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Business Opportunities: Community Builders (1/2)
As most of you probably noticed, the community space is currently trending. Community has become a business model for IndieHackers, and the space is experiencing accelerated growth through the web3 trend.
That’s why we dedicated this week’s issue to learning more about the problems and needs of Community Builders.
As we dove into communities of community-builders (how meta), we saw a certain divide in topics: those that focus on “regular” community building, and those that focus more on the “web3” side of things.
We don’t really think that there’s a fundamental difference between community-building for web 1, 2, 3, 4, or offline communities. But the divide in content was quite clear. That’s why we decided to split this Community Builders issue into two parts.
This week, we will focus on “normal” community building.
Next week’s issue will be on the web3 side of things.
Having said that, let’s start exploring the common problem spaces we found for community builders.
We hope you enjoy this report on business opportunities around Community Builders and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.
❎ Problem Spaces
In Problem Spaces, we share — guess what — the most common problem spaces we’ve encountered in our community research. We describe them in-depth and share examples of people who had specific problems within this space. We don’t share ideas on how to solve those problems, but rather intend to give you a deeper understanding of them.
🤯 Defining and explaining community building/management
Problem: The nature and purpose of community building/management isn’t always self-evident
“Community” is a term that’s increasingly used among entrepreneurs and corporations. While it’s great to see a shift in focus towards users and their needs, the term itself becomes more and more diluted.
How “community” is defined depends on who you’re talking to. For example, large corporations might see community as a feature to an existing product. A community can help them generate more traffic, have an authentic relationship with their customers, or better understand their customers’ needs.
For a community-based business, in contrast, the community is the product. In this case, the goal might be to maximize the number of users and their engagement (if that is what ultimately drives revenue). These are just two simplified use cases of community though. In reality, there are all kinds of communities serving all kinds of purposes.
The fact that the purpose of community isn’t always self-evident makes it difficult for community managers to explain the value to decision-makers, colleagues, and friends. And where does community management belong in a company’s structure? Marketing? Social media management? Customer service? And how can success be measured?
These factors seem to call for individual, case-specific definitions and explanations regarding the nature and output of community building/management. As there seems to be increasing demand for community builders/managers, there might be an opportunity for community experts (what a vague term, I know) to support answering these questions.
Speaking of support – staying mentally healthy as a community manager can be really tough, as emotional labor is a key element of the job. Moreover, the range of a CM’s responsibilities is often wide and not clearly defined, which can result in unrealistic expectations. Many CM’s would benefit from support/coaching to stay in balance.
🖥️ Tech stack for community builders/managers
Problem: Finding the right tech stack is essential for community builders
Yes, communities are about people. But the technological environments matter too, as they determine the kind of interactions that are possible with your community members. Technology and people/community are therefore inseparably connected (as social scientists, we are obliged to emphasize this 😄)
As you’ve probably come across both real-time chat communities (like on Slack or Discord), and forum communities (like on Reddit and IndieHackers), you already know one major difference between technological environments.
But there are many other factors that can come into play. We found posts asking for the right stacks for managing and reporting on Facebook groups, getting detailed user metrics, specific chat functions, and for multiple needs at once. You can find a general discussion on the topic here and an instructive article here.
💬 Driving community engagement
Problem: Getting engagement in online communities is hard
Getting members to engage in an online community is a common challenge among community builders/managers. It’s hard to get people to join your community, but it’s even harder to get them to engage with others and build lasting relationships.
Online communities for community builders/managers share a lot of helpful experiences and tips for fostering engagement. Some advice that we found frequently:
First, speak to members in 1:1 talks to learn more about their needs. Then build what they want/need from the community
Connect people with similar values
Keep the structure of your community simple
Foster community culture through a common language, meme culture, and merch
Foster engagement through gamification and incentivizing
Organize events like dinners, icebreaker sessions, or chats with experts
While we find these tips really helpful in theory, applying them to your own community and executing them properly is a whole different story. This is where online communities for community builders/managers are limited: Advice is often rather general in nature, and even though there are community members who offer to talk and help others out individually, their time is limited. There are probably opportunities in helping community builders with this.
In contrast to all the fuzz about community engagement, there are people who argue that engagement shouldn’t be the primary goal of community. Instead, community should be about helping each member reach their goals.
For everyone interested, we want to recommend checking out online communities for community builders/managers like CommunityClub or IndieHackers. The people in these communities are – surprise – extremely helpful and positive. Also, check out Rosie Sherry whose knowledge and long-term engagement in the field are invaluable.
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