LikeMinds' Townhall Series - Approach To Building An Online Community

Taniksha Gupta
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February 26, 2022
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Hi everyone! Welcome back to the second part of the blog on our new format "Townhall Series" at CommunityHood. Our first guest was Udayan Walvekar. He is the Co-Founder of GrowthX: a community-led learning platform for the top 1% of leaders and currently focused on founders, product and growth functions.

Previously, Udayan was the founding member of the Growth team at Razorpay where he built the team that drives product-led growth across all business lines of Razorpay. He has almost a decade of experience in product and growth working across startups from seed stage to Series E.

Below is a link to the blog on the first part of the discussion:

LikeMinds' Townhall Series - Community Building For Startups

In this exclusive conversation with Udayan, we got to know:

  • At what stage should a business start investing in community building?
  • How should a product growth leader approach community building?
  • What metrics/KPIs should one track while building a community?

And much more‚ So let's get reading!

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At What Stage Should A Business Start Investing In Community Building?

Building a community is like building a subculture for your brand. You cannot build a subculture when you are already at a mature scaling stage. First I will explain what a Subculture is. We are all associated with our small groups. There might be a rotary group, a football club, or a gaming community. The language that people speak there is slightly different. And those communities are subcultures.

What you are building with a community is a subculture. You have to start from day zero. However, the benefits are across the stages. At early scaling, you cannot get a lot of feedback and you are going to have a very little acquisition cost because obviously, it is coming through the community.

Once you get your product-market fit, you are going to have amazing brand ambassadors and you are going to build a lot more products around their use cases because such a great feedback loop is happening. In mature scaling, everything that happened in early scaling and product-market fit is going to happen but you are going to build the strongest thing of all - brand. You are going to have a brand identity like no one else.

So, it is not that you should start way early. Community is like an extended family of the product and if you are okay to go and do that investment, then do it. Don't do it halfway through. Otherwise, you are going to have another support forum, and then you might call that a community. Do not think of short-term benefits from communities. Always think of at least giving six to twelve months. Have that mindset, and then the rewards will start flourishing.

Also, Check-Out:

How Should A Product Growth Leader Approach To Community Development?

I will start with how do you not do it. You do not set up a random white page of your community, maybe like a forum. You send emails to tell people that you are going to get value, you get them on board, and then all you do is send product updates. Newsletters are not community.

In Udayan's words, "Every community also has an audience and the audience is very powerful. We at Growthx also started as an audience. But there is a difference between audience and a community, which is more like two-way communication."

He continues, "Coming back to the question, let's say, I have a series A type company and I am trying to build my community user design here. How do I look at that? I think the first thing that I would recommend, and this would probably save you a year of effort, is to understand the goal and I will give you three buckets of goals that communities typically fall into."

Now the goal of your community is going to be around a product, practice, or interest. So, I will explain what those mean.

  • Interest is like a hobby that people have, and you are collecting all of those people around that specific hobby. Across your product, you will have all of these users who have a common hobby.
  • Then, you will have something around practice. Maybe you have professionalls specifically and to improve their craft, you might have a community, which is practice.
  • And the other one is a very straightforward product, a very narrowed down product community but they are creating templates like a notion. They are creating and interacting with the product itself to create more content.

But you need to first decide what kind of community you want to build and why. Do not go at the most lucrative one. Try to understand which is the one that we can fundamentally add a lot of value to, and do not try to look at a massive size. I want to build a community that applies to 80% of the people. You will not be able to do that on the first go. Try to focus on the one you can add a lot more value to, even if it is a smaller percentage.

And at early scaling, my recommendation is that once you have gold, go for the one that leans in your strategy but go very wild when it comes to cross-collaboration. When you are building a community, make sure that everyone from marketing to customer success is brought into this strategy from a talk-down level.

Once that is done, then in execution, it can be super lean with small resources, everyone contributing to it slowly and adding value. You do not need to invest super heavily, super quickly. Get some learnings, give about three months from your hypothesis and then keep going ahead.

How Is The Growth Team Structured At GrowthX?

Udayan shares with us, "GrowthX is still finding its product-marketing fit. Sure we have a lot of users, but I think fundamentally we are almost there so we might have a growth team per se, in the next six months. But fundamentally, we are a very lean team of six to seven people and it is just been six months since I quit my Razorpay job and Abhishek quit his Cred job. We both used to do this part-time."

He continues, "Now, what we have a community team. The community team is sitting across the funnel just like a growth team would sit. And we don't have a community manager, we call him 'Community orchestrator.' There is a key difference between management and orchestration. With management, you are only organizing your optimization. With orchestration, the mindset is around growth where you are trying to build more community builders naturally. That is the mindset we are going to have and our community teams are across acquisition. We have a specific team for value delivery, retention, monetization, etc. We look at the community as an entire full-funnel spectrum and that's how it sits."

He sheds some more light by saying, "All of these are levers to growth. Community-led growth is going to be the future, product-led growth is not going to go anywhere, and nor is going to be marketing-led growth. It is just going to amplify. Marketing and product, when they work together is magic. Now when community, product, and marketing will work together, it is going to create even more magic. We are a social learning platform so the community is at the very center for us."

Also, Check-Out:

What Metrics Should One Track While Building A Community?

While building a community, you are going to chase active users. You want to have an active community. No one wants a dead community. But for that, you need to choose that metric very properly.

  • You need to understand what is the natural frequency for your community. And then take that mau or wau number. Now, the most important thing to understand with metrics is that wau or mau is a vanity metric unless you understand what are the input levers to that metrics.
  • And lastly, what is the goal job to be done. They have realized that the career journey is very lonely for everyone and across different stages. Everyone is having a different job to be done and how are they progressing. There are different challenges involved with that. One of the things they are trying to solve at Growthx.
  • How does an early-stage professional become a mid-career and mid-career jumping the chasm to leadership. Are we able to fulfill that job to be done at their time-space? That is how they track impact at Growthx, but you can start small but focus on more quality and value created.

If you're looking to learn about building and leading communities from the community builders themselves or if you feel you can help other community builders in upskilling, then join CommunityHood today.

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