When you first begin to build your very own community, you’ll quickly come to a major realization. That is, you’ll need to bring in a few more people onboard to help you manage it. At an early stage, you need to look for a team of passionate allies. People who will show up for the community, even before it has gained momentum.
When you have no momentum, the only people who are going to show up for you are the people who give a damn already. So, you really need to dig deep and find people who truly believe in what you’re doing and what you stand for.
Hiring a full-fledged community team probably seems like a daunting task to you right now. Fret not, we’ve broken down the basics of it in this article.
The Head of Community
Most founders feel that communities are something to be added on as an afterthought. Hence, in most startups, the Head of Community is an overworked, underpaid marketing intern.
The thing is, communities are your ultimate key to raking in engagement. So, leaving all the work to a hired Head of Community might not be the best of ideas.
It’s an absolute must to have founder involvement in the early days of your community efforts. As the founder, you must serve as the de facto Head of Community, before passing the torch. This is because you're unlikely to find someone with enough skin in the game to ride the rollercoaster of early stage community building.
Trying to outsource the community from day one is a big mistake. You need that buy-in and passion from the founders to build something that stands the test of time.
At Avalon, we didn't make our first community hire until nearly a year into creating our Facebook Group and the Avalon Army.
Hiring a community professional is more a function of necessity rather than a structural need.
When you're considering building out your community team, think about the jobs-to-be-done -.
- content creation and curation
- fostering social connectivity between members
- general community operations and analytics
I always recommend hiring from the community itself. In the great hiring debate of skill-set vs cultural-fit, culture holds the trump card.
It can become painful. You have been warned.
Big things start small. But when you have limited resources, it's tempting to give up. Your early community building efforts can become painful.
I've hosted events where only two people have shown up. It's hours and hours sunk into researching, engaging and nurturing. But you have to keep at it.
Find your kindling. If you want to spark your own community, you'll need to first pinpoint your people. They are your early allies who will help manifest your idea for a community into reality.
Though there may not be many of them, the first people you involve are consequential. They will set the tone and direction for the future of your group.
It takes a handful to create a community, but only one to change it.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do I want to work with? Who brings the energy? Who are the people who already engage, contribute, or attend? Don't try to conjure motivation out of thin air. Start with keen participants.
- Assuming that the community flourishes, who will you stick with? Cultivating a community is a long-term play. Who does your organization's future rely on (eg., power users, loyal customers, key donors, passionate employees)? Who do you want to invest in?
Find the people who care about and bring the energy to the space you're working in. Spend your early-stage community building time getting to know them. This will help you figure out how you can serve them. After all, they are the backbone of your community.
Finding the right moderators
People believe that you should hire moderators externally instead of picking them from your community. This is wrong. Admins or moderators for your community should come from your community itself.
Reddit spearheaded this idea of community moderators. Every forum adopted the idea of having community moderators that volunteer for the role.
Here’s what moderators do inside a community:
- Put up announcements.
- Remove posts and comments from their community that violate rules.
- Ban spammers, trolls and members who disrupt the peace.
- (in a webinar) Kick people off of stage who violate stage rules.
- Wield some degree of influence when it comes to changing community rules and goals.
Reddit: A case study
In 2015, Reddit users and moderators started to voice their unhappiness at how the business had lost its human touch. Things had started to reach a breaking point. Moderators were not feeling supported. They had a single point of contact within the organization and when that single point of contact abruptly left, they spoke up. To get the attention of the organization, they protested. They took a number of their communities offline as a protest.
In the wake of that, Reddit brought their founder Steve Huffman back and Steve Huffman basically rebuilt the organization from scratch.
This was a scenario when a lot of trust was needed to be rebuilt with the moderators who essentially power the entire community.
So, Reddit started to organise Annual Mod Roadshows.
The intention of these events was to promote goodwill and have a good time. No karma, upvotes or downvotes. Just dinner, drinks and conversation.
The biggest positive from the roadshows was the moderators started to recognize that Reddit was still a bunch of people who cared and had the same goals.
If you can't afford to go to every house and personalise meet and greet, gift swags and personal thank you notes. Your moderators and active community members will appreciate it, and it doesn't take much effort either.
Reddit staff members (admins) were also brought into the moderation teams for 1-2 weeks and would participate in moderating alongside the volunteers.
This was incredibly powerful on both sides.
It gave moderators context of what they were doing and also a sense of what the team at Reddit did - product managers, sales people etc.
The team also hired a Community Council. This includes 50 moderators across the spectrum of subreddits. They are all under NDA and the team shares all information with them.
Now that you have a clearer idea on how to go about building your community team while promoting trust, you can probably get the ball rolling. If you face any hurdles along the way, reach out to the Scenes team, and we’ll get one of our community building experts to help you out.