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Are you ready to create a community?  One that people will find helpful and complements the products and services you offer?

But you haven’t hit the go button just yet?  Maybe hesitating just a bit?  Not sure if you’ve got things lined up or even if your community will work?

Guess what. 

It’s probably a good thing you ARE hesitating!

(I bet that wasn’t what you expected to hear!)

When you ask online gurus for advice, they’ll usually tell you, “take action.  Just do it”.

And usually they would be right.  But not this time.

Communities are tricky to get right.  You need the right people as members.  With the right attitude.  And the right behaviours.  And those members should feel like they are getting massive value. 

And you should feel like you’re being fairly remunerated for the hard work you’re putting in.

Because it is HARD, HARD work.

But what’s exciting about communities is that if you get all the puzzle pieces right, those communities will make a huge difference for the people in them.  And your life will be better for having made it so.

I use Circle as my community management tool of choice.  You can read more about why here

Not only does this great community management software work, but recently, I interviewed Circle co-founder Andrew Guttormsen on my Online Business Launchpad podcast

Andrew shared their approach for developing great communities.  And he said that Circle is always talking with the community managers they support.  Plus the 15,000 people they have in their own community.  Asking questions and gathering information.

And based on their research, they’ve delivered an evidence-based report that will help you, as an emerging community leader, get your community set up for success.  

Circle’s Community Benchmark report unveils the exact, proven tactics that their most thriving communities owe their success to, with step-by-step instructions on how to implement them in your very own community.

In the report, Circle refers to the most successful communities as being “Platinum” communities.  And they found that there are some specific things that these platinum communities do that the other communities (who aren’t as successful) do not do.

 

10 Things That Successful Communities Do (That Others Don’t)

According to Circle's Community Benchmark report:

1. Platinum communities have superior engagement, but on the surface, their businesses look a lot like typical communities.

“75% have 500 or fewer members, nearly 60% don’t have any full-time help, and half of them use three or fewer tools to manage their community.”

In other words, bigger is not always better.  If you’re worried that your community will be tiny, then you can relax and stop worrying.  

It’s not the size that matters, it’s how much members feel like they are a part of that particular community.  And engagement levels are a good indicator of of how members are feeling.

 

2. Platinum creators don’t spend tons of money on new member acquisition

“Half of them don’t spend any money on it at all. However, they do use significantly more acquisition channels than standard creators, including social media, email, and YouTube.”

This might seem like an obvious no-brainer.  The more people you (or not-so-secret-secret, your members) tell about your community, the more people know about it.   And on a straight numbers basis, the more people are likely to join.  So you don’t need to spend a lot to get new members.

If that thought makes your heart sink a bit, just know … it can be really hard for new community managers to be on lots of channels.  If you’re a solopreneur or have a tiny team, there’s just not enough hours in the day to be everywhere. 

However, based on my experience, once you’ve mastered one channel, then you can reuse existing content and publishing processes to add in a second channel and a third, etc. if it makes sense to do so.

All that is required is patience and taking the time to document and refine your processes. 

3. Platinum creators prioritize onboarding and get it done in half the time.

The Community Benchmark report tells us:

“Platinum creators do four key things that makes their onboarding process more successful: 

  • They approach the process with a deep level of empathy 
  • They provide new members with immediate value and quick wins
  • They find ways to make new members feel seen and appreciated
  • They leverage the power of existing members and automation”

I think that says it all.  

The faster you can bring your new community members in, get them settled and help them make big leaps of progress, the better for everyone … including you and your team.

 

Image shows 3 women gathered around a desk and looking at a laptop

4. Platinum creators owe a big part of their success to consistently hosting events.

“100% of Platinum creators host events.  On top of that, they organize more of every type of event in comparison to standard creators, like group discussions, orientation sessions, and Q&As.”

I was a bit surprised to read this.

But with a bit of reflection, it makes sense.  The more events there are, the more community members can participate and engage.  And the more highly engaged members tend to stay longer, at least in my experience.

It does raise a question though … how do you, as a solopreneur or member of a tiny team … provide lots of events?

The secret is to pace yourself.  

Last year, my Online Business Liftoff community had a mix of different events, ranging from co-working sessions to workshops to planning sessions, to individual coaching sessions.  But we didn’t do them all at once. 

We spread them across the year so they were doable.  That spreading out meant that it didn’t wear out the community members either, all of whom are  … surprise, surprise … very busy people.

 

5. Not only do Platinum creators host more events, they also get more people to attend.

Circle explains how platinum creators get people not just sign up, but show up to events.  To paraphrase, the report says that they:

  • Attract the right people
  • Give people what they want
  • Remind them about the event and then remind them again … and again

Remember my “ton” of events from last year that I ran for my community?

How did I know what events to run?  

I asked my members what they needed.  They told me and I delivered.  

It wasn’t always easy, but because the members knew they were getting something they felt they needed, they were much, much more likely to show up AND feel like they had gotten value out of the event.

So I recommend that you do the same.  Ask your new members what would be the most useful type of event for them, give it to them and see how they respond.  

But just a heads up when it comes to asking people what they want … sometimes members say they want something … and then don’t show up.  I’ve been in memberships run by some pretty high profile people where that was the case.

No shows can happen to the most successful community managers. 

And that can be pretty demoralizing.

So like the Community Benchmark report says, remind them again and again and again and again.

One of the things I like about the reminder system I have (which includes Circle’s built in functionality), is that it’s automated and just sends out reminder emails without me even having to think about it.

But even then, sometimes people don’t show.  So listen to what people DO, not just what they say.  Sometimes people think they need one thing, but they actually need something else.

So a good community manager will not assume the reason for the no show.  They will reach out and ask whether something had kept people from attending (like a quick trip to the hospital with a sick kid), or something else. 

If it turns out to be poor time management practices, maybe that's something you can help your members get better at doing. 

The key point is …  see if you can dig into why people REALLY didn’t show.  You may be surprised.

 

6. Platinum creators prioritize retention much more than standard creators.

Have you heard the old saying that it’s cheaper and easier to keep existing customers than it is to get new customers?  Well it’s true.  And the findings from the Community Benchmark report support that.

The 80/20 rule seems rather appropriate here.  If you're not sure how to split your time, then try focusing 80% of your time keeping your wonderful community members you already have and 20% hunting for new ones.

And keep an eye on your churn rate and tweak your approach appropriately.

‘Nuff said.

 

White Lightbulb and question marks on a blue background

7. Platinum creators experiment more with re-engagement tactics.

In fact, Circle reports that:

“A third of creators (Platinum and standard) don’t have a consistent process for bringing back disengaged members, but Platinums are more likely to experiment with re-engagement tactics.”

So reengagement is something all community creators struggle with, but the successful ones focus on it more by trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t.

Seems like a good idea to build re-engagment into your community processes right from the very get-go.  And give yourself permission to experiment. 

It will pay off over time.

 

8. What Platinum creators don’t tend to do is offer discounts.

Instead, they offer value. 

How might you add value?  You could include:

  • an extra training on a particular topic as a bonus 
  • bringing in an expert to talk about something that members are struggling with
  • or running a hands-on Q&A-style workshop where you help members solve problems on the spot
  • the value you can add is only limited by your imagination

I’ve often created resources such as mini-courses or infographics and shared them with the community.  Sometimes, seeing a picture can help explain more than talking for an hour ever could. 

As a result, my community has access to a wealth of resources that simply aren’t available to anyone else.

 

9. Platinum creators monetize their community more than standard creators.

“Only 7% of Platinum communities are free, compared to 21% of standard ones. The remaining 93% of Platinum communities charge for access or offer the community as an add-on to another purchase.”

I’ve experimented with free communities in the past and I honestly think that while there is a place for them, most communities are better off charging members.  

Why?

Because people value what they pay for.  And the more they pay (obviously within their available budget), the more they are likely to turn up and work hard to get value out of their investment.  Because we tend to focus on what we value.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule. 

For example, when you get a grant or the government funds the work you do to help people who truly cannot afford to pay, but who value the opportunity they are being given.

So think about this.  If you’re considering setting up a free community, how long can you keep offering up your precious time (which you can never get back)? 

And will the people in your free community value your time and what you do for them as much as you do?

  1. Platinum creators do not have more money, employees, or hours in the day than standard creators.

“What they do have is a profound understanding of their members that they pair with creative, smart tactics.” 

If you’d like some insight into what you need to start a successful community I recommend that you download the whole report and read it right through.

And if you'd like some help with getting your community set up for success, check out this short training that Jillian Benbow, Director of Community Experience for SPI Media (Pat Flynn and Matt Garland’s Smart Passive Income business) and I collaborated on.  

Introduction To Community Management

Do You Do Those 10 Things That Successful Communities Do?

So here’s the kicker.  The report tells us that: 

“only 7% of respondents have “jumbo” communities with more than 5,000 members, while 4 in 5 respondents have 500 or fewer community members. It’s actually much more common to have a smaller community, and most importantly—that doesn’t make it any less successful or lucrative.”

So size is not a reason for thinking that your emerging community is (or might be) a failure.  In terms of community success, size doesn’t matter. 

And I can vouch for this, myself.  I have a very small community of carers who have started an online business and are now working to grow it.

Small in size, yes.  Tiny, even.  But the level of engagement is very high at our live co-working sessions.

So remember:

  • Engagement matters
  • Using multiple channels to let people know about your community works better than spending lots of money on member acquisition
  • Prioritise getting your members onboarded
  • Host lots of different types of events
  • Focus on attendance at those events
  • Keeping your members longer is easier/cheaper than finding new ones
  • Experiment with reengagement tactics
  • Don’t offer discounts.  Provide extra value instead
  • You’ve got just as much time (and quite possibly money) as many of the successful community creators that Circle’s Community Benchmark report references  

And now that you know what really matters in building a successful community that ticks all the boxes for your members and for you, go out there and take action.

Start by doing the following:

  1. Read the report
  2. Identifying areas where you know you could improve.
  3. Create a checklist of small steps you can quickly take to move your community towards success
  4. Decide what you're going to do first
  5. Go do it

And there you have it.  I hope that's been helpful.

All the best with building an amazing community of people.

Affiliate links disclaimer:

Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means that if you click the link and make a purchase, Online Business Liftoff will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  For which we thank you because it helps us continue to work with carers who need a way to earn money for themselves and their families.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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