Getting into the weeds of what makes a community great from the member point of view.
Recently, I spoke with my friend Andrew Barry on The Learning Culture podcast, and we talked about all things community. If you’ve listened to this show for a while, you know that community is really important to me and also an area where I have a lot of experience – having sold a community in the past and then also working with Pat Flynn and SPI last year.
This episode is super tactical and specific about building community and some of the pitfalls to avoid. If you’re interested in community-building, I think you’ll really like it.
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Jay Clouse 00:00
Hey, this week I wanted to share something a little bit different. Recently, I spoke with my friend Andrew on the learning culture podcast. And we talked about all things community. If you've listened to the show for a while, you know that community is really important to me and also an area where I have a lot of experience having sold a community in the past, and then also leading the community team for Pat Flynn and SPI last year, this conversation gets super tactical and specific about building community and some of the pitfalls to avoid. If you're interested in community building, I think you're really going to like it. And if you are interested in community building, I also wanted to let you know that last week I released a brand new course called Build a beloved membership. This course covers everything I know about building a paid membership community that people love and keep coming back to, it really breaks down a lot of what I've learned in the past. And also with my current membership, the lab, you can learn more and enroll at beloved membership.com. And a link to that is in the show notes. Members of the lab get this course as part of their membership. So if you're interested in surrounding yourself with other professional creators, consider joining the lab at creator science.com/lab. A link to that is in the show notes as well. And finally, if you enjoy this episode, check out Andrews work at curious lion learning.com. You guessed it, that link is also in the show notes. We'll get to that full episode right after this.
Jay Clouse 01:29
My experience the best communities almost have like a heartbeat, that if you're truly involved and engaged in this thing being successful, you can just feel it. This is a huge investment of effort and time and like empathy on the part of you and your team. Typically when I see communities die, it's because somebody's lying to themselves about the level of care they actually have for this thing.
I think it's terribly important to insist on the individual values, learning culture, initiative, creation, all the things which we value, it's now possible to make organizations on a larger scale than was ever possible before learning culture podcast, teach people to analyze the kinds of things that are said to them.
Andrew Barry 02:25
What's up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of the learning culture podcast. I'm your host Andrew Berry and joining me this week was Jay Clouse, J helps creators earn a living. I met Jay on Twitter, where the Creator economy really took off in about 2020. And throughout the pandemic J has impressed me ever since I met him with his ability to build community, and most importantly to talk about community. Jay is the writer of creative science, phenomenal newsletter for entrepreneurs in the creative space and the host of creative elements and narrative interview podcast exploring how today's top creators make a living with their art and creativity. He previously led the community experience team for Pat Flynn, and Smart Passive Income, which is a multimillion dollar online course and community. He designed their paid membership community and cohort based programs, and has gone on to much success with his own versions of those since then, I first sat down with Jay early last year to talk about community building for a private community I was running at the time, this conversation just over a year later is a chance to revisit some of those ideas and to unpack the new insights that Jay has to share and boy weren't that many. I don't want to give away too much about this episode. But if you are thinking of building a community now, this could be a learning community. It could be a cohort based program within your company. It could be a gathering of professionals that you're trying to bring together, any of those things are potentially communities and we start this episode by unpacking whether or not you should actually be building a community. With that as a jumping off point, you will learn about uncovering the job to be done for your community. Why making it peer to peer instead of one way is so so critical. Why making the implicit explicit is going to help you define the rules of engagement for your community, how to increase the surface area of one on one connections at a human level with members what to do with rockstars and lurkers in your community, how to create spaces for people and to set milestones for members. And finally, how to know when your community is coming to an end and what to do about it. I consider Jay one of the foremost experts on building community. I think this is a an incredibly important topic and a growing one in the space of corporate learning enablement and education. And I think you're gonna learn a lot from his experiences in the Creator economy. So without further ado, let's sit back, relax and enjoy my conversation with Jay Clouse. J what's up? Welcome to the show.
Jay Clouse 05:15
What up Andrew in house excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Andrew Barry 05:19
Yeah, but I'm pumped. And it's funny because I don't I didn't get you on my previous podcast, how did you learn that we did do stuff together in my time. And on deck, we recorded some stuff for that community, around community. So it is a real pleasure to kind of break this stuff down with you for for this audience, right. People that are out there listening now are interested in building communities of professionals at their place of work. It's a buzzword in the space. So I'd love to start with kind of how you got started in community and you focus on Create working with creators and helping them build community and you've sort of built your name around doing just that yourself or for the communities that you've worked in. And now run yourself. So how did it get started? When did you kind of see the potential for community?
Jay Clouse 06:13
What really got started in about 2012, when I began organizing startup weekend events here locally in Columbus, Ohio, those were three day events, Friday through Sunday, where we'd bring in like 100 people. And over the course of three days, we would help people ideate companies validate an idea and then like pitch, a startup company at the end of the weekend. And on the back end of that, I just built my own community here locally to be pretty strong in the startup space. And then as an organizer, I was invited to do a lot of like the Startup Weekend organizer retreats that we did. And as I became a facilitator, which is like one level above that, then I got to be more involved in that smaller community of people. So just from that, you know, I went from participant to organizer to facilitator. And there were like three concentric circles of levels of community in the startup weight in the Startup Weekend. ecosystem. And that was awesome. Like, that changed my life that changed the people that I spent my time around, it changed what I was interested in doing with my life, changed everything for me. And then in 2017, when I went out on my own and started this journey of being self employed, I started what was essentially a facilitated mastermind program. And, you know, I would work with groups of five, and I would work with two to three groups at a time. And we would meet once a week for an hour, you know, pretty standard masterminding stuff. But on the back end of that I wanted to be able to communicate between calls. So I just dropped everybody who went through the program into a Slack channel, let them stay there, in over like a three, three and a half year period, that slack grew to be about 110 people. And back in the day, I mean, like, all this sounds like super standard now. But in 2017, like, people weren't really using slack for community stuff, I had to explain to people how to download and use Zoom, because most people came into the program hadn't used it before. And that was kind of the start of it. And that got the attention of Matt Gartland, who is Pat Flynn's business partner, he experienced that community. And in 2020, during the pandemic, SPI Smart Passive Income, accelerated their interest in starting a community of their own for their audience, and asked me to come in and consult on helping build that and launch that.
Andrew Barry 08:38
So I mentioned like chicken in the egg, right? What what comes first? Yeah, like there was in both those cases you described, you know, both SPI and your case, there was a there was a group of people, a community and I'm using air quotes for anybody that's sitting on the audio version. And then you kind of formalize that you've talked about slacks is obviously a technology component as well, can you just talk through that like chicken and the egg, like what what needs to happen first, to be able to create a community? Well, there needs
Jay Clouse 09:10
to be a shared interest or a shared purpose. And this is why a lot of communities fall flat is because people think I have an audience, there are community platforms. Let me throw the two together, and voila, we'll have a community, but they don't think about what the actual purpose or job to be done of that community is for the people who are in that community. And you know, what usually happens, then people will, if they do, in fact, join a lot of cases they won't even join because like, what is this thing for, but if they do join usually on the strength of their relationship to the individual or the brand or the organization, they will close that loop with their own assumption of here's what I think I'm going to get out of this community. And now depending on how many members join that space, you have untold dozens, hundreds, many Even 1000s of different expectations of what people are going to get out of it because you didn't set an expectation. And so now you're immediately set up for massive failure because you have no idea how to win with these people who are trying to join this thing. So you really have to have a purpose and understand what is the job to be done for the people, that the model of the community actually solves that problem.
Andrew Barry 10:25
I love that. So this this jives with a lot with what we do as as curious lion and our consulting work is we call it a shared vision. So there has to be some purpose. I think that's the key word there for me. What we've learned, what we've learned is that that isn't something that's top down, it's not the community starting the community, you know, owner or manager deciding what that is, right? It's it comes from in York, you know, there's 110 people. So can you talk through, like how you've seen, and if you agree that that shared purpose evolves from individual purposes?
Jay Clouse 11:02
Well, it can, I mean, ultimately, if there's going to be a community, to me, a community is peer to peer that's like, why you build a community in the first place is you want to build connections between members within that network, if you're just trying to be top down and share gated resources and things with a select group of people who have paid for it, that doesn't need to be a community at all, that can just be a membership. And, you know, it could be a paid newsletter, it can be any number of things that don't revolve involve peer to peer. So if it is going to be peer to peer, there's a reason that people should want to connect with each other. And so yes, I agree that that purpose needs to be redid rooted in the needs of the people that you're pulling into this space. But ultimately, you have to have your finger on that pulse and say this, this is what I'm seeing, this is what we're going to do here. And then of course, be open to iterations and things like that. But you need to use that purpose as a filter on the front end, to make sure that the space self selects accurately for the people who want the thing that that space is providing.
Andrew Barry 12:08
Yeah, I love that. It's making the implicit explicit, yeah, that's the role of that community member. Yeah, sort of naming the thing that you're seeing happen organically so that others can go Oh, yes, that's what we're doing.
Jay Clouse 12:21
Yes. And also, I had a call in our community, the lab yesterday, we do these things called hot seats, which is basically a 30 minute one on one coaching session that I'll do with a member that other members can basically join and watch. And then it's recorded and shared as an asset for the rest of the community. We had a conversation yesterday, a member has their own community, and it's kind of quiet. And he's saying, how do we get this thing to be active again. And what I identified as a problem was he didn't know ahead of time to find a purpose. So we have this question of like, why are people joining? What are they expecting, we don't know. So in relaunching it is the same process as launching it, you define that purpose of here's, here's what we're here to do, then you also need to explicitly share with people how they engage with the thing to get that outcome, like here is how you engage with this pre setting of expectations. Then once they join, you want to reinforce those expectations, again, of here's what you're gonna get, here's how you engage with it. And then you need to get them into that experience engaging for the first time, and have that be a gratifying experience for them. So it's alignment, it's reinforcement, that, yes, your assumptions are correct. And yes, you did it correctly. And yes, because you did it correctly, you got out of it, what you expected to, and then you just rinse and repeat that type of process for people.
Andrew Barry 13:42
Yeah. Over and over. Yeah. So I want to go back through this because I think there's a there's a framework developing Yeah, that you clearly have. And I want to paint that picture for for the folks watching and listening. So I'll get back to the job to be done. I think that's an interesting point that there is a a purpose or use a need that's been fulfilled here. And relating to the PRPs that fulfillment of that job to be done is not by the community manager or community created, it is by each other. It's peer to peer. And I think that's such a key point. And so when you say it can just be a subscription, that's when like, oh, I have this this knowledge that I want to share to people it's one way transaction that that's not a community that is there are other ways to monetize that. So I think that's already a huge unluck Can you talk through your first experience in that startup community and then also with with Pat Flynn's and then even now in your in your current iteration? What can you give some flavor some examples of what those jobs to be done
Jay Clouse 14:48
with? Yeah, well in the first community that I started, well, okay, a few things started weekend community that job to be done. On the surface. People thought the job to be done was hey, learn how to build and start a startup company, and that was kind of true, really what we were teaching through that process, though, was how to validate ideas, how to like, find your first customers. So there were a lot of like, in product management, we would call this. What's what's it's like, explicit value and discoverable value, basically, where on the on the surface, you say, here is, here is what you're gonna get. And that's true. And that's what gets people to sign up. But you know, what actually people get the most out of is the discoverable thing that's hard to market. In, in my version, yeah. In my first community, unreal collective, that promise was the typical mastermind promise, which was like you come in, you're at point A, we're getting you to point B with your project. We define that off the bat. So really, it was like, did you achieve point B through that process? Current community that I'm doing now, the lab, it's a very similar model of point A to point B, what I saw with that was, I'm swimming in this pretty red ocean of people trying to help creators. And what I realized was, there's just no way that I can teach you in a pre recorded course, or even a single cohort based course how to go from, I'm making stuff, but I'm not earning a living to earning a living, like, the landscape changes, the tools change the tactics change. Not to mention, it just takes a really long time to do all the mini projects along the way to get there. So to me, I was like, Okay, I'm going to have this space that changes with you. Like, that's why the model is community because the land all these things, I just said, all these things change. And I'm not going to get you to a to be in like, a 12 module course or whatever, because of all those changes. So community as a model made sense to help people get to that finish line. Yeah.
Andrew Barry 16:55
I love that point about the space changing with the members. So when you know that you don't have a, you couldn't possibly make it a predefined linear path for people. That community makes sense. So I want to just dig a little bit more into this jobs to be done piece, because it seems like from what you're saying, in all of your cases, that it was something that was evident, like, superficially evidence about what that job to be done was, but then there was something more deep, there was something deeper that sort of evolved out of it. And what if you could sort of tag on that a bit, expand that, like, what what have you learned about that evolution,
Jay Clouse 17:33
most people implicitly understand that the value in a community is learning from other people. So it's become like almost a joke to say that, hey, in our community, you surround yourself with and learn and connect with like minded individuals. Yeah, of course you do. But that's not that's no longer explicit value to me, to me, that is like the discoverable thing that people stick around for and tell people about, but like, that's not enough as a marketing promise anymore, because it doesn't set the right expectations. And it puts all of the onus on the individual, to not only have to decide to join this space, but now they have to do a lot of the work of connecting with people for the most part. So I like to encourage community builders, to basically have some more specific predefined explicit value, that you can really control that experience for people. And then if they you know, connect with like minded individuals and learn a lot along the way, that's great. They will, but I really want people to hang their hat on some other aspects of membership, that they can control that experience that the expectation optimized for getting people to engage in that way, in the first place. Show that to be a good experience. Yeah, because honestly, like, I think a lot of communities are going to just implode over the next year or two years, you know, three years max, because we just, we got too many of them now, and most of them are really bad, because they just do this, like very lazy, here's the platform, you like me you like our company join this thing. People have a bad experience, we can only meaningfully engage in so many communities anyway. So people are going to scale back to one or two communities they really value the most. And those communities are gonna be the ones that provide real explicit, you know, transformation or value.
Andrew Barry 19:24
Yeah, there's that word transformation. So we're definitely gonna come back to that. So yeah, so I think this idea of that that explicit value, that's not not the discoverable value that the reason people are together. I wondering if you could, you know, there, I'm sure you've seen so many so many of these. And I wonder if you could kind of categorize what what are those deep down needs? That that could be solved, right? Like, you know, there's like often I think you're picking up what I'm putting down here like, just I want to give people like A few things to hang their hat on to say like, Oh, my community might solve that need.
Jay Clouse 20:04
Yeah, there's, there's three of them, I would say, one is transformation, which he talks about, like, I'm at point A, I want to go to point B. Another is identity, people just don't know that much about themselves. Like, we're in a world where we consume so much information all the time that it's like, I am told what to think so often that like, I'm not even making most of my own decisions anymore. You know, and so, when people engage with something in such a way that it actually makes them feel like they've learned something about themselves. That is super, super, super powerful. You know, you see this, you saw this with on deck, you see it with ship 30. When somebody goes through an experience, and it is so impactful for them, they they start to identify themselves with, you know, like I was on deck fellowship this because it was just so important to them, that now that's become part of their identity. I'm blanking on the third one that usually talks about, I'm like, low key trying to pull up.
Andrew Barry 21:06
Yeah, well, you sneakily doing that, I just want to I want to draw a sort of a connection between those two as well, because that identity, crystallizing of identity and the transformation, both are rooted in a journey of self discovery and self awareness, which I think is one of the most powerful things I've seen of community that helps people kind of unlock can uncover blind spots about themselves, that are only possible that is only possible to do through the reflections of others. You know, that's kind of one of the best parts about this as your community members hold up a mirror to you and help you see things. And it's, it's therapy, really, right. Like, at the end of the day, it's therapy at scale. If you get into that community that you feel safe, and all that kind of stuff. And those things we'll talk about in a second, I'm still, we're still kind of in that like, pre community, should you even have a community Yeah.
Jay Clouse 22:00
And the third one, which is so obvious that I didn't even think of as part of this framework, it was just human connection, because we are, we are social beings, and we crave that but to me, no longer is that like, enough. To me, that's just table stakes. Like if you're going to have a community that needs to be a part of it. But we have a lot of options now for human connection online, which is still not as good as human connection in person. So that's table stakes. To me, what you really want to focus on, in my opinion, is transformation in some way. Yeah. And that's going to look different for every community and what your people need, what point A they're at and what point B they're trying to get to.
Andrew Barry 22:39
Yep, yeah, I love that. I would even actually throws back at you that it is table stakes, I agree in the world that you and I met in in the sort of creative space. I think in in some sort of more corporate settings, more professional settings, it is not yet recognize as such a big deal human connection, and I think once only once people experience it, do they go, Oh, shit, that was? That was amazing. I need more of this in my life.
Jay Clouse 23:06
I can believe that I did. Seth Godin called MBA in 2017. And I'm actually I wasn't that into it. I didn't think it was that impressive or great. But I don't think I was a fit for it. Because what I think all NBA did for a lot of people was give them this connection with people who are also like, hard chargers, a players and not surrounded by those type of people. I wasn't liking that. So to me, like, that wasn't enough for me to care about this, like, Yeah, but I did see that most of the people that took on MBA were in corporate settings, and were like, wow, I didn't know there were people like me out there. And I'm like, of course there are. But like, that's, that's not a people. It's not my world.
Andrew Barry 23:50
Yeah, yeah. No, I think that's a great point, I think and I think, yeah, I just think it points to a big opportunity for communities and community workers still to be uncovered. You know, I think there's, I think there's a long way to go in this space. Okay, so. So I think we've painted a good picture of kind of why you would want to have a community how you might think about conceptualizing it. So so let's talk about the formation of it. One of the things, one of the things that stuck with me when we last spoke about this, in that in that private community, was this idea of increasing the surface area of one on one connections. And it was something that you you mentioned, like so critical at the very beginning of starting a community. So can you talk through that for for listeners? Yeah,
Jay Clouse 24:36
you because I have this peer to peer lens for community. I want to connect peers to peers as quickly as possible. Because to me, like what makes your community space sticky? is when people are like that thing, that space is what I engage with, to bridge my connection to other people. It's Actually, here's here's a fascinating thing that we've learned at SPI last year, we, part of the membership that we found to be really highly engaging and valuable to people was creating mastermind groups within the community. It was something I'd done before. So I said, let's just do this within the community here. And ostensibly, there's no reason, once people were in those mastermind groups to stay in the community if they only wanted to engage with their group, because they could they could just share numbers on a zoom call. They could they could leave, they can text each other, have a group chat outside of circle, and just meet on their own. And nobody did that. No, nobody did. When when there would be like a very rare situation where somebody would not renew their membership, they would ask their mastermind groups if they could keep meeting, and the mastermind group said, no. That's incredible to me. And what that means is, those people understood the value they were receiving was a byproduct of the space. And they appreciated and valued the space because of it, even though at that point in that way of engaging, it was not strictly necessary. So being the bridge between people is super, super important. And to me that looks like after somebody joins, how do you get them to have a human interaction with somebody else as quickly as possible. And it might be you, depending on the size of your community, like my membership, we have 150 Members, I'm capping it at 200. Everyone who joins, I have a 30 minute one on one welcome call with personally, because I know that's a huge investment in the culture and as a huge investment in that person's experience with the space. And then by having that conversation, I know more about them. And I can connect them intelligently to other people in the community. And of course, we have live events every week as well. Some communities will do a kickoff call or even like a group orientation call. And that's all great, too. But you want to have some way to create a human connection with people as quickly as you can. Yeah.
Andrew Barry 26:57
Yeah, that's huge. Even though that's 100 hours of your time, that is 100% worthwhile for you. It's your host, Andrew here, I wanted to take a second just to say that if you're enjoying this podcast, we would love it, if you did a couple of things for us. If you're watching this on YouTube, please hit that subscribe button, it really allows us to grow the channel and reach a lot more people like you. If you're listening to this on Apple podcasts, take a moment to leave us a rating and review, it's a great way to give us some feedback and to tell the world what you think about this podcast. So whether you listen to it on YouTube, or you're listening to it as a podcast, if you take one of those actions, it would mean the world to me and my team. Thank you. And with that right back to the show. So I'm gonna go back to this point that you make about the that SBI example. So I have heard and seen communities that stay together sort of during the thing, the event that brought them together, but then start to dissipate over time. And I've even heard that they, you know, start to kind of meet within their cliques separately. So what do you think was what let's I want to get a bit more detail, like what was SBI doing really well, that made people want to stay at their meet there.
Jay Clouse 28:13
I think it's two things, there was a lot of affinity with the brand. For one. We also, you know, there were a lot of programming and member benefits outside of those groups. So I think all told people were like, This is all really good. Even though I'm mostly taking advantage of this member benefit over here. I do get some value out of this, this and this. And so that's all worthwhile. The bigger issue I see for people who are in this camp is they set up their community is is predicated on some really intense time bound experience could be a cohort based course could be group coaching, could be something where it's like, hey, for the next X number of weeks, we're really intensely going to meet. And then they don't think about the after. And so they don't kick people out, they still give them access to a community space, but they don't really like think intentionally about the experience design of what happens after that. And they're also usually not being compensated for that either. It's like, well, you went to the program, that's how we got our money. And now we're gonna keep, we're gonna retain access to the space, but we're not really incentivized to maintain it, improve it, make it great. And we're not going to give you any direction of how you engage now that this thing is over. And so it's two things people will feel like, well, I don't know how to engage. And also they feel like I wasn't given a graceful exit or a graceful exit opportunity. I wasn't given the opportunity to say okay, I experienced this transformation. I did what I I wanted to do, I should be able to celebrate and move on and walk away from this thing and choose what to do with my time elsewhere. But they have this just like zombie you know, community space with no direction. No real management, no facilitation and And people were like, well, I don't know how to engage. I do know these people that I met with through that experience. So I guess we'll just keep talking about them.
Andrew Barry 30:06
Yeah. So are you saying that by giving people a sort of a graceful exit event or sort of threshold that they can walk through, some might decide not to do that, and therefore stay and be engaged in the community for
Jay Clouse 30:19
a time bound experience that has a community component, I think that should be strictly time bound. And if you want to continue to have a relationship with those people, that should be its own new experience that's designed to be ongoing with its own clear purpose, its own programming. With, like, if you have a core base core, and you want to continue working with people, awesome, have a membership and tell people at the end of the course, hey, it's awesome, you accomplish this, this is great. If you want to continue to have support, we recommend you join this membership, here's how you engage with that. And if not, is great knowing you is great working with you is great serving you and come back anytime.
Andrew Barry 31:01
Yeah, I love that door number one, door number two and let people choose. So if they took, if at all, number one was, thank you I've had, I've got my fill and I've done door number two is I want to be part of this thing ongoing. Let's talk about the so So you mentioned like, you know, human connection. I think that's that's that is at that threshold, one of the first things that happen, the other one, you mentioned sort of rules and engagements, how how people will engage, what have you seen work in, in different ways to come up with what those rules are, because I imagine that's not top down either.
Jay Clouse 31:39
I mean, in the beginning, it probably is like in the beginning, as you're starting a space top down is important so that people know what to do like it's, it's called modeling, you need to set expectations, model the behavior so that other people can see what you're doing, and then follow in that behavior. And then it becomes a self governing self reinforcing situation. But somebody has to model in the beginning, and for the community below is probably you. And even in the beginning, like when you're when people are in the community and sharing and starting conversations for the first time, you need to model behavior of responding generously and being supportive of those people before other community members do. So in the beginning, like you need a lot, a lot of time for this modeling behavior. So in terms of rules of engagement, tying back to this purpose is job to be done this this way you can engage, like it might be that you say, hey, three times a week, we have an accountability call, it's live, we get on there, you express your intention. And we work for an hour. And at the end, we talked about what we've done. And that could be like the starting point, this is what this community is doing for this group of people, we're giving this consistent structure. And it's very clear how I engage with that I show up to the calls. Now your job is just getting people to prioritize time to show up to the calls and do that. It can be honestly that simple. And then you can take any variation of that to say like once a week, we get on a call. And we talk about what we what we are seeing in the news, it's really important to our industry, we have a discussion. And then you know, we posted recording in the community, we have an asynchronous discussion from that. And we do it again next week. Like you need to have some sort of consistent thing. Rituals is a big word in the community space. But I think people take a really lazy approach to rituals most of the time, with like, hey, every Monday we post and say what are your goals for the week? And in theory that might be useful. But in practice what happens with a lot of these like rituals where you make this recurring post asking people to answer it, you're just adding something to their to do list that is in the service of engagement more so than it is in the service of that members transformation. And it's it's it's lazy, it's ineffective, and it becomes like something they resent because it's like I don't, I don't care. Like answering this only takes time from me, it's not actually helping me achieve what I'm trying to do. So whatever your ritual is, it needs to be something people look forward to. And just asking people to answer a question is usually not that
Andrew Barry 34:07
what is the best way to find out what your your community might look for to
Jay Clouse 34:11
try some things? Like, I think you should have a pretty good idea of something you can do. Like even if it is like a weekly live call a weekly live happy hour or morning coffee or accountability call or you know, group discussion and a q&a. Start with something like that. That feels pretty safe. But then you can try other formats, try things out. For example, in the lab, my community, I started with doing weekly office hours and over like a three month period attendance, those office hours started dip a little bit. So as people like why, why are you coming to office hours anymore? And they told me that while they they usually found value in going it was basically a big question mark every time of what are we going to talk about? What am I going to hear? What am I going to learn if I don't have a question? Is this even worth my time? These are busy people All people are busy people. So they it was easy for them to deprioritize that because it was unknown what they were going to get out of it. Conversely, I've started doing more of these hot seats where it was this one on one coaching call, where from the beginning that members even scheduled with me has have a pretty clearly defined challenge that they want to talk about. So now when I put that event up, people know exactly what we're going to talk about if they prioritize that time. Yeah, same with the recording, nobody's going to watch an hour long office hours recording, not knowing what was discussed unless you make great notes, a lot of work, right. But if you if you host a hot seat, where it's like, this is one specific thing we're talking about, it's very, very clear. So I deprioritize office hours, added more hot seats because of that feedback. But in the beginning, I told people join this will have weekly office hours, and that was good for people. And as that became less good, I just asked the community
Andrew Barry 35:53
to great lessons experiment, don't be afraid to experiment and ask people see what they what their answer is. On that point. Let's talk about sort of your community rock stars, right? There's inevitably, a smaller group of people, one or two people that sort of are engaged in everything, they're showing up on everything. They're kind of answering other people's questions. They're, you know, the sort of Poster Child Child of the community. How, okay, identifying them, as is easy that they're pretty self identify what what do you what is your recommendation to us to do with those people?
Jay Clouse 36:33
I haven't been asked this. So I'm thinking about it momentarily. Before I get too hot of a taser. But I'm definitely, definitely responding kind of reflexively here. So yes, a lot of the communities these people spring up. I, I try not to have that, to be honest. And I haven't, I haven't explicitly realized that I try not to have this. But as I'm thinking about my community and realizing that I have some behavior around this, because the risk with community rockstars is that they become kind of a loudest voice in the room, steal all the oxygen type of thing, where it almost creates, like a lot of these people are feeding off of what they feel as an invisible hierarchy, where they are like, a next level member of this community, it's a status thing. Yeah. And if they are allowed to feel like this is a positive status thing for them, that implicitly means that other people feel that they are not that status. So I try to keep things pretty level. That being said, when anybody in my community does the behavior that I modeled for so long, and does behavior that I want other communities to model after them, like responding quickly to other people's posts, being very helpful, being very thoughtful, taking time to get on a call with those people. I always, always, always publicly thank them for going above and beyond. And then I'll also send them a direct message and say, like, Hey, just wanted to say thank you so much for doing this. Because like you need people to know not only is that appreciated, I think a lot of people think well, yeah, you want to show appreciation to people, but you also want them to know like that was okay. Like sometimes people will feel like, well, maybe it's not my place to answer something like this, like maybe, that maybe Jay should have stepped in here. And given his opinion before I stepped in, or maybe one of these community rockstars should have weighed in on this. They know so much more than I do. So it's like showing that this behavior is okay. And not only okay, but also appreciated. That's what I typically try to do. Sometimes, like community rockstars are just in when I experienced this, I'm just like, Dude, relax, chill too much, too much. So I will actually do the opposite, where like, if somebody is like, really going ham and posting a ton there, like a disproportionate number of new topics, I will not give their posts the attention that I give other people so that their feedback is like, maybe this post in particular, wasn't appropriate for this space. You know, it's as the community grows, it's really, it's really common to see some people think it'd be a great place for me to share my stuff, you know, and in small doses, you want that, like we have we have, we have a space in our community called show your work where I do want people to share work they're really proud of, we're all creators. We have 150 creators in there. Most of us are publishing something on a weekly basis, if not daily, that people use that space to publish every little thing they made, it will become a nightmare. So I really try to impress on people like this is for things that you're especially proud of, and that you think we can learn something from not because the content itself is good, but because of the process of making it or some way that you did it differently. And when people begin to use that, I try to remove positive feedback from that.
Andrew Barry 40:00
Yeah, yeah, I don't want to spend too long on this. But it's it does bring back a lot of memories of running that 150 person community that I did for eight weeks. And one of the few people were, you know, and so they a lot of benefits to having these rock stars because they are like, you know, but have somewhat of a pulse of the community. But there is a danger that they can start to sway opinion on things to their their own interest, right. Not even better for just, and I think I definitely saw that. And I thought one thing is also just having a conversation with them to be like, hey, you know what's going on? Yeah, what? Because Because there's sometimes there's a benefit. If you got that back channel, you can actually learn a lot. It's about your community. Yeah. So yeah, I think that's a it's a good, helpful caution. So let's see what the other end of the spectrum, the laggards the people that have kind of ghosted the community that maybe feel like they're out of it. These ones you don't often, they are not evidence, right. So how do you identify these people? And then what do you do to reengage them?
Jay Clouse 41:03
Well, depending on the platform that you use, sometimes the platform like very explicitly identifies these people for you, where it's like, these people are inactive, they haven't logged in for this period of time. And so in that case, I think intervention is appropriate. There's another segment of these people that sometimes called lurk lurkers, where they are active, but they're not expressing their voice a lot. And to me, I'm all for that. I don't have any issue with that, to me, I don't measure the success of the communities I run or I work with and consult on in terms of, you know, quote, unquote, engagement, because a lot of times people use engagement metrics, as an excuse to do behavior that benefits engagement metrics, but doesn't make the user experience better. Like these rituals, where you're asking questions, or getting people to comment, great way to drive up posts, a great way to drive up comments, makes your engagement look great. Is that making your community healthier or happier? Probably not. The truest, you know, metric for me, and a paid community and not all communities are paid community. But in a paid membership. The truest metric is retention, how well do you retain your members over time, that's like a real lookout are people finding the value they expected because when they traded their money for access to the space, they expected, the value would exceed the value of that money. And if that is no longer true, that means that you are not doing something super well. So lurkers, I'm okay, with people who are disengaged, I would try to intervene with and just reach out to them. The hard thing is like, probably can't reach out to them through the community, because they're probably not paying attention, you know, so you have to go out of your way to send them an email or send them some sort of note. There's a guy named Dave Bates that I worked with briefly. And he had, he had a line that gets stuck in my head all the time, which is a community misses you when you're gone. So if you're gone, and you don't feel like you were missed, you don't feel like you're a part of that community. So that's probably, you know, reinforcing why you're not there.
Andrew Barry 43:02
Yeah, yeah. I also saw firsthand the benefit of kind of reaching out to people outside of the the inevitable decay, interruption, reaching out reaching to people outside of the sort of common platform, and just sometimes just people. Their response to that was just like, wow, you actually, you thought about me, you cared about me? Do you? So real quick on that as kind of a related point. Do you do? Do you have sort of predefined milestones and check ins for members like you that you can sort of see how
Jay Clouse 43:36
they think it's smart to have those? I personally don't have those. Mostly, because it's a difficult thing to implement and measure Well, if you don't have some sort of pretty intelligent automations that basically run these checks on some period of time, it's difficult to have those checkpoints. So I do keep an eye on inactive members and try to do some intervention. That being said, like there's only so far I will go to try and reengage inactive members, especially in a paid community space. Because there are a lot of people who are paying to be there who are finding value who are asking for my help. I'm going to invest my time in those people. So there's only so far I will go on that side of things like you will have churn, there will be churn that is okay. And sometimes it's actually