The 3 Things You Have to Overcome When Building a Community

Adam Hayes
Design by Ben Kokolas

Humanity is community.

It seems like community is a fad, but desire to be apart of something is one of the most fundamental human desires.

Now that the tech world is catching up, community will be the driving force for organizations of the future. There is a mad scramble for organizations to build communities. Especially DAOs, they live or die by their community.

If you're building a community, there are 3 cross roads you will come to. Here's how we navigated them and a way to think clearly about them.

The chicken and the egg 

How can you build a community if you don't already have one?

I've gotten DMs from someone asking for advice on how to build their community and they asked me if they should buy their first 500 members. I can see how that is tempting. People are more likely to join a party if people are already there. You have to decide if you want to do it fast, or right.

The reality is, you can't buy your community. You can pay for members, but that will never turn into a genuine community.

If you're new to community, the first thing you need to do is remove the metric of number of members as your KPI for success.

I will never forget this clip of a kid streaming on Twitch. He had 10 viewers, and someone wanted to troll him saying it was lame how small his viewership was. He calmly said, imagine there were 10 people here sitting around me watching me play. That's pretty cool.

10 engaged people talking about something they're passionate about is a great community.

The size of your community does not determine the quality. Just how you love a group chat with your close friends, the same is true for organizations. A small-knit group of highly-involved people is more valuable then thousands of lightly involved people.

Start with inviting friends to help you to start. Invite people directly online that you notice have similar interests.

Even if it's just three people, you can have a very special community.

Should we scale?

Alright, now you have a small engaged community and you want to scale it.

Small tight-knit communities feel magical. There is something special about having a small group where you feel heard and seen.

You make internet buddies and it's fun to see them in the chat.

Everyone assumes the next thing you should do is scale the community, but is that what you really want?

If you decide to scale, and scaling should be a decision, then there are consequences.

Often it's hard to maintain the high-quality community in these instances. Or at least, you have to be a lot more strategic about how you do it.

It's inevitable that if you scale your community, some of the magic will be lost.

On the other side of that coin, don't keep your community small just because you want to maintain the status quo. It's important to have your community agree that they want to grow. Or, it's like forcing something onto them that they never asked for.

Imagine if you're relaxing with some friends. Good music is playing in the back, you're having good conversations with interesting people.

Then, 100 people storm through the front door. Some of the people at the kickback will want to party, others will leave.

When you change the "vibe" you change the dynamics.

Decide what is best for you. Don't make the decision of wanting a big community because big numbers are fun. Instead, only scale if you think it's what's best for your community and long term goals.

Should we add or remove friction

In growth marketing and product, the #1 goal is to remove friction. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to sign-up. So, why does it make sense to build in friction in a community?

When Wonder launched, we made joining the Discord the natural next step after signing-up for our pre-launch.

This resulted in 10,000+ people joining our Discord in the span of a week.

This is a fun number, but that isn't how you build a big community - that's how you build a flash mob.

Now, we use more friction to join our Discord. We only share our link after people have proven to vet themselves to some degree. They have read an article, they finished a Twitter thread, or they are users of our product.

This difference in mentality means people have vetted themselves to some degree to be interested in what we do, instead of us pushing our Discord on them before they understand what Wonder is.

This has made a better feel in the community, which makes our community more valuable. We will grow slower, but we care more about deep engagement than light involvement.

So, what is a good community?

Good community is deeply engaged around a central mission or passion. Don't become too obsessed with the number of your members, but the feel of the community. If you have a solid community, make scaling it a decision vs. something you feel like you have to do. Lastly, make sure to do some vetting of people before they join. This will create a group of people who are highly-engaged.

Onwards and upwards my friends!

All stories

Subscribe to our newsletter

Look at our sense of Wonder