Product managers, take note—the value of adding a community to your product
Today we are talking about the value of community. Some products are started as a community while other products add a community aspect later. Of course, many products exist without a community, but that may be missing opportunities. Let’s find out together how community can benefit products.
Joining us is Patrick Woods. He is co-founder and CEO of Orbit, the leading community growth platform. He’s worked with business leaders from some of the world’s fastest growing businesses to leverage the power of community. He’s the co-creator of the Orbit Model, host of the Developer Love podcast, and author of the Brand Strategy Canvas.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:38] What does community mean?
I like to define communities based on the expectations of community members. In this framework, there are three types of communities: product, practice, and play. In a community of play, members come together to have a good time. This could be folks who get together to play basketball on Saturday afternoons. The sole purpose is to have fun, meet each other, and have a good time. In a community of practice, members learn about a skill or discipline. This could be a Discord community for CTOs. The goal is to get better at something, to network, and to skill up. In a community of product, folks come together to get better at and talk about a specific product. The Orbit community has users who come together to talk about how to more effectively use the tool. Communities are often a blend of practice and product.
[9:26] What is the value of communities for companies?
An active and healthy community de-risks and accelerates almost every part of the business. What better way to drive awareness for your product than to have an army of thousands or tens of thousands of people eagerly talking about your product? An active community drives adoption and onboarding because you have customers willing to answer other customers’ questions, which increases retention. A community helps with product discovery, since you can get feedback easily. You can recruit new employees from a community.
[12:24] What are your insider secrets for starting a community successfully?
Part of my answer will sound philosophical and part will sound tactical. When you start a community, you can think of the process like a customer discovery process. Ask questions like, What’s the market like? Who are my potential customers? What is the overlap between the things the community needs and the things I can provide? Get specific with that. Having a community because everyone has one is not a strong case for a community.
Before launching your own community, spend time in other adjacent communities. Learn what the conversation are like, what challenges and themes come up again and again, and how people talk in that space. Find gaps in the market and build credibility. By that point, you’ll have a positioning map of how your community is going to be different and why it matters to your prospective audience.
To gain interest, produce a series of event around your market need. Now you’re creating value for your potential community members. Invite people in those adjacent communities to the events. Then, you can onboard them to your community.
To create a successful community, first ask yourself, what value can I create for these people? Some people treat their community as nothing more than a source of data. That’s a very short-term view on what a community can be. Create value for your community members and you will capture value too.
[19:20] How do you craft trust in your community, especially if you’re disclosing things you would not want to fall into the hands of a competitor?
We lead with trust. We don’t really do NDAs when we’re talking about features or roadmaps. Most of these folks are people we’ve met over the years and had dinner with at conferences. They feel almost like part of the family.
[22:15] What resources do we need in place so the community doesn’t fall apart?
You can think of this as a hierarchy of needs. At the bottom is the fundamental question of who is out there and what are they doing. This is the first problem we had to solve with Orbit, which is a platform for community growth. Our customers have huge communities online spread across a ton of platforms—a support forum, Discord for live chat, GitHub for code, social media. etc. Many community leaders found it hard to asses the health of the community because the data is siloed across so many platforms. It’s hard to understand the individual customer’s journey without Orbit. With Orbit, you can see that Patrick followed you on Twitter a month ago, created a trial of the product the next day, came to your forum that same day and asked a bunch of questions, sent a tweet about how awesome that was the next day, and converted to a paying customer a week later. If you can see that journey at the individual level, you can roll it up into all sorts of aggregate views as well. We want to disambiguate user accounts on platforms to actual humans so our users can understand the people in their communities.
We have a metric called love, which might sound hippie or silly, but for us love is a thing you can measure, and it’s a function of the recency, frequency, and quality of a person’s participation in the community. If you’re not careful, it can decay over time. We observed that love as a concept is important because not every activity is created equal. Someone following you on Twitter is nice, but someone attending your customer advisory board meeting month after month is much more meaningful. Measuring love is a mechanism for understanding the shape of your community. We measure community growth and look at community-qualified leads and revenue attribution to the community, e.g., if someone is active in the forum, are they more likely to convert to a paying customer? Orbit can help you answer these types of questions and drive better decision making about how to resource the community.
The bottom of the hierarchy of needs is bringing visibility to all these different people. Over time, that data can turn into insights, and the insights can turn into actions and programs. For example, Orbit can show you the ten new active people in your community, and you can send them a Twitter DM welcoming them to the community.
Action Guide: Put the information Patrick shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about Orbit’s open-source model
- Learn more about Orbit
- Connect with Patrick on Twitter @patrickJwoods
“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
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