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Community-Driven Product Development - Overview and Trends

We're collaborating on a six part educational series with Mark Tan, Director of Product and Community at Wyze. We'll discuss trends and takeaways when it comes to building products in tandem with your community. Mark will cover everything he's learned about community-driven product development, so you as a product manager (or other team leader!) can get as close to your end users as possible.

This week, we recorded our live kick-off event. In it, Mark delivers an overview of community-driven product development and discusses its latest trends. We've also excerpted questions from our follow-up Slack Q&A. You can find new videos posted to our Community-Driven Product Development YouTube playlist every Tuesday afternoon, and you can join our following live Slack Q&As for the next 5 Thursdays. See you there!

How do you define Community Driven Product Development?

I'll break this down into two parts: 1/community-driven practices and 2/product development.

Community-driven practices involve activities where you bring your community members along with you through research and ideas. You open the dialogue for different members to interact and give you collective feedback.

Product development means putting this within the context of building your products and services, whether in the ideation phase or pre-launch. In summary, this means co-designing the product with your community members.

Product development is an ongoing and iterative process. Can you lay out the different stages and how community can be integrated into each?

Broadly speaking, stages include ideation, development, testing, pre-launch, and growth. There’s a lot of ways to involve your community.

Ideation: You can crowdsource ideas from different members and ask them what they are interested in. I like this story about how Lego did this to crowdsource favorites. If you do something similar AND you create a place for people to interact, you’ll get a lot of ideas that can help you build products that customers love.

Development and Testing: You may invite your customers to join your beta program to help you test your products. Create a dedicated group where customers can post their ideas.

Pre-launch: Send your communities some teasers, collect testimonials and user-generated content to help you build hype and get people excited about your launch. After that, continue to nurture discussions through content, events to fuel growth.

Community members are welcome to submit requests or look at our (partial) roadmap. This helps us get feedback early in the process and prioritize more effectively.

For companies with members that are a bit broader and vary across things like age, interests, and other segments, how do you think about hosting a large community versus a number of smaller ones?

There are a few ways to handle this. You can create dedicated areas within your community and form topic-based channels. You can also do location-based channels or other dimensions. I think it’s important to check if you want to group people based on demographics or psychographics. It’s more likely based on psychological criteria, and people will gather around those areas.

Another thing you can do is create communities in other places. There are social groups or third party tools that you can use to invite people to go there. This will be self-selecting, some people don’t like going to Facebook, so there will be a small segment of people who are active there but not in Slack, and vice versa.

What's the most exciting thing you've seen the community achieve?

I'll give an example outside of my community - Wikipedia. Steven is one of the many Wikipedians who chose to dedicate their time and energy to build the world's free online encyclopedia. I think this is one of the best examples of what can happen when everyone co-design a product.

If you don’t have time to watch the video:

  • Steven is responsible for 1/3 edits for Wikipedia
  • Wrote 40k+ original articles
  • Spends 3 hours per day
  • Named Time’s one of the 25 most influential people in the internet

He exemplifies the value of a community builder and shows a group can achieve when driven by passion/interest.

If you think back to when you first started in community, is there a piece of advice you wish you'd received?

Understand that community is about the strength of connection between the members, and that’s measured through engagement, quality feedback, and overall vibe. Know the difference between audience vs. community.