30 Ways to Grow a Virtual Community

Random Observation/Comment #683: It’s important now more than ever to stay connected with your work and friends.

Why this List?

Now that the new normal of a work and social life is all virtual, you may be thinking about growing a community of passionate people to mobilize on a certain mission (or maybe just have a lovely curated set of conversations) . Whether it’s a community around a bankless sovereign nation of developers/enterprises/consumers or a school club for students, here are some ideas you may draw from. Some of these are marketing campaigns while others ask you to think about your community structure and offerings.

  1. Start with your purpose and mission – Why do people join? Why do they come back?
  2. Make sure there’s a relatable name and brand – Even if you’re just holding a book club, a catchy name for the chatroom is nice to see.
  3. Have a base membership – These are probably your friends who share common interests. This base membership of loyal repeated customers are good to know.
  4. Ask your friends to suggest other people to join – Word-of-mouth is a great filter and way to double your membership.
  5. Come up with a predictable recurring meeting day – Let’s say it’s a whisky club that happens every first Friday of the month.
  6. Have a structure or agenda – Maybe it’s a 10 min of intro to new members, main topic item about the week’s subject, and then extra questions. Make sure it covers the key areas of interest and makes space.
  7. Assign people fun titles and tasks – People tend to get more involved when they know they’re contributing to the meeting and have time to share their passion. Give them a cool title like Quorum ambassador.
  8. Start a shared digital space – Whether it’s a slack channel, whatsapp group or shared Google calendar, it’s an easy way to know when things are coming up. Onboard people to the organization through an introduction or welcome when they join this space.
  9. Have a lightweight checklist that makes people feel prepared for a meeting – Just showing up is not engaging or bidirectional. It shouldn’t be homework exactly, but maybe bringing examples on the topic.
  10. Have a special topic for each session – Tell people about the topic ahead of time and give the session a catchy title too. Let them prepare and have interest to feel involved.
  11. Ask people to vote on the session – Get feedback from your community on what they want to hear about. Maybe it’s live troubleshooting on code. Maybe it’s a live environment setup walk through. Open office hours sometimes needs some nudging of examples.
  12. Don’t be afraid to empower individuals – Everything doesn’t have to be a democratic vote, but if someone shows interest then make sure they become a lifetime community member instead of just a passive attendee.
  13. Consider a newsletter or curated set of interesting reading – It will remind people about the group and make it part of their routine to join for the meetings themselves.
  14. Make it easy to share related material to the rest of the audience (and welcome random sharing) – Encourage people to share related news articles and start ad-hoc discussions within the community.
  15. Be a good example – If you want an engaged community, you also need to be engaged. Sometimes it’s hiring a community manager and other times it’s being interested in random threads and ideas.
  16. Invite guests – If you have enough like-minded people, offer a stage for a recurring meeting to have them share their expertise. It doesn’t need to be a famous guest, but some credentials can draw in other audience members.
  17. Consider different mediums that your audience knows and relates to – Maybe its a Tiktok account. Maybe it’s a podcast. Maybe it’s an infographic or specific social media account to follow.
  18. Highlight successes – If the community is externally facing at scale, then provide metrics about the engagement of the community and how it’s growing.
  19. Spotlight team members – As a part of the newsletter, make space for your community leads and share their passionate side projects.
  20. Create special events – Make a good reason to celebrate. Maybe it’s a holiday. Maybe there’s a new software release. Host a virtual celebration with no agenda.
  21. Combine communities with cross Synergies – We all have different friend groups. Imagine them merging and sharing ideas. New intros and new ideas from different perspectives can cross pollinate.
  22. Send post meeting notes and takeaways – For those who missed the meeting, they feel included and don’t feel like the next meeting would make them feel lost (like they missed a key lecture).
  23. Consider writing personas for your community members – What are traits about your current members? What do they like? How can you cater the community to be more engaging to prevent attrition. What’s the upside of time spent?
  24. Create a joint project with a tangible end deliverable – Maybe you’re writing something together or you’re building an interesting solution or making a video.
  25. If the joint project takes time, write out the 3-4 session project schedule – By this date, we’ll have a script and by next we’ll share some footage and by last we’ll do some live editing together.
  26. Look at similar virtual communities and copy some of their practices or ask them to join both meetings for comparison – Sustaining communities are special, so it will likely be a combination of multiple things and multiple people that makes the system effortless to attend and fun to keep coming back. Learning from others is always positive.
  27. Join an existing community and make partnerships – Maybe a combined event would merge the interest of both groups.
  28. Try a holiday gift exchange – It’s always nice to get something in the mail from someone else and you get to know people better. We create a google form to collect information, do random mappings, and then set dates for gift sending.
  29. Rotate responsibilities – Ask someone engaged to suggest a special topic or meeting and enable them to provide the content.
  30. Consider your maximum capacity – Growth is great, but all big teams and gatherings have a maximum capacity before there’s not enough time to speak or enjoy it with close friends. We tried a zoom big party and it was just crazy. You can try creating breakout rooms for smaller engagements. Make sure your community scales without losing its intimacy.

~See Lemons Engage in Communities