Attraction rather than promotion! Uncommunity #7

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We are learning every day by trying things. We consume tons of content every week and we share a few with you. As they say, you don’t need to grow 100% overnight you have to grow 1% every day and that’s what we are trying. If you like today’s piece press the like button. It means a lot.

This week’s AMA is with Bill and he has done incredible work. Put your seatbelt on and let’s go. 🚀🚀🚀

*drum roll* *🥁 🥁 🥁 Introducing…

Bill Johnston is the Chief Community Officer at Structure3C where he help companies like Intuit, Salesforce, IBM, Autodesk and many more, realize tremendous value through virtual communities & networks.

Getting the first 100 users for a community. Explain?

The caveat to this answer (and anything else I say here) is that absent a specific context/application, my response risks being too general. So with the caveat of “It depends, but…”

The first step before thinking about hosting any community is deciding on a primary purpose or intention - why are you trying to attract and build this community? For whom? How does your purpose or intention align with your potential members? And most importantly: how, specifically, are you going to help members make progress towards their purpose and related goals over time?

When I say “attraction, rather than promotion” - it really comes down to have an articulated purpose, or intention, that attracts people to the community, vs needing an elaborate or heavy-handed recruitment strategy. Attraction doesn’t mean leaning back and waiting for people to show up. It means to get your purpose out into the world through your presence, content, and invitation in various forms.

Find the 5-10 people most passionate about your purpose. Do they already have a home? How can yours be better? Find out. Internalize. Evolve. Have your core find 5-10 more. Talk about what you are doing, shine a bright light on it. If it resonates, it will attract the right people who are motivated by the purpose of the community and are willing to take action.

If you want to see an example of this playing out in real-time, check out the community springing up around Roam Research (think Evernote + knowledge graph) and the #roamcult.

The intersection between design and community building. How important is design while building communities?

The relationship between community building and design are very related, AND I think this relationship is often misunderstood. Design is a creative, iterative, and inclusive process amongst community stakeholders to achieve a particular set of outcomes. Design isn’t just developing a slick community interface or set of graphical elements, and it also isn’t a perpetual process that just produces piles of stick notes with no community-facing activities. It’s a mindset and orientation around continuous investigation, understanding, and refinement.

In the early stages of community development, the design process looks more like research and definition - understanding your potential communities’ needs, goals, and motivating purpose (their “why”), as well as understanding the same set of criteria about yourself in the role of host. This process should include representation from all community stakeholders.

I’ve written a lot about this, and more recently, shared our planning templates for community design. You can find those here (just request access).

One of my favourite books about design that no one has ever heard about is The Universal Traveler by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall

One brand community you admire and why?

I’ve mentioned Roam a few too many times (that’s the one I’m obsessed with right now), so I’ll go with Peloton. This community literally changed my life and is also the exception to a general rule that it is impossible to build a community on Facebook (which I still don’t recommend). I think Peloton is successful because:

  • They have an awesome and engaging product which does what it says it will do: get you fit
  • The product works because it is inherently social - in-product leader boards, support (virtual high fives) and the ability to ride with your friends, and also know when they are riding

The community at large is impressive and multichannel. Lot’s happens on Facebook, which can be a narcissistic dumpster fire in the main Peloton group, but Peloton has been great about supporting grassroots groups springing up around location, special interest (breast cancer, diabetes), and instructors. The community transcends both the in-product experience and Facebook and manifests out in the world with local meetups (including riding actual bikes), and high fives when someone is rocking a Peloton shirt. I get high fives when I’m out running in my Century shirt (humblebrag), which you earn after completing 100 rides.

One community professional you admire and why?

There are so many… we are in a golden age of community leadership :) If I had to pick one, I’d have to say my friend Venessa Paech. She hosts the SWARM conference in Australia, founded the Australia Community Managers Association, is pursuing a doctorate in the role of AI (and related tech) in communities, and has a wide range of professional community leadership experience. She sets the bar for me as a brilliant, kind, and joyful practitioner. But, again, there are so many bright lights right now that I feel conflicted just mentioning one person!

Advice to someone just getting started?

Three things:

Before even thinking about the community, learn as much about the organization and individual stakeholders as you possibly can. The community’s role (ideally) will be to support both the individual and the collective in making progress towards their purpose and goals.

Learn as much about facilitation and conflict resolution as you possibly can.

Don’t limit your thinking by accepting best practices or advice from community platform vendors or experts at face value. In many ways, we are just getting started developing our global digital community and there is so much more to learn and more work to do.

Follow Bill on Twitter, check Structure3C for research, podcast, and blog about the future of human networks.

What’s Cooking?

  • Community leaders deserve better: An open letter about community software is a must-read piece that you should include in your weekend read. It’s written by By Li Jin and David Sherry. Read the full article here. tl;dr

    10 features that we wish we had in a unified platform, based on real experience running and leading communities:
  • Member directory
  • Payments and built-in monetization models
  • Knowledge hub
  • A better, built-in application flow and onboarding experience
  • Email digests
  • Ability to engage across different channels
  • Calendar integration & video service integration for organizing and joining events
  • Analytics & automated actions in response to member activity
  • Member tiers, permissions, sub-groups
  • Smarter matching/conversation suggestion
  • Audience and Wealth is a great read. I personally enjoyed the 2-part piece. Read here. It tackles some interesting points:
  • The problems creators solve for consumers
  • The business models creators use to build wealth
  • The roles creators, audience, and advertisers play
  • Why creators should solve for co-creation, shared status, and shared wealth
  • The emergence of new roles and new models

  • Put yourself out there and show up every day. :)

    • Holly Firestone did our first newsletter AMA. You can read the post here. She’s a legend and this slide is just perfect. Community is the centre of excellence.

      • Tweet your answers to us on why communities fail. Some people said it’s because of community leader and some said communities usually die when the shared objective of a community is completed.

      What’s new at Uncommunity?

      We have added new jobs and books on Uncommunity this week.

      • New book added:
      • Community-In-a-Box: How to Build Event-Driven Professional Communities
      • Experts to follow:
      • Evan Hamilton - Director of Community at Reddit
      • Adrian Speyer - Head of Community at Vanilla Forums
      • Jobs that you can apply:
      • Sonocent is looking for Community Lead | Role is based out of Leeds, UK | Apply now
      • Salesforce is looking Community Specialist EMEA for Tableau | Role is based out of London, UK | Apply now
      • CONTENTFUL is looking Developer Evangelist | Role is open for Remote, North America | Apply now

      Go to to find out all the other great resources we have added this week.

      If you like this edition smash that ❤️ button which is at the top/bottom and share this with your friends, closest virtual colleagues. :)

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