In the world of business, success often hinges on a company's ability to adapt, innovate, and engage with its customers effectively. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, community building as a business strategy is gaining prominence. The success of community-led growth lies in the ability to conduct community experiments in an efficient way.
Communities offer a space for like-minded individuals to interact, share ideas, and foster a sense of belonging. But before diving headfirst into building a community around your brand, product, or service, it's crucial to test and experiment to ensure that it's the right move for your business and its users.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of testing and experimenting with community-building initiatives. We will discuss the importance of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach that is used in product building and how it can be applied to community initiatives. We’ll also discuss the advantages of a community-led strategy, the process of designing and running experiments, and finally, how to extract insights and implement your findings to achieve sustainable growth.
Before we dive into the experiments, let’s first look at the advantages of even having a community-led growth approach.
A community is often built on the foundation of early adopters — individuals who are quick to embrace new ideas, products, or technologies. These early adopters tend to be aligned with the problem statement your business aims to solve and have an intrinsic interest in the solutions you offer.
This alignment makes them more likely to be an active part of the community and increases the likelihood of getting valuable feedback from them. They have a vested interest in the success of your product or service, which can be a powerful driving force for community engagement.
In essence, a community is the bridge between what your users say and what they do. Traditional research methods might capture what people say, but it's often the community interactions that reveal what they truly value and how they behave over the long term.
A community can also serve as a growth engine. In its early days, the popular brand OnePlus opted for an invite-only strategy. The brand relied heavily on its early adopters to become the voice and ambassadors for the brand. The fine balance of exclusivity and familiarity created by the inviting aspect made the brand highly desirable. Since then the brand has maintained its community by keeping them involved in the conversations and processes.
Running a business is expensive. Any decision to do something comes with an immediate cost while a decision to not do something can have long-term implications if the bets were not correct.
That’s why before investing too much money or discarding a worthwhile idea, it’s wiser to run experiments and see how that idea is adding value.
The MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach is a well-established concept in product development. It involves releasing a basic version of the product to test the market and gather user feedback before investing more resources. This principle can also be applied to community building. Just as developing a full-fledged product without user validation can be costly and risky, so too can building a community without first understanding its necessity and benefits.
Before diving into community building, consider whether your business truly needs a community. Richard Millington puts communities in 5 categories:
It's essential to understand if there's a demand and/or need for a community space, what kind of community it will be, and whether it aligns with your business goals. Having clarity on these questions can help in creating communities using the MVP approach and help you save valuable resources by testing the waters before making a substantial commitment.
Every madness needs a method. This also includes conducting community experiments in a way that allows room for quick experimentation and iterations while keeping it simple and minimal in terms of both cost and effort. Here is how you can get started with community-building experiments:
Building a community from scratch can be challenging. To maximize your chances of success, start by identifying existing platforms and spaces where your target audience congregates. This could be social media, forums, or industry-specific websites. Engaging with your audience on these platforms can provide valuable insights and help you gauge interest in community participation.
Example: When launching their platform, Quora strategically engaged with early adopters on various technology-related forums. This helped them build a community of knowledgeable users who contributed to the platform's growth.
Before starting your community-building experiment, identify the pain points your audience faces and the additional advantages they may gain from a community. Are they seeking peer support, expert advice, or a place to share their experiences? Understanding these factors will enable you to tailor your community to meet their specific needs.
Example: Reddit identified the need for a platform where people could discuss a wide range of topics and interests. By creating subreddits that catered to diverse interests, they satisfied this need and attracted a massive user base.
Your community-building efforts should align with your business goals. Determine how the community can contribute to your overall strategy. Whether it's enhancing customer support, driving product innovation, or increasing brand loyalty, make sure your community initiatives serve a clear purpose.
Example: Airbnb's host community serves a dual purpose — it provides support and resources to hosts while also driving customer trust and loyalty.
While it's essential to guide the conversations within your community, avoid being overly sales-focused or "on brand." Let your users experiment, share their experiences, and interact naturally. This approach allows you to observe their behavior and uncover their genuine needs and preferences.
Example: LEGO Ideas is a platform where LEGO enthusiasts can share their creations and vote on potential LEGO sets. This approach not only fosters community engagement but also informs LEGO about new product ideas that resonate with their customer base.
Data is a crucial aspect of your community-building experiment. Collect data from every available source, even if it needs to be done manually. Track user engagement, content trends, member demographics, and sentiment analysis. This data will be instrumental in assessing the success of your experiment.
Example: Facebook Analytics provides businesses with in-depth data on user engagement and behavior within their Facebook groups and pages. This data informs their community-building strategies and content creation.
The final step to close the community experiments loop is to extract insights from all the experiments that have been conducted until then. Here is how you can do it:
After running your community-building experiment, it's essential to gather all data points at a central location. This includes user interactions, discussions, feedback, and any relevant analytics. Having all this information in one place makes it easier to analyze and draw meaningful insights.
Example: Google Analytics is a widely used tool for collecting and analyzing data related to website and online user interactions. A lot of platforms such as Discord provide an analytics dashboard. Even the good old spreadsheet can be useful if the data is coming from multiple sources and you want to have a comprehensive view of all the data points and how they tie into each other.
A good starting point for extracting insights is to observe the most and least discussed topics within your community. This information can reveal what matters most to your users and what might need improvement. It provides a direct line to their interests and concerns. This can be done by tracking keywords searched in the community, attendance patterns of any events, the most visited resource link and so on.
Example: Reddit's algorithm takes into account the popularity of topics to determine which content appears on the front page. This ensures that the most relevant and discussed topics are prominently featured.
Once you've gathered and analyzed your data, identify ways to create value based on the insights gained. This might involve enhancing certain community features, addressing recurring user issues, or developing new initiatives that cater to the needs of your community members.
Example: Stack Overflow continually analyzes user interactions and feedback to enhance its platform. They implement new features and improvements based on community input to maintain a high level of user satisfaction.
As you discover valuable insights and determine the unique value proposition of your community, streamline the processes and stakeholders responsible for maintaining and growing your community. Ensure that the necessary resources and roles are in place to support the community effectively.
Example: LinkedIn's Community Managers play a critical role in facilitating discussions and ensuring a positive user experience within LinkedIn groups. They also gather feedback to inform platform improvements
In the realm of modern business, community building has become an integral strategy for growth and sustainability. However, the journey towards establishing a thriving community isn't one to be taken lightly. It requires careful planning, iterative testing, and an unwavering commitment to understanding and serving the needs of the audience.
Community experimentation, much like the MVP approach in product development, serves as a guiding light, allowing businesses to venture into uncharted territory while minimizing risk.
By embracing a community-led growth approach, businesses gain a profound understanding of their users' needs, behaviors, and desires, which might otherwise remain elusive through traditional market research. The insights gained from these experiments offer a goldmine of information, providing a blueprint for refining strategies, enhancing user experience, and aligning with business objectives.
Each experiment, whether a triumph or a lesson, contributes to the broader narrative of understanding your audience and honing your community-building strategies. By harnessing the power of community-led experiments, businesses can forge deeper connections with their audience, drive innovation, and pave the way for long-term growth in an ever-evolving landscape of commerce and connectivity.
Likeminds elevates businesses in unlocking the true potential of their users through their in-app community and social network. Using LikeMinds, businesses achieve higher conversion and retention, by building custom community experiences in their existing platform unlocking community-led growth.
With LikeMinds, businesses get an easy-to-implement and highly scalable infrastructure with a fully customizable UI. All of this with a customization time of 3 days and a deployment time of 15 minutes.
Our Chat and Feed infra have pre-built widgets such as image carousels, PDF slides, short videos, polls, quizzes, events, forms, and more for user engagement and retention along with moderation capabilities to ensure frictionless community operations.