Community-led growth harnesses our desire to feel connected and creates a symbiotic relationship between a brand and its users, fans, prospects, and industry influencers. Community members get an opportunity to share ideas and learn from like-minded individuals, and organizations get access to product feedback and brand evangelists.
In this post, we’ll dive into community-led growth and discuss why it’s an integral part of a company’s go-to-market strategy. We’ll also highlight best practices for building a thriving community that helps your organization achieve measurable ROI.
Community-led growth is a strategy for driving customer acquisition, through any number of online and offline community-building initiatives. It’s a key component of a larger go-to-market plan in our hyper-connected digital world.
Communities exist in a variety of shapes and sizes. Their purpose is to benefit both members and the organization.
With an avid and growing community, you can identify prospects and superusers, generate brand awareness, solicit feedback and ideas to enhance your product or service, and promote brand loyalty.
Community-led growth and product-led growth aren’t mutually exclusive efforts: they are most effective when used together to propel your brand and business forward.
Product-led growth positions your product as the main driver of awareness, acquisition, and growth for your organization. For example, you may offer a free trial of your product to solicit new users. It’s a great strategy, but it can be challenging to find and nurture leads and convince people to use your product solely through your brand’s marketing efforts. A more effective strategy would be to help users find and adopt your product via reviews and comments from trusted peers.
That’s where community-led growth comes in. Community-led growth activates your users, fans, and prospects to amplify positive messages about your product and provides credibility for others considering your offerings. Product-led growth powers your go-to-market strategy through direct access for users to find and adopt your product. Community-led growth amplifies these efforts by cultivating a growing base of avid brand loyalists, who together become more successful with your product, adopt more, and evangelize it to others.
Basically, community proliferates the growth you’ve already garnered through a stellar product. It provides additional visibility into discussions about your brand, user feedback, and enables you to discover champions who love your product.
Humans are social beings, and we instinctively communicate with each other and seek input when we need help. When someone is making a purchasing decision, expanding their tech stack, or weighing options for a new vendor, they naturally look to others who have been faced with a similar decision for advice on what to do. In our super networked age, this is easier to do than ever before.
Because seeking feedback from peers is perceived as a more credible approach than directly asking competing vendors, creating communities and particularly brand champions among existing users is a more effective marketing strategy when compared to other, traditional options.
In fact, many traditional sales methods are no longer as impactful as they once were. Email response rates have declined, buyers no longer spend nearly as much time talking directly to a salesperson, and users are inundated with ads—rendering advertising messages less effective than ever.
Today, nurturing brand loyalists and encouraging them to promote a product to their peers resonates more with prospective users than a short promo video on LinkedIn or an email sent directly from a company’s marketing team.
Community-led growth, when done well, ultimately results in higher user retention, increased referrals, more user acquisition, and greater ROI. Those are four extremely compelling metrics that represent real bottom-line impact for a business.
But to achieve success in these areas, companies and brands need to make a concerted effort to create and nurture a space for users to feel a sense of belonging, encourage each other to learn and grow in defined ways that are important to each individual within the community, feel a sense of responsibility, and receive validation from each other.
It’s also important to lay the foundation for a community that can sustain itself on its own momentum through frequent, consistent group participation.
Building a community that scales can also help to scale your business and market presence in a way that brands can’t replicate through product marketing alone.
To create a healthy community that delivers tangible results for your brand, it’s important to keep a few key considerations top of mind.
Whether you find it or build it, the first step is to create a space (or nurture an existing one) to gather your community members together. It’s highly likely that a community exists around your brand or product already, and if you’re not the one convening those conversations, it’s recommended you start a channel where they can happen.
Hosting and building out community channels of your own gives brands more control over the themes, activities, resources, and discussions shared and addressed within your community to create a productive space for thought-leadership and relationship-building to happen.
Having a branded community boosts brand awareness, brand loyalty, and user retention to bolster existing product-led growth efforts.
But remember, even if you host your own community, it's important to not ignore the broader ecosystem. Conversations about your brand and product are going to be happening across other channels as well—like Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and more. Be sure you’re also keeping an eye on the valuable feedback being shared outside of your hosted spaces.
Ensuring community managers have the right tools and analytics capabilities to keep up with your community and accelerate growth is necessary for driving success against key metrics.
Upon establishing your community, it’s important to make sure your platform and your community framework are built to scale. Choosing a platform that doesn’t cap members—Slack is one option—and has a clean UI for displaying multiple threads of simultaneous discussion ensures your community won’t start feeling too crowded and claustrophobic if it grows more quickly than expected.
It’s also important to implement guidelines that will ensure your community becomes—and remains—a safe and valuable place for members. Creating a community code of conduct, for example, will encourage community members to act within the parameters of acceptable behavior. Ultimately, this will help increase community retention and engagement.
Moderators can pin the community code of conduct to the top of #general or #intros channels, send the code to new members upon sign-up through automated workflows, or repost it in direct messages to users who have broken a rule.
While your communities are an avenue for acquiring new users, retaining existing customers, and creating product evangelists, your brand or product should not always be the central focus of your community spaces.
This may, at face value, seem somewhat counterintuitive. However, in the same way that content marketing offers users free content in exchange for brand awareness, gathering a vibrant community of individuals with similar goals naturally results in brand promotion, product evangelism, and insight into what is most important to individual members and the community at large. These insights can help inform everything from product direction to marketing strategy and even individual buying conversations.
It’s important to balance business goals with a focus on your community members themselves: their aspirations, their interests, their concerns, and their professional goals. Your community should be centered on a theme tangentially related to your product or service—it could be your product’s target persona, the pain points your product solves, or the industry or space your product serves.
While your community space is supported and moderated by your brand, the discussions and content shared within the community should primarily focus on the designated theme and the interests of community members.
Because the overarching value-add of joining a community are the connections, it’s important to encourage your members to interact with each other.
Community managers serve as supervisors, moderators, and facilitators. But the vast majority of the conversation should be user-generated. In a healthy community, members will exchange product tips, best practices, career advice, favorite memes, and more.
Making it easy for members to reply, direct message, and ask questions to each other is key to creating a self-sustaining community. Ensuring you choose a platform that enables community members to privately message each other and also reply to comments in public discussion forums is integral to facilitating discussion and relationships. As your community becomes more mature, you can measure responsiveness metrics to understand how effective your community is at supporting itself.
A handful of people in your community will quickly reveal themselves to be champions or superfans‚ exceptionally engaged community members who are integral to keeping the engine of your community humming along.
Acknowledging product champions encourages them to keep posting and replying frequently. There are many ways to do this—some companies give community members who create content about the brand or themes relevant to the community a certification. For example, Salesforce recognizes “Trailblazers” who innovate with the platform to improve or transform their companies.
Some organizations establish ambassador programs. As a thank you for their leadership in the community, ambassadors are offered exclusive insights and access to your product. They often also get career growth opportunities like speaker slots or invites to relevant networking events.
Another strategy is to deliver swag to superusers to demonstrate appreciation. Trailblazers can receive a Trailblazer hoodie directly from Salesforce as acknowledgment for their innovations with the platform. Others give frequent posters a badge or flair to indicate that they’re particularly active and helpful members others can look to for advice or feedback.
Any of these programs, even the small tokens of appreciation, can go a long way with community members who have taken time out of their day to keep the community vibrant.
Implementing an analytics tool to measure the impact of your community is also imperative for building a successful community-led growth strategy. Platforms like Common Room that bring together data and provide intelligent insights across various community-hosting apps—including Discord, Slack, Discourse, LinkedIn, and others—ensure you can showcase the results of all your hard work.
These community growth platforms help companies understand and analyze community data across channels to ideate effective strategies for furthering engagement and hitting KPIs related to referrals, user acquisition, and user retention.
Common Room has a host of AI-powered analytics capabilities that give community managers and go-to-market leaders a holistic view of cross-organizational insights to fuel impactful community-led growth initiatives.
Hitting KPIs should never be the end-point for your community efforts. To continue growing—and continue getting value back from your community—it’s important to use insights and analytics to inform what additional programs you’ll build to nurture that community. Every success should act as a stepping stone to an even stronger community.
Common Room gives companies the tools they need to accelerate community growth efforts, with real-time intelligence, context, workflow automation, and data insights. With the ability to connect community data, product data, and revenue data, Common Room measures the true impact of your community so you can track ROI and focus your efforts on the most effective strategies.
The platform pairs machine learning-powered insights with engagement and reporting tools to help community managers build, manage, and measure fast-growing communities and enable go-to-market leaders better understand the user journey and qualify leads by layering in CRM data like industry, company revenue, and more on top of community actions.
To intelligently engage and grow your community, try Common Room for free today. Looking for more about building a community-led growth strategy? Check out our post on how to build the future of community-led growth and connect with 1000+ community and DevRel leaders to share expertise and ask questions in the Uncommon community.