Laure as well,
[00:09:27] Rosie Sherry: The belief that could bring, change the belief that community is more powerful than marketing and growth. The belief that just like working with your people. They can give you 10x, a 100x more value if you treat them well.
Really trying to tap into those kind of things is like with my previous company, Ministry of Testing that I founded is that I'd never had a sales person. I never had a marketing person. It was all just community focused. It was slightly scrappy. We're never good at sales pages, but we've made sales and like a bunch of the sales.
And now to really big companies and corporate companies, and it's all bottom up from the community. It was the community, people going to their training departments, their HR departments, and asking for budget to come to conferences without sales person, without SEO, without proper marketing, so to speak.
But we still did a lot of marketing type things. We did a lot of social, we did a lot of emails. And yeah, I guess that's the power is like you can save so much money, right? But it's I just think we need more examples. Perhaps it goes back to that.
[00:10:53] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I would add to this that you need to be believe it and it needs to be honest because I feel like they're community-led growth is the hot topic at the moment, and so I feel like because of that, a lot of companies. Just figure out like, Oh, we need to do community. The reality is that, as you said, it's not just like doing paid ads, it's actual people.
It's that you have in your community and they're not stupid. So they can tell when you don't really have an interest in really building a community when you're really just using that to sell a product. So you do need to have value to be honest about what you're doing here and for the community.
to bring something more than just selling them the product. I think it's also completely okay. Like we just talked about why you would want to have a community. It's also completely okay to sometimes. Again, being honest and knowing that your product doesn't need a community. Not every product needs a community.
There's lots of things that I love and that I buy every day or every month, and I don't need community. I don't need a community for my toothbrush. I don't need a community for even, I love candles and even if I really love them in this big affinity to the product. I don't need to join a Slack that is telling me all about the candles and how they're made and talking about it with other customers.
So I think those are two very important things is yeah, asking yourself, do my product actually, does my product actually need a community? And if it does what it is exactly that I'm trying to achieve here, am I really trying to bring more value to my customers or am I trying to use this as a scrappy way to save money.
And in that case, the community members are going to be able to tell, and you're likely to hurt your brand more than help it, I think.
[00:12:58] Ian Martins: So they ask there could be some risk in doing it poorly.
[00:13:03] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yes. Yeah. And for the wrong reasons. .
[00:13:05] Rosie Sherry: I could add one more thing to that, sorry. In the idea that like the candles and the toothbrush, right?
You might not want to start your own community around it, but there might be some communities that exist for those things. Like people who love candles and I guess love toothbrushes, right? But if you're keen to invest in community, why not go and support those communities that already exist?
And that's a great way to just give back, it's support them unconditionally or, however it is, you support them. And that, I think that's what more companies should do. Or it might even be like the first step into their community building efforts is let's get a feel for things.
Let's build trust with our people who like candles and toothbrushes. And see where that goes. Because I guess like in community as well, it's like quite often you don't know where it's gonna end up. You don't know how it's gonna grow because it's so people led.
It's really hard to for me, it's really hard to plan six months ahead, even three months ahead. I find it's really hard.
[00:14:15] Ian Martins: Yeah. No, I think that's a really great call out in terms of supporting existing communities if you want to be community-led, but don't necessarily either have the resources, the time, the knowledge, the expertise to build your own or the need to build your own, frankly.
And that it's often I think that is often overlooked angle to community growth. I'd love to get both of your POVs, cause I think that this can sometimes be misunderstood, but the nuance and the differences between growing an audience and growing a community, right? Like audience versus community.
What's an audience and what's a community?
[00:14:52] Rosie Sherry: I'll go first. Audience is generally for me it's more one directional. Typically it's the company or an influencer having power over the conversation. Quite often there's a comparison. It's like you, the audience is a seats facing forward and a community is like chairs facing inwards.
But I think it, that is true, but it also goes deeper than that. It's about the culture. It's about working with people, it's about collaboration. All of those things is audiences don't generally do that. But perhaps like the biggest thing for me is community gives back to the people.
And I think this is perhaps the hardest thing for companies to realize is quite often when people build communities, they try to bring in influences and, grow their community and their audience and all these things. But they're not necessarily investing in the people within the community.
And I believe in doing that, and in my experiences, that people who show up, that's who you should focus on in community. The people who are contributing there's loads of ways to support them on their journey.
[00:16:23] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I'll add to that, going back to what I was mentioning earlier, that the resilience of the network.
Personally went from audience to community. So I saw that change and I lived through that change myself. And so I had this newsletter, and I don't remember how many subscribers I had at the time, but there was very much, as Rosie said, this seats facing the person on stage basically broadcasting
and sending a weekly newsletter. And at the beginning of the pandemic, I started having a lot of people replying back to my newsletter saying that they were feeling very lonely, that they were missing the human connections that they had before and that it was very hard on them. And so that's when I decided to start my community.
The reason why I decided to do that is because I felt as the writer of this newsletter, I was becoming a bottleneck when it came to delivering value to people in my audience, there was no way I could help everyone. There was also no way I had more knowledge than all of the combined knowledge that everyone had in my audience.
And so I decided to remove myself from that equation to become a facilitator rather than trying to be the person delivering all of the value and that was really good. I didn't know it at the time because as Rosie was saying, it's really hard to plan six months in advance. You have no idea what's going to work and what's not going to work out.
So I didn't know it at the time, but it was a really good decision because what happened is that people kept complaining, asking questions, saying that they were struggling, but not just to me, to everyone in the community. And so there was always someone, at least one person who said, Oh, I've been through something similar.
Here's what I did. Maybe it will work for you and in terms of also helping people grow in the community, instead of just me giving workshops and giving talks, etc., I encouraged everyone in the community to give their own talks, to give their own workshops to and a lot of them used the Ness Labs community as the very first time ever.
They gave a took. They never did that before. They, because they were not necessarily in a role in their company where they had the opportunity to do this. So that was for them a little bit of a springboard. So I think going from audience to community is really old about that. It's about becoming a facilitator and helping people help each other.
[00:18:54] Ian Martins: You touched on something really interesting about, I think the pros and just some of the considerations with the product-led, or sorry, community-led approach, which is that you don't necessarily control everything, right? There is a bit of you created this child and you've sent them out into the world, and now that we're gonna exist and grow and evolve and you can be there until two point facilitate perhaps and maybe the spirit, but there is a degree of evolution that occurs on its own.
Do you wanna maybe touch on some other examples of that? I don't know if Rosie or Anne-Laure and do you have any examples of kinda communities taking on a light of their own that you've witnessed?
[00:19:42] Rosie Sherry: Yes. God, Ministry of Testing that I ran we did one conference every year. And then, I'm not sure if it was the right decision, but we did it anyways over the course of a few years. We ended up with nine conferences in one year. Just because the, this was like literally across the globe and before the pandemic and it was all community-led.
We worked with a community. It was not my plan. And in fact it led me to stepping back a bit as if this is what the community wants I'm not sure if I'll say, I can't travel that much. It's very hard for me to manage. So I changed my role a bit because of that.
Yeah. Another example is what we ended up with a hundred meetups across the globe. Again, pre- pandemic, it was all community-led. It started with me just starting one because we were organizing conferences and I just started to meet up in a location because of the conference. And when people started seeing that, they were like saying, I wanna organize my own meetup.
And within the space of two or three years, we had a hundred meetups happening. The current CEO of Ministry of Testing grew up through Ministry of Testing. He had his first speaking gig there. We collaborated for a bit. And it's just it's yes, I was looking for someone to take over, but the fact that it's like it all ended up happening naturally.
And when I went to handover the business or stepped down from like the CEO role, it was actually a really smooth transition because like he had already been doing it for two or three years in different capacities. But like the community knew him, the community trusted him.
And it just worked out really well. And to me it felt right to hand i over for someone else to run who was also like committed to the industry that we were serving, rather than trying to hire someone externally who already had the CEO experience. He didn't have that, but he just had the love for the community.
[00:22:13] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yeah, it was similar for Ness Labs in the sense that as I said, I launch Ness Labs at the beginning of the pandemic, so I don't have any pre-pandemic numbers because it didn't exist at the time. But very similarly at its height we had probably three or four online meetups every day.
All community-led as well. And we even had a member who suggested training other members to be good hosts, basically for those virtual meetups. Because it is an art actually to host those meetups to keep it engaging and fun and to make sure that everyone feels safe to participate and to share.
All of this was the same led by community members and all of the community managers that we had for the community also came from the community. I never posted a job advert for that, and I always have people applying just saying, Hey, I love the community, and I'd love to help in them a more official manner, which as Rosie said, I think is one of the best things that you can do to recruit someone on your team that's already been
a community member. An active community member for a while and to just give them more support basically. So they can keep on doing this. It's a lot better than I did have a very quick standard trying hiring someone who was not in the community, and that lasted for a couple of weeks.
So I would not recommend it. I think if you can, if your community really exists and has members who are very active, it's really good if you can hire someone from the community itself.
[00:23:56] Ian Martins: So say that you've established that you want to go in a community-led direction with your business.
What have you found to be some of the most effective ways to get that first group of people on board and to get them really engaged in your community? I feel like that zero to one or zero to 10 hurdle can seem like a huge mountain as you're going into this. Maybe talk to me about some of your experiences and at that stage.
[00:24:33] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Yeah, I can go first on this one. Yeah, I think when you're getting started, this is actually the most important thing who are going to be the first members in your community. There's lots of other things that you need to work on afterwards, but at the beginning, this is the only thing that you should care about because everything else the values that you're going to have, the tone, how welcome people feel when they join.
All of that is going to be derived from the very first few members that you're going to have in your community. It's not as simple as you writing down a code of conduct and then inviting random people into it and then hoping for the best to happen. So I think it's incredibly important. And in my case, what I did is that I manually invited one by one, the first few hundred people, like the first 300 people.
Yes. What I did is that I went into my newsletter and I filtered members by engagement. So you can see who opens every single newsletter, who clicks on the links, who replies to the newsletters, and I exported that as a CSV file, and I message every single person, and for the ones who I actually had talked to over the past year, the ones that had replied to my newsletter already.
I also mentioned something that we talked about space. It was a very, as much as I could, a very personal invitation, and for the first few members, I made it very clear that the idea was to co-design the community together. So I told them that this is the idea in general, but at this stage, I really would love to have your feedback and for you to tell me what you think what works, what doesn't, what would make this a great experience for you?
And it, I think it's been absolutely essential in the success of the community. The fact that the first few members were the, already very engaged in terms of mission, in terms of values, in terms of the kind of content that they wanted to have, but also they were very invested because it was also their baby.
They helped me design it from the get go, and I knew that moving forward, whatever challenges that I would face, I would have this kind of adversary board almost, where at turn to and tell them, Look like I'm struggling with this, or, I'm struggling with engagement. Or I started those new kind of events, but nobody's showing up.
What do you think? What is wrong? What would you change, etc.. So yeah, it maybe a little bit extreme for the first 300 members, maybe not that many. But I do think that the very first ones, you do need to choose very carefully and invite manually and if possible, make them co-designers of the community better than just community members.
[00:27:30] Ian Martins: Rosie, anything you want to add there?
[00:27:33] Rosie Sherry: Yeah. One of the things I was gonna say is it's okay to build an audience first and then build a community, which is exactly what an lawyer has done, right? So that you know that there is still a value in building an audience before you build a community.
And you can use that audience to your advantage. You can use that audience to organize events and have one-to-one conversations. It's a way to do a bit of like community discovery and to do your research, so to speak. One other thing I add on there is perhaps like really understanding your market is like where do you fit into the scheme of things?
Where do you fit within the ecosystem? Why would people even want to join your community? Is there already one out there? How is it different? Do you have trust built up? Have you built an audience which is therefore built up trust in who you are or who your brand is? And those kind of things will help form your vision, your goals, whatever you want to call it.
Whatever you want that community to be. And it can just help you communicate better to your community members. About what it is you're trying to build. But definitely having a really good understanding of the ecosystem. When you're trying to build with Ministry of Testing, I had a really clear goal that in the fact that I was frustrated with the software testing world at the time, where it was all very cooperative stuff going on.
Very corporate events, very expensive events, very like you're supposed to go in suits to them. There was like a couple of online forums and they were just like, terrible. So my whole goal became to be the opposite of that was like, I could see that there was a need to for something different.
And that kind of stood with the community. Even to date is we wanna be different. We wanna be ethical. We don't want to be that, so we wanna be the opposite. So anytime that the team's thinking of work, what we gonna do next? How are we gonna do it? It's that's always like at the forefront of their minds.
It's this is who we are, or this is who we want to be, and this is what we want to do for the community.
[00:30:07] Ian Martins: It seems that you both touched on having an audience and then building a community from that audience or at least some initial seed members seems to be a fairly good strategy to have in place. That means content tends to be a great way to build audiences in producing content.
And it seems that there's a direct relationship between content marketing and creating content and building a community and doing community-led growth. I'm wondering if you can maybe talk about that relationship and specifically if there's any nuance or thing you should be thinking about in your content's creation. If your aim is to build a community
[00:30:53] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I can go first. I would say that you just need to make sure that your content is as aligned as possible with the kind of conversations that you want to foster in your community. And at the beginning, you're going to be doing that on your own or just internally, but just with your internal team.
But moving forward, what I found is that it's also really nice once you have the community. To start informing the content strategy based on what the community finds the most interesting based on their questions. I've seen a lot of people with quite a bit of success on marketing teams turn Q&A sections in their forums into content for their blog that's doing really well because
who needs the SEO kind of like suffering thing when you know the questions that people are asking, you just look in your community and you're every single week there's a person asking the exact same question. So why not create an article that is answering this? I think what's really interesting when you think about the synergy that you have in between your content marketing and your community is that it becomes this virtuous cycle where your content is helping your community, and then the conversations that the community has about the content or sometimes the lack of content because they can't find the answer to the question, is informing your content strategy.
[00:32:29] Rosie Sherry: Yeah, I totally agree with that. I take, I think, a very similar approach. Listen to your people, right? But properly listen and if you listen to them and have conversations with them and all those kind of things, it, you can't help but know what they care about or what they don't like or what they do and what their frustrations are.
The more you dive into that, it's like it becomes obvious what you should talk about. And like I get I get the comment quite often and say Rosie, it's like you can read my mind. And I think that's a great quote in the fact that I can't really read your mind, but it's just that I've been listening and I've been asking questions and I've not been
trying to have the answers. I put questions out, like on Twitter, literally like every day. And those educate me about what people think about community. So I do the questions partly for myself, but I also do it for people sometimes like the biggest way people learn is not necessarily from a really good article or a really good podcast.
Sometimes they just need to hear the question that they should have been asking themselves. And just by seeing that question, they're like, Oh, yes, I should be thinking about this. But then they can go and see what everyone else is talking about that and come up with their own kind of solutions to it.
But yeah, it's listen to your people. It sounds really obvious, right? But it's when people exist everywhere, when your community's on social, when it's on perhaps a Slack or a forum or YouTube, there's so many places that your community exists. It's definitely worth creating a strategy of taking down notes of all those things.
And it's hard to keep up.
[00:34:30] Ian Martins: Yeah. Those are good, great points. There's a couple questions here I'm seeing and I'm curious about myself too, when it comes to community growth. So I imagine, as the community's a bit smaller and you can, invite 300 people annually and have these relationships that are a little more organic and maybe these folks are a little more committed to the cause because they're co-designing this
community with you, you have some fairly high engagement, particularly early on people are excited about this and they're working on it. I'm not sure how common this is, but I imagine it could get to a point perhaps with that excitement or that energy slows or dies down or the relationships the community grows so big that the relationships feel a lot further away than when the community was smaller and more tight knit.
How do you foster engagement and maybe stoke that energy to facilitate it. What are some tactics that you use to keep that momentum and that energy high?
[00:35:35] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I'm personally a massive fan of learning communities. I feel like communities where people are gathered around a common outcome work a lot better than communities that are gathered around the common topic. If there's a shared outcome, then people do have a reason to keep on showing up. And obviously it works a lot better if this outcome is the kind of outcome that you're going to reach a lot faster and an easier manner if you do it with other people.
So there are probably other ways to figure out what's an assured outcome that you can have for your community. But in my case, learning something together has been really good in terms of maintaining engagement, because that means that you can have events where you're like, let's learn about this thing together.
You can have meetups where it's let's discuss this topic together. But again, with the goal of learning. It also means that people are going to naturally seek support and connect with each other to help each other learn together. It means that people are going to come back to the community to find inspiration, to find mentors, maybe to learn from people who are a little bit further along the way in their learning journey.
So if there's some sort of personal growth embedded in the value that you're providing in the community, this is a really good organic way to maintain engagement over the long term.
[00:37:16] Rosie Sherry: Yeah. I would add to not be worried about the vanity metrics of things is going to be, don't worry like if there's like a dip in conversations happening or, don't worry about the comments that are appearing. And it's almost like better to be focused on helping people as something to measure or a goal to have.
And really what that comes down to is like figuring out how you can help people. So if we go back to Ministry of Testing, which is like a industry, it's a community of practice. They're all testers pretty much, right? Or they all work in tech and they all want to advance in their careers.
So like the best way to engage them is to figure out how to help them advance in their careers. That might be a job board. It might be training, which we did, it's conferences, which we did. It's also like finding new talent and getting more speakers on board and helping people like level up their game
from that aspect. So it's not necessarily all about showing up in the forum. And worrying about those kind of vanity metrics. Maybe it's more about are people growing or are we kinda like generating new ideas for by industry? Or are we just talking about the same thing over and over again?
And to me, that's what gets me excited and it overlaps a lot with the learning aspect, right? But it's focus on the people rather than the people and the outcomes, I would say, rather than the day to day activity
[00:39:05] Ian Martins: Moderating controls. That's one of the questions that I had cause I'm very curious how you both think about this and deal with it and you know that you can push your, all the guidelines out that you want but at some point there might be some moderating required.
And so I'm curious as to how you both approach that side of a community.
[00:39:37] Rosie Sherry: Yeah. Interesting. So I've had my experience at Indie Hackers and my experience at Ministry of Testing was very different. Like Indie Hackers had a lot of actual spam. They got spammed a whole bunch and cause it's like an open platform, anyone could sign up that they just seem to get hammered.
But I think moderating to be honest, comes down to your values. It's like you have to know what community you want. And be willing to stick to those values, right? So if a conversation is happening and it's out of place, you have to be willing to actually delete it or contact the person and say actually this is not allowed.
We're gonna remove it. I think a lot of communities fail from that aspect. And it almost gives community a bad name because people join communities and there's no actual value because people come in to post about their latest blog post or their latest product, and it just totally kills the community vibe, right?
Who you know, no one really wants that. And I think Lenny's newsletter, he does it quite well in his Slack. He moderates it quite well. And like with Rosieland, I have a policy who's you can't share your own things. These are the rules. Unless it's like part of a conversation, but if you're gonna come in here and just drop a link to your own thing, I'm gonna remove it because I know it's not what people want.
And the other communities out there, they all have that and no one actually wants it and it doesn't actually provide any value to people. But yeah, like Ministry of Testing, we rarely had to moderate stuff. Occasionally, there were a couple of big long timers that like, got really difficult.
Think that's probably what I struggle with the most is like sometimes you get these I dont know white tech bros who feel very above their authority they feel like they can run the whole show. And it's hard to come down on that. Or it's hard to balance like when conversations are getting out of place.
But like we, I had to pull the line at times because the community members were just getting so fed up of some people just coming in all the time and overtaking the conversations every single time. Is that a spam? Is that, say it's really hard to deal with those situations that aren't spam, but they are impacting the community vibe. I hate it. I absolutely hate it.
[00:42:29] Ian Martins: I remember I had a kid in one of my classes in college that just try to nominate every conversation and becomes exhausting for everybody. So yeah, it's not really spam cause they were engaging, but it can really build a vibe for everybody, for sure.
[00:42:49] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: Some it does help you have some form of control over who joins the community. I think a lot of problems arise when anyone can join. So for some companies it's very easy because it's only customers you can join, for example. And so there is something about, which is sad that you need this, but taking your credit card out that makes you like a patron of the community and you're like, I'm paying for this service.
And so I want the place to look nice, though I'm probably going to be a little bit more careful about what I say, even though obviously always have the 0.1 person of people who are going to feel untitled because they paid for the product. But in my case, Ness Labs is a paid private community and there's definitely this feeling that because everyone has decided to pay to join this community, it's everyone's house.
And so everyone cares a lot about making sure that this is a nice place to hang out. So I also had very little moderation to do, and we never had any trolls and my strategy as an alternative to the one Rosie has of saying you can't post that in the community, is that we have specific section for self-promotion.
And so it's not, you can't, it's you if you want to, if you really need to. It's there. It's just, it's there. You have to go there and you can share it there. And we do have a bit of engagement in that section because people give feedback. We also really encourage people to not just drop the link, they can drop a link to a landing page to their product, but ask specific questions.
I ask people to critique it, say that, maybe they're struggling with low conversion rates and so they wanna understand what's wrong, etc. We're really encouraging people to do that. And we tell them that you cannot post these kind of things in elsewhere in the community. So for us, it's been working really well.
Rather than telling them not to post it to say is if that's the corner of the community where you can do it. I think both can work really well. So yeah, I would say yeah, tell people what they can and cannot do and be very clear about that. And it does help a lot if you have some sort of control over who is joining your community.
[00:45:07] Ian Martins: I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about community growth so not just about how that community's gonna help you grow whatever business it is that you might have, but how do you actually grow the community itself? What are some tactics that you've seen that have helped you grow, right?
Of course there's organic growth and perhaps there can be some virality built into..So what you've seen work effectively, maybe what channels, paid media that work in actually growing the size of the community.
[00:45:46] Rosie Sherry: I'll go first. I generally think about growth in a kinda community flywheel perspective. And that kind of ties into what I call minimal viable community, which is just start small and see if something works. And as you are, as you're maybe, starting in the tiniest ways that you're having a conversation with someone, always be looking for like opportunities for growth as you're talking to people.
So if you're talking to someone, you. Oh, we could do something together. Oh, you should write something about that. Oh, we should do a podcast on that. And I think just by naturally looking for opportunities all around you for at least for me, it's hard not to see opportunities to grow.
But on top of that I've always used the kind of multichannel angle to grow community as well and perhaps that ties into the building the audience kind of aspect, but LinkedIn groups, for example, is a really big growth driver for Ministry of testing in the early days as still is today.
They've got thousands, 40, 50, 60,000 in their LinkedIn group. But that brought in a lot of members that really raised awareness in the early days. Later when LinkedIn launched pages, I jumped on it in the early days and it just grew from there. And again, it has loads of engagement through questions.
Mostly, but it's got 60, 70,000 people there as well. And we've done Twitter as well. So it's but we have our own they have their own website or platform, so it's all about yes, we'll go to other places and have conversations where people are, we're not always trying to pull them back to
our community, but we're ensuring people know that we exist and engaging with them, having conversations with them. And that feeds into like our strategy of trying to figure out what do we do next? Or what are people talking about? Or what do people care about?
[00:48:09] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I personally see it as, and it's like anyone who's worked on growing a product will recognize it's very basic, but just a classic funnel, except that I'm looking at the level of engagement that people want to put in, basically. And it starts with Twitter. Most of the growth that we have nowadays.
Either from SEO or from Twitter. And so you have people they just want to lurk basically. So they'll read a tweet, they'll read an article, and that's it. And they're happy and that's great. We've delivered value. Some of them, they really liked what they saw either on Twitter, on the website, and they want more.
They want regular content, so they sign up to the newsletter. And in each edition of the newsletter, we promote the community. We say this is what's going on in the community this week we have these learning opportunities. We have this online course in the community. We have this co-working session. But everyone in the community, this is what's happening.
And if you want to join, if you want more, if you want to engage with fellow community members rather than being in this kind of like broadcasting relationship where you just receive the newsletter, then you can join the community. And as you can see, again, I know I never shut up about learning communities, but it's because I'm a big fan of them and I do think that they work.
It is an amazing way of growing a community as well. Every time we launch a new course that's hosted in the community, we see a massive influx of new members. And because they go through this learning experience together, they actually connect with each other. They know each other. It creates a stickiness that is a lot stronger.
If people were just randomly joining whenever they needed to get the question answered. So it almost creates little cohorts of people joining at the same time and who are at the same stage in terms of engagement in the community and you know each other, recognize each other and help each other.
So it's really helped both in terms of growth, but also in terms of nurturing the community over the long term.
[00:50:23] Ian Martins: That's great. I really love the effort based funnel. I think that's a really great way to think through things. I think that's a wonderful takeaway from this. LinkedIn, I know LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tactic or channel rather than sometimescan get a bad game recently paid media world, it can some kind of feel at that doesn't work.
But from a community standpoint, I can see that as being incredibly valuable channel to play on. I've seen some questions in the polls and what have to be all around. Or the chat rather around platforms. Where should you build your community? Should you Slack, Discord, LinkedIn groups, what's a good place to put a community in?
Maybe what might, what should you be thinking about when choosing one of these platforms?
[00:51:21] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I have two main thoughts on this. The first one, again, it's linked to the kind of level of engagement that you want, but how do you want people to engage? How fast do you want the conversations to be? How real time do you want that to be? And that's going to have a massive impact in terms of platform.
For example, I hate Slack. I hate it because I have massive fomo every time it's not open. I feel like there's so much going on that I'm missing things that it's and I know it's supposed to be a water cooler. That's why people tell you dip in, dip out. But I'm just, when I'm interested in something, I get obsessed.
And so if I can't read everything, I feel like I'm missing the important information. Slack is stressful for me and because my, all of the content that I create, my newsletter, the website, etc, is about mindful productivity and mental health at work. It made sense for me to go for a platform that is more, that is slower and more thoughtful in terms of the conversation.
You can reply to a message that was posted three days ago, that's completely fine. You can take your time, you can write a very long message, and then it becomes a repository that people can go back to read conversations that have happened maybe two months ago, but there are still very valuable.
So in my case, that's why I chose Circle. But there are also lots of other options that are forums like this start a little bit slower, more long form. And then the second thing that I would take into account is are you actually owning your community or not? And this is the same thing as with social media where you're renting versus your newsletter where you're actually owning the list.
It is very easy way to check that, are you renting or owning your audience or your community is how easy would it be or how hard would it be to export that community and move it to another platform? And you'll see that if you're, for example, building your community on Facebook, it can be a nightmare.
To export that community elsewhere and people have done it, but you need to reinvite people, they need to sign up again, etc. Whereas there are other platforms where it's as easy as exporting it, importing it into another platform, and you do own that list and those members. So those would be the two things.
And I'm not saying that it means that you shouldn't do Facebook, it's just that those are the things that I think you should consider and you shouldn't make that decision blindly.
[00:54:00] Rosie Sherry: Yeah, I agree. I'm a fan of forums. I don't think enough people spend time kind of investing into forums. I feel like they're coming back or I'm trying to help to make them come back a bit. I use Discourse. It's got great wiki like features and moderation and it's generally a platform that's been around a long time.
They've recently released chat as well on it, so it's in beta, but you can have a forum and chat. Within it. We'll see how that goes. Yeah I still like Slack. I actually, for Rosieland, I have a Slack and a forum, and the Slack is just quick firing conversations. It is a water cooler.
We drop audio notes to each other. That's something that we started recently, which adds like a cool, interesting vibe to what we're doing. But I always go back to I think a lot of people, like when they think of community, they naturally jump to forums and chat setups.
But I don't think that's what community tools necessarily are. It's only part of your community effort. And my current vibe is that community platforms focus too much on the conversations and it does get overwhelming, especially like after the pandemic. Everyone's a bit overwhelmed.
And like I look at email and I think that's a community tool and say, sure, it's a email tool, but you can use it to your advantage to build community. Every time I send an email out about an event, people sign up. If you post that same event in your community, people won't see it.
It's really, to me, it really is about choosing the best tool to get the job done, not necessarily about having a place to converse, because yes, communities converse, but also like we touched upon before communities need outcomes. They need people want to achieve certain things.
So it's, quite often it's, a big messy solution to bring that all together. Which is why I also think there's lots, still lots of room for innovation, for community to help members thrive in these spaces.
[00:56:27] Ian Martins: Perfect. We're getting real close to the end of our session.
I want to thank you both for sharing all of your wisdom with us here and with the audience today. Rosie, where can folks find you online and here's your plug away. The places people can chat.
[00:56:45] Rosie Sherry: Yeah. rosiesherry on Twitter or rosie.land is where I write and create and have community around community.
[00:56:54] Ian Martins: Wonderful. And Anne-Laure, where can people find you as well?
[00:56:59] Anne-Laure Le Cunff: I created my Twitter handle when I was a teenager, so I'll just not share it. You can find it online, but if you wanna stay in touch with me, the best way is to go to newsletter.nesslabs.com. You can sign up here. And I signed, I sent a newsletter every week.
[00:57:16] Ian Martins: Perfect. Thank you everyone for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this session. Next step we have how to visualize value with Jack Butcher, and I'm sure you all enjoy that session as well. So yeah, thank you everyone for all your time today. Really appreciate it.
[00:57:33] Rosie Sherry: Thank you.