Communities, like the people in them, are diverse and can include users, customers, developers, prospects, and more. Therefore, growing a community looks different from one organization to the next.
However, here at Common Room, we know that while communities are unique, most grow across the same community maturity curve and go through three phases of community growth.
It’s important to know where you are in your community maturity curve because:
Keep reading to learn more about each phase of community growth and how to intelligently grow your community. To learn from community leaders who span these phases, join the discussion in the Uncommon Community Slack.
Building a robust and healthy community can help you achieve your business goals. Think about it: the more you can support your members and help these users overcome challenges, the more likely they will stick with you and or your product.
Some of the specific benefits of nurturing a strong community include:
Bottom line: Whether you are a community of practice or a community of product, growing and activating a healthy community can help your reach your growth goals faster.
Community growth happens across a maturity curve with three phases: seeding, cultivating, and measuring.
At each stage, your community will have unique needs, challenges to overcome, and specific metrics to track success.
As you get your community off the ground, your sole focus should be ensuring your members are getting the help and resources they need to be successful.
For example, if you have an open source community, providing live and real-time support to help community members when they run into a challenge implementing or (even better) committing code.
The seed phase is mostly support-based, reactive, and temporary, meaning you will be doing things that are not sustainable long-term but necessary to get your community going (e.g., 1:1 product help or customer service, small group feedback sessions).
This phase is all about building those initial relationships with your end users and establishing your community as a place where members can find support. Nurturing these early relationships will bear future fruit in the form of community and product champions.
At seed, your community is predominantly support-based, so you want to ensure you’re responsive to member needs. You should also track key community health metrics to ensure your community is growing as your move towards the next phase.
As your community matures, community teams will facilitate more ways for members to interact with the product, the company, and each other, to cultivate the community's growth. This includes both additional programs as well as new community channels.
In this phase, you’ll also start to identify and activate your most engaged, enthusiastic, and influential community contributors.
As an increasing number of members join and engage with your community, you’ll be looking for opportunities to scale the work your doing. A great way to do this is through the top champions and contributors in your community: your superfans.
Amplify any resources these members are already creating, like blog posts, presentations, meetups, and more, and partner with these members to fill existing gaps in your content. Community generated content is great because it both takes some of the creation burden off of your team and also it is often perceived as more trustworthy by community members and prospects who are considering your offering.
You want to make it easy (and enticing) for these community superfans to share their expertise through things like champion or nurture programs. Be sure you’re recognizing and rewarding these members for their valuable contributions based on their individual motivations.
Building a thriving community also involves multiple channels of communication, engagement, and education. You’ve likely started with chat and social channels like Slack, Discord, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but will see the need to grow into additional dedicated channels for education, support, and collaboration.
In phase two, organizations typically interact with their community on at least four channels. Many community tech stacks start to look like this in the cultivating growth phase.
While you should still keep an eye on the health metrics from the seed stage, in phase two, it becomes important to differentiate between engagement and impact. Use metrics to determine which members, actions, activities, and content are most impactful.
As your community grows and proliferates across channels, using an intelligent community growth platform can give you a unified view and help you determine who your key contributors, champions, and advocates are as you continue along your community growth journey.
In the impact phase, phase three, it is critical for community leaders to understand and showcase how community engagement correlates to product adoption and revenue.
Measuring and demonstrating impact or proving your community’s ROI is critical to earn buy-in from stakeholders and set your community up for enduring success past the seed and scale stages. For your members, demonstrating the value of community to the business secures future and further investment in them—the members.
You know you are in phase 3 because you have attained a high level of maturity and are prepared to demonstrate bottom-line company impact by tying community to key business metrics like:
In phase three, you bring together the tools, processes, and people to be able to articulate the impact of community to the C-suite. You will likely still be working on growing your community (phase 2) even as you start to report on its impact on the business—this is a great sign and should accelerate your growth efforts.
Asana is a great example of an organization with a mature community program that can tie its work to business goals. They look at business metrics like event-driven product adoption and community-attributed revenue to measure the success of their community-led growth efforts.
Many companies, like Asana and Ecosystems, have come to realize that community can drive business results in parallel with GTM strategies like product-led growth and often faster than traditional sales and marketing approaches.
Combining community engagement with product usage and revenue data unlocks a whole new set of metrics to demonstrate the impact of your program on the business and gives you insight into how you can accelerate community-led growth.
With aggregated data from across your community channels, social sites, and CRM, you can get a holistic view of your members and how organizations are engaging with your business. These insights are invaluable to proving the power of your community program.
It’s important to recongize that maturing from phase to phase and scaling your community without friction can be aided with support of community tooling. Be thoughtful in building your community technology stack based on the needs of your community in each phase.
Yet each of these new tools brings with it a new set of metrics to measure. Using a community growth platform like Common Room allows you to see all of the members, activities, and organizations in your community in one place, so you can understand your community at a glance and take action to better engage your members.
Regardless of which stage you’re in, integrating data across your systems and tools is critical in scaling your community efforts. With Common Room you can bring together your community engagement across all channels—including revenue data and product usage—to unlock the metrics key in each phase that will help you accelerate both your community and business growth.