How Can You Build a Thriving Podcast Community? Insights from Joel Primack

Welcome to the LikeMinds community deepdive series, where we speak to interesting community leaders in each episode and get to know what makes them tick! 

In our third episode, Pawan, our Community nerd, talks to Joel Primack, host of the popular podcast, the Community-led Growth Show. Joel represents the young, upcoming stars of the Community world. Watch this interview to learn how a Community amateur disrupts the space.

By now, we're sold on Pawan's way of getting guests comfortable by asking them about life outside work. So, we found out that Joel genuinely has fun with his LinkedIn initiatives. Outside of work, Joel enjoys travelling music and is a massive fan, going to music concerts regularly. 

He laughed, hoping his network sees him as more than just a community professional. "But, if that's what they think of me, then it's good. So at least my brand building is doing its job."

Pawan and Joel bonded over their refreshing takes on the socialization aspect of community-building. 

Joel keeps his energy safe while he tries to say yes to whatever he can. "You need to give yourself permission not to go because you need time to take care of yourself, decompress, have a night in, or say no to something and go for a run."

From Podcasting To Community?

Considering Joel's wealth of experience with podcasting, we asked him for a three or five-step framework for a podcast host, creator, or brand looking to start a community. Connecting with a podcast community is difficult because it's time-consuming, but conversely, promoting your show to your audience can be challenging without an established community.

TL;DR, the 3-step framework is:

  • Be mindful of your podcast's purpose, and don't rush into building a community. 
  • Work on figuring out how to create an emotional connection with the audience.
  • Focus on listening and gathering insights to provide genuine value to your audience, whatever their role or position.

Joel had a great example to walk us through this framework.

Let's imagine we're trying to build a community for finance professionals. The first step is to keep this community as one of the goals of the finance podcast and shape the show and content around a unique perspective. "My podcast is purely fun; I have no intention of starting a community. There are plenty of communities for community professionals already. They're great. They're phenomenal."

Think hard about how to form an emotional connection that keeps the audience engaged and eager for more. People are only motivated to join a community if they feel genuinely connected with the podcast's perspective and style.

"I would equally say listen; don't build, just listen. And if you think you've listened enough, listen five times more; you can never talk to enough people to learn what will be helpful for them." Avoid pigeonholing yourself unless you know your target audience and their needs.

If the purpose of this finance community is to solve a specific pain point, remember that while your target audience may be C-suite execs, building relationships and learning from those further down the organizational hierarchy can be equally valuable. Only after this fundamental groundwork can you ensure that the community is tailored to their busy schedules, delivering a seamless and practical experience.

Building Successful Communities

When chatting with a community leader, topmost in our minds is getting their success secrets. What does Joel do that's different, and could someone else have followed the same steps and achieved success? 

Joel immediately dismissed the idea of a silver bullet that works within all success stories. "If anyone thinks that, send me a DM because I'd love to know it, but I'll be waiting a long time for that."

"One significant factor that contributed to our success during the ten months before my departure from Lattice was that we could create a psychologically safe space for members." Many community professionals believe that super-large communities are less beneficial. Still, Joel found that prioritized trust and psychological safety resulted in a thriving community of over 19,000 global members (now surpassing 20,000).  

They did minimal moderation because the members themselves upheld the community's standards. "As a member, you don't want people to judge you. You know that safe space should exist for every member, and that's a learning for all the community builders who want to listen to this." They focused on facilitating connections among members, helping them find answers and resources. 

Evolution of Community Roles & Community Managers in 2023

Over the last few years, we've observed a change in the skills expected of community specialists. Initially, social media and content skills were crucial for community managers, and then the importance of event marketing and hosting skills increased.

Good community managers need to be strategic, not just tactical. They should be able to connect with executives and leaders on multiple levels, educating them and guiding them in understanding the value and impact of community on the business. 

If a company has a thriving community, depending on its type, Joel suggests building a mini-marketing team, almost like a small business within the company. This might involve roles like program managers, strategy and operations professionals for technical work and roadmapping, content specialists collaborating with the marketing team, and event managers dedicated to community events. 

For a community professional, bringing separate individuals owning specific areas or programs within a community together under a shared mission and set of goals that align with business outcomes is rare. 

When convincing leadership of the utility of community, Joel thinks differently. He says that leadership should be able to articulate why they want a community from a high level. Community specialists should be able to distill these ideas into one or two main goals or areas of focus.

Once the high-level objectives are clear, translate them into specific, actionable items. Check if you need to create new reporting mechanisms or implement new tools for measurement.

It's pointless to set goals without the means to measure them.

Joel is also more cautious in his thoughts about in-app communities. "Do users want to connect? If not, why invest in something they don't desire? On the other hand, if they seek connections, why build an in-app community when they want in-person events?" The key is to know your target audience and make informed decisions.

Being User-Centric

One of Joel's favorite trends right now is a strong focus on communities that support current customers and users over communities of practice. By connecting the community with an academy, education, or university program, as well as other resources, we can create a centralized, interconnected experience. 

The aim is to make it easy and frictionless for members to engage. For example, single sign-on (SSO) logins make accessing a community from within a platform effortless. 

The key is consistently adding value to community members, customers, and users. This long-term investment in nurturing a community pays off over time because community-building involves numerous small moments that accumulate and contribute to the community's overall success.

We wanted to know Joel's spicy take, and he said he didn't have many but then left us with a quirky one. "My spiciest community-specific take is probably that I like building communities on Slack. I'm a fan; I like it and have built 4-5 communities there." Unlike platforms like Facebook, where you're limited to their built-in tools, Slack offers an open environment for building and integrating various tools.

When we asked about its limitations, Joel suggested being upfront with your community about your limitations, whether in terms of the platform or finances. 

As we wind up, we're excited on Joel's behalf for his city tours. He will cover San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Boston as he works with the Common Room and Partnership on the Making Memories Tour 2023. Do check out his fantastic work here.

About LikeMinds

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.