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Building a community-led growth team

Building a community-led growth team

Community-led growth is a strategy for driving customer acquisition and retention through community-building initiatives across communication platforms, forums, and events—essentially anywhere users are talking about a company or its products.

This growth lever is rapidly gaining popularity among startups and large enterprises alike as companies and their community members all gain value from engaging with each other to share resources and best practices for success.

A company’s community is a resource that provides value across the organization. Community and go-to-market (GTM) leaders will need a cross-functional team helping deploy and develop their community-led growth strategy. In this post, we’ll explore why it’s important to build such a strategy and detail how companies can assemble a community-led growth team that fuels progress across key business metrics.

Why is a community-led growth approach important for your company?

Product-led growth (PLG) is a business strategy that positions a company’s product as the main driver of awareness, sales, expansion, and retention. PLG is valuable for attracting right-fit customers and growing user acquisition quickly and reliably. Layering a community-led growth (CLG) strategy on top of an existing growth strategy like PLG further accelerates user growth and adoption of your product.

Companies currently investing in community-led growth have a major competitive advantage. If your business plants the seeds now, you will be in an advantageous position in the future when the compounding contributions of your community are delivering consistent, year-round growth and value.

At a team-by-team level, benefits of a well-deployed community-led growth strategy can include:

At our core, humans are social beings. We want to connect, learn, and ask for guidance from each other when making important decisions. Building a community of people around your brand or product who can help each other gain knowledge and skills, while also providing your organization with strong relationships and insights is a true win-win situation.

Finding the right people for your community-led growth team

As noted above, community is a cross-functional endeavor that benefits from and provides benefits to all different parts of an organization. Depending on your organization, community, and your mutual goals, consider the following people and teams to participate in your community-led growth strategy.

Community managers (or even the head of community for organizations with a more mature approach) are the primary people interfacing between the company and the community, which means they are a requirement for a community-led growth team. Community managers often play “quarterback” and oversee a range of responsibilities such as representing the voice of the community internally, sharing valuable insights to inform decision-making for other teams, and routing visibility to the right roles across sales, customer success, product, support, and more.

If you serve a technical audience, developer advocates or other DevRel pros will serve this role as they have their finger on the pulse of what technical members want in a community. They also possess deep insight into what drives bottom-up adoption in this space, which is highly valuable for a community-led growth team looking to leverage the influence developers have in the technology buying process.

Marketing leaders provide a crucial perspective to a community-led growth team because they understand the messages that should be amplified through the community, as well as the areas of education that users frequently need.

Product leaders are also a critical part of the team, as they possess the ability to transform community insights into a stronger product at the heart of a PLG + CLG strategy.

Depending on the makeup of your community, another key viewpoint can come from sales leaders and customer success managers. Sales can provide insight into the nuances and timing of nurturing a prospect down the funnel. Customer success managers deeply understand what customers want and need. They know what makes them happy and more likely to buy—and they know your audience’s pet peeves that could prevent them from engaging in your community and with your product.

Finally, it’s wise to include at least one executive-level leader or sponsor on your team, as they can provide important context about what the C-suite wants out of community-led growth efforts.

Even if you’re just getting started with community or your CLG strategy, each of these teammates can usually find value from engaging with your members. Just like with members, showing your colleagues how they can benefit from engaging in the community will encourage them to lend their time and expertise to developing a community-led growth engine.

How to build a community-led growth engine

Once you have an idea of which internal teams are going to be involved, you’re ready to embark (or accelerate) your community-led growth efforts.

There are a few priorities to keep in mind when getting started. These include identifying specific goals for the community, figuring out who is in it, establishing a collective knowledge base, and developing valuable relationships with collaborators, among other priorities.

Work backward from specific goals

The first step to building a community (or growing an existing one) is to identify why you’re building it, what you hope community members get from the group, and what your business outcomes you want to drive towards. These goals will be shared and shaped by your members as well as the other internal stakeholders who make up your CLG team. These goals should keep community value front and center, not allowing business goals to negatively impact your community experience.

If you’re building a community of practice, the goals of your target users may be to learn the latest industry best practices, network with other peers in their community, or upskill.

If you’re building a community of product on the other hand, your customers hope to learn new, innovative, and efficient ways to leverage your product to benefit their business. These community members are also likely to be interested in consuming your content, receiving product updates, and discussing ways to best use your product or offerings.

No matter what kind of community you build or where you host it, the goals of your business will likely stay consistent: the ultimate aim will be to build a large group within your target persona who would be in a position to view your content, receive product updates, and discuss ways to best use your platform or offerings.

In much the same way that you start with your members and work backward to create an ideal community for them, you should have these end goals in mind while in the initial stages of building your community. This will help you make decisions that support the outcomes and key results you hope to achieve.

Identifying your community members

Identifying the people who will comprise your community is a key step in achieving your business goals and community-led growth. You need to know who is in your community or who you are building it to attract. There are several types of users you may need: You’ll want some mix of existing customers, prospects, current employees, and — if you’re building a community of practice — industry influencers within your niche.

There are advantages for including each of these groups in your community.

  • Existing customers can serve as brand advocates who may organically discuss the benefits of your product with others. It’s also valuable to keep these users engaged as a way to improve their product experience and therefore user retention.
  • Prospects are another key group to include: They may be interested in the topics discussed in your community, but haven’t yet adopted your product. Promoting your community to this pool of potential users puts you in a great position to identify strong leads and increase user acquisition.
  • It’s also wise to involve your company’s employees who may be able to share unique expertise and/or gain useful insight by participating in the community. This will include a community manager, which is tasked with facilitating a great community experience, but can also include product marketers to get user feedback, engineers to answer technical questions, customer success to address product issues, and more. Even if your community team hasn’t grown beyond an army of one, you should have colleagues to help guide discussions, moderate users, and answer questions from community members on an ongoing basis. Many of these members will be part of the CLG team you assembled, but you should consider adding anyone from your organization who can give or get value from the community.
  • Inviting industry influencers to join your community can also provide credibility and promote brand awareness. Your community team can identify relevant influencers or experts based on the themes or topics of discussion central to your community, and request that they participate in distinct ways. These means of participation may include occasional AMA’s, online events, or live chats.

It’s also important to acknowledge that, unless you’re curating invite-only communities, you won’t have complete control over who joins your community. This is a good thing — potential community members often see this inclusiveness as a benefit! At the same time, you are able to attract your desired audience through content, resources, and opportunities that are specifically appealing to them. For example, this could include product how-tos for customers or networking events for prospects looking to make connections in the subject area of your community.

Establish a collective knowledge base

When building a community of practice, it’s imperative that moderators, community managers, and other stakeholders become subject matter experts on the defined themes of their community. For example, if your themes include content marketing and SEO, community moderators and managers must be well-versed in industry best practices, trending mediums for distributing content, and new innovations in the field.

Contributors from the community will play a vital role here as they enrich the community by bringing in their own expertise, which will also relieve some of the burden from your team.

Creating a knowledge hub of relevant content, including thought-leadership related to the space, is helpful in ensuring all collaborators understand the fundamentals of the community’s specific area of focus. It may also be helpful to identify influencers or industry leaders in the space that collaborators can follow on social media for news and best practices. Staying abreast of trends within your community’s industry is vital to maintaining brand authority, engendering trust within your community, and fulfilling the goals of members.

Facilitate user interactions

Enabling and encouraging members to interact with each other directly is integral to maintaining and nurturing a vibrant community where members feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Choosing a platform that allows users to message each other directly is key to ensuring members can build real relationships with other members. Additionally, setting up automated workflows or prompts that encourage members to introduce themselves, engage with other members, share content, or answer each other’s questions helps to increase the level of user-to-user engagement within the community.

Leverage automation for more impactful results

Depending on the platform you choose to host your community, there may be features that enable community managers and moderators to send automated messages to users.There are other tools that are purpose-built for community teams looking to scale their efforts without increasing headcount. Common Room, for example, allows managers to set up automated workflows that proactively engage users. Community managers can set up welcome messages as part of onboarding workflows, re-engagement messages for users that previously were active but have since dropped off, or survey questions for members based on their feedback or recent replies.

Challenges of building a community-led growth team

As with any impactful initiative, there are some challenges that come along with building a community-led growth team. Finding your purpose, driving engagement, and connecting with your community at scale can prove to be complex undertakings.

But there are a few tried and true methods for solving each of these pain points. Creating a framework of your brand’s goals for the community, enlisting active moderators, and choosing the right tools and solutions to support your community are some of the actions that can help to alleviate the challenges inherent to creating a community-led growth team.

Finding your purpose

There are a large amount of online communities, especially now as more companies are investing in community building. Community managers need to identify how their community will stand out, and why members should want to join their community over another.Community managers should choose a purpose based on their defined target user. If you’re creating a community for developers, for example, the purpose of your community should align with the goals or interests of that cohort.

It’s helpful for community managers to do some research on other communities in the space, survey their target user to learn more about their interests and goals, and then identify the purpose of their community based on these insights.

Driving engagement

Engagement is the lifeblood of your community-led growth strategy. Without active members, your community will quickly become stale and growth on any front — from user acquisition to retention — will stagnate.

Knowing how and when to stimulate engagement within your community is key to avoiding a plateau in growth. Hosting regular events, rewarding champions or particularly active contributors with badges or swag, and ensuring moderators answer questions in a timely fashion are necessary to keeping your community alive and engaged.

Closely monitoring community engagement levels through community-focused analytics tools can help community moderators spot dips in engagement quickly. With this data, community managers can send automated, personalized messages to previously-active users to revitalize engagement, or send relevant resources and content to users to stimulate conversation.

Connecting at scale

One of the main goals of your community management initiative is to grow the community over time. That’s why it’s so important to lay a foundation that scales. Otherwise, every aspect of community management will become more difficult as you expand.Engaging members becomes a challenge if your community team is overwhelmed by the sheer number of participants. Ensuring all members adhere to community guidelines becomes next to impossible with a large quantity of messages, threads, and channels to follow, and acquiring new members within budget can get tricky if your company is using a platform that requires businesses to pay per user. To ensure you can scale your community in accordance with your company goals, it’s necessary to choose a platform that can provide a unified view for every member across every channel so you don’t have to bounce between multiple tools to try and extract insights. It’s also valuable to be able to automatically surface insights and trends about how your community members are feeling and engaging. Collecting this information manually is quite time labor-intensive, which leaves little time for analysis and strategic planning.

Measuring outcomes

Your community-led growth strategy may be spread across different apps, forums, and platforms, most of which you don’t and won’t control. This can make it difficult to accurately measure engagement and performance against KPIs. Additionally, some platforms such as the free-tiered version of Slack may have opaque or limited analytics capabilities.

Implementing a tool to measure the success of your community and the broader ecosystem is key for building a successful community-led growth strategy. An intelligent community-led growth platform that supports end-to-end community attribution will help you connect the dots between community activity and other key data points such as product usage, signups, influenced revenue, and subscriptions.

Check out this article for more information on proving the ROI of your community.

How Common Room can help your community-led growth team find success

Common Room combines machine learning-powered insights with powerful engagement and reporting tools to help community managers build, manage, and measure their communities. Many of today’s fastest-growing companies use our platform to nurture thriving communities that drive tangible results.

Do you find it challenging to talk to executives about the positive impact of community growth on bottom line business metrics? You need our guide on how to have conversations about community metrics with your CxO.

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 understanding and activating community-led growth, then connect with 1000+ community and DevRel leaders to share expertise and ask questions in the Uncommon community Slack.

Learn, share, and connect with community leaders.