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Author: Circle Editorial Team

Circle Editorial Team

47d

6 min read

How to onboard new community members: Your step-by-step process
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Do you want to offer your new community members the best experience? Need to boost community engagement and member retention? It all begins with having a great onboarding experience. 

Imagine you’re a new member entering a community. If you feel confused about what to do, aren’t sure how to get value from the community, or feel unsupported, you probably won’t stay in that community for very long. 

So, how do you create a seamless, welcoming, and straightforward onboarding experience to help your new members hit the ground running?

Stick with us because, in this 7-step guide, we’re spilling all our member onboarding secrets and giving you our top tips for a successful onboarding process. But first, why is community onboarding important?

Why is providing a great member onboarding experience important? 

Creating the best onboarding experience is vital because it gives new members a great impression of your community, helps them gain value faster, and encourages them to engage and interact with others. 

Providing a fantastic onboarding experience is also essential for helping new members understand what’s expected of them in the community and showing them how to navigate the platform so they can start engaging faster. 

On a practical level, new member onboarding helps you save time answering the same questions over and over again, sending the same resources for new members to read, and nudging them to engage in the community. 

How to create a seamless onboarding process in 7 easy steps

So, what can you do to up your onboarding game and make the process as smooth, supportive, and helpful as possible for your new members? 

Step 1 – Plan your onboarding journey

Create a rough plan of each step your new members will take throughout their onboarding journey, and start thinking of ideas to enhance your new member onboarding experience. 

Think about what your new members need to know

  • Information new members need to know
  • Community guidelines, culture, and values
  • Where new members can get support
  • Spaces you created just for new members

Think about what your new members need to do

  • Introducing themselves to the community
  • Joining a group call with other new members
  • Buddying up with a more established member
  • Creating their member profile and filling it in

Step 2 – Create your “welcome” space

Design a welcome space specifically for new members that helps them get a “lay of the land.” This welcome space should include the most critical information and actions each new member should take, but be careful not to overwhelm them with too much. 

Keep what your new members need to know and do simple, and include things like:

  • A checklist of first steps to take
  • A guide to introducing themselves
  • A description of/ instructions for each space
  • Community guidelines/culture/values etc
  • Tutorials and resources for using the platform

Step 3 – Create a friendly welcome post

Your “welcome post” gives new members a chance to interact immediately in your community. Your welcome post is a great place to provide new members with a quick introduction to the community, let them know what to do next, who to ask for help, and encourage them to ask questions. 

Here are something you can include in your welcome post: 

  • One important task to complete
  • Community guidelines
  • A guide to using each space
  • A video explainer of the platform

Step 4 – Set up an “introduce yourself” space

The “introduce yourself” space is crucial to get right because this space is likely the first time your new members will interact with other members in the community during their onboarding experience. 

Great onboarding encourages engagement and user adoption right away, so pay special attention to your pinned “introduce yourself” post, making sure it’s easy to follow by giving new members a prompt. 

This prompt could be something like

  • What are your hobbies and interests? 
  • Give us your name, location, and reason for joining
  • Tell us what problems you want to solve
  • Do you have a goal for this month? Tell us about it!

Step 5 – Get ready for your community launch

Now that you’ve thoroughly mapped out your onboarding process for new members, it’s time to start inviting them into your community and setting up an onboarding automation sequence. 

In most community platforms, like Circle, you can create automated emails and popup messages to let your new members know what to do next and encourage engagement. Automated onboarding messages are also great for feeding bite-sized tutorials and resources to your new members without overwhelming them. 

Your email/ message automation might look something like: 

  • Thank you for joining!
  • Check out our “Welcome space”
  • Introduce yourself
  • Complete your profile
  • Need help with anything?
  • How to attend an event
  • How to start a poll 
  • Join our new member mixer!
  • Do you have any feedback?

Step 6 – Personally welcome members

One of the best ways to strengthen your onboarding experience and help new members assimilate into the group is to personally reach out to them to welcome them into the community. 

Make sure you’re replying to new member introductions and maybe even tagging a “buddy” to help them get set up. You can also go the extra mile and even send each new member a personal message, asking them if they have any questions and welcoming them. 

If you’re launching a brand new community and it’s quite small, you may even consider conducting 1:1 personal onboarding to give your new members more value right from the beginning. 

Step 7 – Get feedback and improve

You must work out the kinks in your onboarding process to continue making it better, more valuable, and engagement-boosting for the next batch of members. So, don’t forget to ask your members for feedback on their onboarding experience. You can do this through: 

  • Onboarding surveys
  • Feedback spaces
  • Check-in calls
  • Data Analytics
  • Feedback posts

You should also measure the success of your onboarding process by mapping out key milestones you want new members to hit within X months and checking member activity to see if they hit those milestones.

Use what you learn to spot problems with your onboarding process and improve them. 

Ready to create your onboarding experience? Do it with Circle!

With our step-by-step guide, we hope you feel more confident about setting up a seamless, successful, engagement-boosting onboarding experience for your new members!

If you’re looking for the perfect community platform to manage your community, why not try Circle? Over 6K creators use Circle to power their communities because it’s easy, flexible, and fully customizable. 

Effortlessly centralize people, content, and payments to one beautiful platform and offer your members the premium community experience they deserve. Circle has everything you need to go live anytime, host engaging discussions, run events, chat with members, and so much more! 
Connect like never before: Try Circle free for 14-days. No credit card required.

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12,000 of your peers are already in the know

Circle Editorial Team

104d

8 min read

How to build a stronger community: Your proven framework
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Do you worry about your community breaking down? Not sure how to deal with conflict or ensure members abide by your community values? Want to learn how to build a stronger community by understanding a world-renowned, proven framework?

Sascha Mombartz, co-author of the Community Canvas, a framework for community building used by over 100K community builders, gave our Circle members an incredible training workshop teaching them how to build a stronger community.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that shows you how to use Sascha’s community framework, which is built around belonging, trust, and resilience to create a stronger community.

If that’s something you’re interested in learning, just keep reading!

The 3 elements of every strong community

Communities are complex and require a lot of moving parts to function. Understanding the three base elements that hold your community together: Belonging, trust, and resilience will help you build a stronger community.

Let’s dive deeper into each element and how they impact your community.

1. Belonging

The concept of belonging is threefold:

You belong to the community: Everyone belongs to a community, whether that’s through your location, where you work, or your hobbies. We all meet people through shared interests, experiences, and situations by circumstance or choice.

The community belongs to you: By contributing to the community, it belongs to you somehow. Through co-creation, you invest time and energy into the communities that serve you, giving you a stake in them.

You have a longing for community: Humans are social beings with an inherent need for community. Some studies have even shown that prolonged loneliness can affect humans the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People need others to thrive, and we achieve much more when we work together.

2. Trust

Trust is the tissue that connects each one of us. We’re all complex beings and have different experiences, shortcomings, and skills – and it’s only when we know more about each other that we can build that trust.

The more we can connect through those differences and similarities, the stronger our relationships, trust, and communities become.

So, how do we build this trust?

  • Proximity: The closer we are to one another, the more opportunities we have to engage in conversations and learn more about each other.
  • Similarity: The more things we have in common, the easier it is to connect and trust one another.
  • Directness: By engaging in open, honest, and direct communication with each other, we can connect better through shared experiences.
  • Reciprocity: Through equal levels of giving and taking in a relationship, we trust the other person to be there when we need them.

3. Resilience

Communities are complex systems with many interconnected pieces continuously evolving as relationships and people evolve. So, how do you keep building a strong community through these changes?

It’s all about resilience.

Resilience refers to many rules, processes, and management sides of your community and is integral in building a strong community. There are two aspects to resilience you should consider to build community strength.

  • Preventative: These are measures you put in place to keep your community running smoothly and prevent issues from happening. They can be community member guides, dos and don’ts, and a list of responsibilities for members.
  • Corrective: What happens if someone doesn’t follow the rules, and how do you reprimand and forgive them? It’s crucial to have corrective protocols in place, should there be a breach of trust in your community, so you can swiftly regain control.

Helpful concepts for building a strong community

Focusing on your community network systems, purpose, and balance can strengthen your community.

Network

Your community most likely won’t fall into a single community network type. So, the important thing to note here is what network type you need for different aspects of your community to function properly and stay strong.

  • Centralized: While information moves very fast in this system, and you can get things done more quickly, if everyone is relying on just one person, then you lose a significant level of resilience in the community.
  • Decentralized: Information moves quickly through the community network in a decentralized model, providing better reach and making it a more resilient system for communities.
  • Distributed: Information moves a bit slower through a distributed network, but you will reach everyone eventually through more connections, making this a highly resilient approach.

Purpose

We invite you to think about the purpose of your community. Both the external purpose (what you offer to the world) and the internal purpose of your community members (why they are part of the community. )

Knowing your internal and external purpose will help you build a stronger community, as it is the driving force behind your actions. See an example of both purpose types below.

Internal purpose: Greenpeace members have an internal purpose of participating in a movement to help the planet.
External purpose: Greenpeace has a strong external purpose of helping the planet through environmental activism.

Balance

Everything is interconnected in a community and based on belonging, trust, and resilience. Getting these three elements in sync is what will help you build a stronger community.

Try narrowing down every facet of your community into these three areas to see where you might need to find balance.

  • Aspects of belonging: New members joining, people contributing to the community, and retaining members long-term.
  • Aspects of trust: Members sharing experiences, helping each other, and finding value in the community.
  • Aspects of resilience: Your community’s reputation, specific capabilities and processes, and size.

7 design principles that create stronger communities

Now that you have a good understanding of what trust, belonging, and resilience means in a community and some helpful concepts surrounding community strength, let’s take a look at the critical design principles that create stronger communities.

1. People follow people

In the Solomon Asch 1950’s conformity social experiment, several people walk into an elevator and face the wrong way. Eventually, all the test subjects who were unaware of the experiment turned to face the wrong way, too – even though this is not the social norm.

You see, people imitate others to fit in. And it can be helpful to think about this when building a stronger community. That’s why having rules in place is so important. They tell people how to behave, co-create effectively, and maintain a positive, inspiring, and valuable space.

2. We build better together

Encouraging co-creation is one of the most important ways to build a stronger community. Without co-creation, the responsibility to produce compelling content lies solely on the founding members and community leaders, which can become tiresome and lead to dips in quality.

A more sustainable practice is to help community members help each other by encouraging discussions, giving them shared spaces to connect, and empowering members to create their own content and share it with the community.

3. Informality is key

People who show up for formal events and community gatherings might have their guard up and feel less open.

But if you keep events (online and offline) light, simple, and informal, your community members will find it easier to relax and forge stronger connections, inherently building a stronger community.

4. Consistency forms trust

Suppose events, lives, discussions, etc., are sporadic in your community. In that case, members will have difficulty engaging, co-creating, and communicating with each other, as they don’t know what to expect.

Keeping member events and processes consistent gives people more trust and helps reinforce routine in your community. Consistency helps members know what to expect when specific events or discussions happen and how they can get involved.

5. Reinforce community values

Values are the threads that hold communities together. Actively enforce your community values with your members to keep your community strong and engaged. Lead by example and show members how to embody your values through guides and case studies.

6. Conflicts can be opportunities

If there is conflict within your community, don’t shy away from it or ignore it. The conflict is trying to tell you something. See it as an opportunity to figure out why something isn’t working, take action, and improve to build a stronger community.

7. Members don’t just want content

Your members aren’t just in your community for content; they want to build connections and network with others.

Communities that prioritize these connections by facilitating member meet and greets, get-togethers, and Q&As can help satisfy people’s craving to build their social and professional groups.

Remember: Asking others questions are the best ways to start conversations and get people talking.

Time to put the Community Canvas framework into action!

You’ve reached the end of today’s guide, and we truly hope you feel more confident about building a stronger community using this framework.

From staying consistent and nurturing trust to encouraging co-creation and analyzing your community network, there are many ways you can start building that community strength today!

Why not give Sascha’s Community Canvas a go today and see how much stronger your community becomes? We’d like to thank Sascha for the insightful advice he explored in his training workshop, and we can’t wait for the next one!

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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12,000 of your peers are already in the know

Circle Editorial Team

104d

10 min read

4 Simple Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Seasonal Community Calendar
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Even though being organized and planning your community calendar ahead of time has several benefits, it can also have its pitfalls. Community activities that are planned ahead of time without careful thought can run the risk of feeling disconnected. Timing can be everything when it comes to planning your community calendar, so if you want to get ahead, it’s vital that you consider what your community needs and when exactly they need it!

When planning your community content calendar for the year ahead (yes, we did say the year ahead), it’s important to do your research and know which events and times of the year you can leverage to help your community feel more engaged.

To help with this, we hosted an expert workshop with The Business of Community Founder, Tatiana Figueredo and Chief Community Officer at Burb, Danielle Maveal. Both experts were able to share their wisdom and enlighten Circle members on the best practices for planning your community calendar for the year ahead and setting goals that align with the seasons. While 2022 was the main focus for this workshop, the practices can be applied to any upcoming year!

For those who missed the workshop, or for those in need of a refresh, we’ve decided to create an accompanying guide to help you get your community calendar started on the right path. The answers to these 4 simple questions are your ticket to not only keeping your members more engaged, but also adding value to your community with strategically timed content and goals.

1. Why plan in seasons?

If there’s one thing that’s always certain, it’s that the seasons are always going to change. When it comes to community content and activities, knowing this in advance can be a great tool when looking ahead.

If you’re trying to convey a certain message to your community or get them to engage in certain activities, it’s important to remember that people are generally more receptive to content that doesn’t appear contrived. This is why planning content, initiating new activities or applying changes to your community will be better received if they are timed well.

To optimize your community calendar, it’s worth acknowledging that the seasons matter. In the same way that the seasons can affect our personalities throughout the year, your community will also behave differently depending on the time of year. By identifying core themes within each season, you can use this insight to help guide your content. With strategic timing, your community will automatically feel more engaged with the content you’re putting out.

2. What core themes are associated with each season?

Of course we all know that December equates to Christmas, and October is a great time for spooky content, but what less obvious ways are there to leverage the different seasons for your community calendar? While the traits we associate with each season can be subjective, there are some core themes that have become deeply connected with different transitional periods.

While the themes we discuss might not be exactly what others associate with the seasons, the general feelings can be the same for others. For example:

You might associate spring with:

  • New beginnings
  • A season of growth
  • An opportunity to plan ahead

Based on these themes, your members might be more eager to come together and collaborate on new projects. Spring is also a good time to implement changes within your community and to host large events to set the tone for the year ahead. It can also be a great time to target new members. So essentially, spring provides a wealth of opportunity for fresh content and actions!

You might associate summer with:

  • Brighter days/ Positivity
  • Celebration / Family time
  • Outdoor activities

Based on these themes, members might have a more optimistic outlook on announcements made within your community or have more of an openness to updates relating to policy. Additionally, summer is a great time to plan celebratory events or recognize individuals for their contributions.

Having said that, it’s also important to remember that during the summer months, members are less likely to be online. This is important because even though your community never stops operating, engagement levels might be lower than usual.

You might associate fall with:

  • A season of change
  • Improved focus / Learning
  • An opportunity to end the year well

Based on these themes, members have an opportunity to refocus their attention and return to the community after a period of vacation or family time. Members might be more open to topics relating to goal setting or community projects. With learning another key theme during this season, members will likely be more appreciative of learning opportunities during this period.

You might associate winter with:

  • Darker days
  • Preparation for times ahead
  • Solitude / An opportunity to learn from yourself

Based on these themes, community members might be a little more difficult to motivate. However, it is possible! Winter can be a fresh start for new habits, all with the intention of improving your quality of life and getting you through the darker days. It can also be a good time to introduce smaller groups into your community, with activities taking a more personal approach.

Depending on your community, topics relating to overall wellbeing and mental health can do well during the winter months — all with the intention of keeping your community members happy. Winter can be a difficult time for many, but your community can offer solace to those needing an outlet to get them through difficult times. During the winter months, finding ways to remind your members that your community is a supportive and inclusive space is especially important.

3. What changes do your members experience and what support do they need?

Think about how you personally change as the seasons shift. During which months are you the most creative? When are you most refreshed and ready to take on new projects? When do you have the most free time? What times of the year are you more likely to take risks? These are all questions that you should ask yourself, but that you should also be considering in relation to your community members.

Once you understand a little more about the changes that your members go through during each season, you can tailor your community content calendar to better support their needs.

For example:

  • During the darker seasons, promote positive mental health and activities
  • During the summer, promote topics surrounding the ability to switch off and embrace free time
  • During autumn, promote learning and ways to plan ahead without experiencing burnout

4. How can you time projects to fit with the seasons?

For each season, focus on projects that seem most relevant and beneficial for your members during that time. For example, if you want to launch a new podcast or YouTube series for your community, spring is a great time to do this! If you want to launch a new learning platform, autumn might be the most appropriate time.

Once you understand that appropriate timing helps to optimize the results you get from your projects, you’ll never look back! Content hits differently when you’re more ready to receive it, so with good timing, your community members can be primed and ready to engage with your community calendar.

Now Let’s Discuss: Goal Setting

While your community content calendar serves to keep your members engaged and your community development more organized, your calendar should also aim to directly support goal setting. Community goals are another essential part of growing your community and ensuring that your current members stay committed to your platform.

A community without goals is a community without movement; a stagnant and uninviting place to be. That’s why setting goals that keep your community moving in the right direction is critical for long-term success. Even if you think that your community is pretty perfect as it is, there’s always room for improvement. This is why setting goals to target specific areas of growth within your community will set you apart from the rest.

However, goals are meaningless if their objectives are never met. This is why it’s crucial that when you set goals for your community, you also leverage the seasons to achieve better results. As mentioned previously, there are different core themes connected to each season, so why not use these themes to align your goals more strategically?

Goals for planning a seasonal community calendar can be split into 3 different categories. They are:

1. Connection goals (creating better brand affinity and increasing the sense of community)
2. Member journey goals (increasing member success)
3. Organization goals (how satisfied are you members with your community and how integral the community is to their lives?)

For each of these goals, consider the type of content you might be able to launch to achieve them. Then consider what time of the year your members might be the most receptive to this type of content. Putting in this additional level of thought can be hugely beneficial in achieving more substantial results and reaching new growth phases more quickly.

How exactly can goals be aligned with the seasons to achieve better results?

If you’re asking yourself how exactly can goals be aligned with the seasons to achieve better results, we’re glad you asked! It’s easier than it sounds, so stick with us!

Essentially, aligning your goals with the seasons is all about figuring out which areas of your community need work, and what time of the year is most appropriate for tackling these areas.

For example, if you want to focus on improving brand affinity or loyalty, you might want to do some research into member satisfaction and gain an insight into how your members view your community. To do this, select a time of the year that your members are most active and are able to provide you with this valuable feedback. As mentioned previously, the summer months usually bring a downturn in member presence within your community, therefore, summer is probably not the best time to conduct this research.

At the same time, summer can be a great time to build deeper connections with members who are online. With fewer members online, goals associated with deepening your understanding of member personas can be achieved during summer by talking with members while there’s less distractions within your community. Get out into your community during quieter times and let active members know that you’re still actively driving the community forward.

If you want to improve member success, you can also launch learning tools at a time when uptake is more likely to occur. Because of a connection to school term starting back up and vacation periods being over, fall has a deep-rooted connection to learning. If you want your members to reach their full potential using the learning tools you’re offering to them, strategically timing your launch will help your members feel more ready to take on something new and absorb more information.

Even if members don’t realize how well your timing benefits them, seasonal goal setting still manages to have a positive impact on your community overall.

Remember, your community goals can be set at any time, but implementing them more strategically will always ensure better results!

Now that you know how seasonal planning can help both your community content calendar and your community goals, it’s time to start testing the theory!

We’d like to thank Tatiana and Danielle for taking the time to speak with Circle members and sharing their expertise with us. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you’ll find more about Tatiana’s community here and Danielle can be reached through her channels listed here.

Did you know that Circle also has other training videos that you can watch for even more inspiration and expert advice? We have a whole range of topics to choose from, so we hope you’ll find something useful for your own community!

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12,000 of your peers are already in the know

Circle Editorial Team

104d

10 min read

How to set up and launch a successful course community
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If you’re a course creator new to community building on Circle, or you already have a course community and want to understand how to design your community right to support your students, this is the guide for you!

Building a course community can be tricky. You want to ensure it gives course members the support they need to navigate your course and get the most out of it.

But how do you know what kind of spaces to create? Where do you start when it comes to setting up and launching a course community?

Carrie Melissa Jones, Community Consultant, Course Creator, and Author of Building Branded Communities, talked about how to set up and launch a course community on Circle in an exciting show and tell workshop with Circle members.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that explores this topic further and gives you the foundation you need to set your community course up for long-term success.

If you’d like to learn how to set up and launch your very own course community, just keep reading!

Your framework for designing the best course community

Before you start gathering your people into a course community on Circle, you must develop a solid strategy to base your community design around.

Without a well-thought-out strategy, you might find it difficult to know how to structure your course community on Circle and the types of content you should post – leading to “shots in the dark” and “guesswork.” These are not things you want to base your course community on; trust us.

The foundation of any strong course community strategy comes down to 5 key pillars: Purpose, values, voice, constraints, and people.

Understanding these grounding principles of community building will influence its design and help you make informed decisions in the future.

Let’s explore each of these pillars a little further:

1. Purpose

Knowing your community’s purpose is one of the most critical aspects of setting up and running a thriving course community.

Without purpose, why do anything?

You need to know the “why” behind every decision you make so you know that every element of your course community means something and delivers real value for your members.

So, how do you figure out your purpose?

Think about these three key factors: Who you bring together, how you help them, and why.

Here’s an example of a community purpose statement:

“We gather social media managers who want to manage their time effectively, understand the intricacies of every social media platform, and craft winning strategies to give them their time back and delight their clients.”

When creating your course community, bring everything back to your community purpose statement. Will designing a particular space help fulfill it? Does posting a specific type of content make sense?

Let your purpose guide your course community to keep you from going astray and wasting precious time on things that won’t improve your course community.

2. Values

Without first understanding your core community values, it’s harder to attract the right people to your course community, maintain your community “culture,” and make strategic decisions to keep your members engaged.

Maybe your core values are “honesty, empathy, and determination,” or perhaps they’re to “be humble, respect others, and commit to knowledge sharing.”

Whatever you choose, remember that your values should be unique to you and can be anything you want them to be – just make sure they’re simple and easy to remember.

During the design phase of your course community, keep these values in mind as you create spaces, events, content, etc., and continuously ask yourself if what you’re doing aligns with your values.

Stuck for ideas? Here are some core values for inspiration:

  • Celebrate differences
  • Value everyone’s voice
  • Accountability
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Be bold
  • Stay curious
  • Love learning
  • Help others do better
  • Perfection doesn’t exist
  • Show up for yourself

3. Voice

When setting up your course community, it’s a great idea to get to grips with your “tone of voice.”

Since you’ll be creating a heap of content, courses, and member discussions, maintaining your brand tone of voice will help build trust and a sense of belonging within your community.

Knowing your tone of voice also makes crafting content a whole lot easier and keeps it coherent when passing off content creation tasks to others. No matter who is writing your guides, posts, or course content, you’ll know that members are getting the same consistent experience across the board.

How to develop your tone of voice

Think of your community as if it was a person. What personality traits would best describe it? Is it joyful, positive, and funny? Professional, serious, and straightforward?

Every community has a character, and your tone of voice is how your express it. What does yours sound like?

4. Constraints

Every community builder and member will face particular constraints that impact how you form your course community.

It’s essential to be aware of these restrictions to avoid overextending yourself and expecting too much from your members.

Take a moment to think about your own personal constraints as a community builder. Maybe you don’t have much time to do live calls, have young kids who might take attention away from your community, or struggle with the admin side, so this eats up much of your time.

And then think about the constraints your members are likely facing. If you don’t already know, ask! Getting feedback from potential, current, and future course community members on how you can best support them is crucial.

Perhaps they’re going through similar constraints, and don’t have much time to dedicate to your course or the community itself, perhaps some have health struggles that impact how they learn, or maybe they’re limited financially.

Listing all the constraints on both sides will inform how you set up and launch your community and help you design a structure that makes sense for everyone’s limitations.

5. People

The final pillar you should pay attention to is the people you’re building the course community for. What challenges are they facing? What are their interests, learning styles, lifestyles, and goals?

How does your course community solve their problems, meet their needs, and enhance their lives? If you’re ever unsure about a particular decision, always think about the people it affects. Then, you’ll know the answer.

Returning to these pillars and applying the framework will help keep you grounded, relevant, and purposeful throughout the course community setup and launch process and beyond!

How to set up your course community

Now that you understand the foundational framework behind setting up and building your course community let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to create a thriving course community on Circle.

Create an onboarding area

Creating a welcome/onboarding area in your course community is essential to make onboarding new members as smooth as possible and take the pressure off yourself to welcome and onboard new people individually.

In this area you might include things like:

  • Onboarding checklists
  • Community guidelines
  • Commonly asked questions
  • Tutorials to use Circle
  • How to get started guides
  • New member space

Optimize your member directory

Take advantage of Circle’s excellent member directory feature by asking members to write how they’d like to help others in the community on their member profiles.

This will encourage co-creation, engagement, and connection among members and make newcomers feel less intimidated about reaching out to others.

Organize course module spaces

By creating spaces specifically for each module of your course, you can connect members at the same spot in the learning journey and keep all questions and feedback related to each module in neat, organized spaces.

You can outline how users should use each module space, whether to share wins, ask for advice, ask questions, request quick feedback, or all of the above!

The important thing is that you’re getting people talking, practicing, and supporting one another while keeping a watchful eye for any issues with each module.

Create general spaces

When setting up and launching a course community on Circle, the critical thing to remember is to keep it simple.

You can always add new spaces later, but removing them is more difficult once members start using them. Try not to segment the spaces too much, or you may confuse members or separate discussions and content to the point where there’s not much activity in each space, or they “go dead.”

The more general your spaces are, the more sustainable and active they will be. You could start by adding general spaces for things like:

  • Ask questions
  • Share your progress
  • Introduce yourself
  • Upcoming/past events

Empower members to become mentees

All community builders need support. One of the best ways to relieve the pressure is by sharing your workload with others and encouraging members to take a more active role in the community.

You could pin a post in the welcome space telling members if they apply to become a mentee and help coach others in the community or help facilitate admin tasks, they can get a special discount, mentorship, or learning opportunity.

By delegating responsibility to other members, you’re freeing yourself up to focus on the bigger picture tasks and helping build engagement as these mentees become even more invested in your community.

Remember, do not exploit your member’s time. Make helping out an equal exchange, whether that’s through a discount or personal mentorship from you.

At the bottom of your course community sidebar, you may want to add quick links to important information or websites to make it easier for your community members to access support for the platforms they’re using, find information, or log in to the course platform.

Create feedback processes

No thriving course community got that way without getting continuous feedback from its members and making the necessary changes to keep improving.

Even before you set up your first course community on Circle, it’s a good idea to interview potential members about the type of course community they’d like to be a part of.

Once your community is up and running, create a space specifically for feedback about the community, send out surveys to your member’s email, or interview them to see what you can improve, change, or get rid of to deliver a better experience.

Ready to set up and launch your course community?

We hope this guide has helped you feel a little more prepared to set up and launch your own Circle course community.

From understanding the five key pillars to robust course community design to developing a simple structure, we hope you can find clarity throughout the community building process after reading this.

We want to thank Carrie Melissa for the expert advice she explored in her training workshop, and we can’t wait for the next one! To learn more, check out her book Building Branded Communities, or visit her website.

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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Circle Editorial Team

104d

8 min read

How to migrate a mature community from facebook
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Have you been building a Facebook community for a while now but feel it no longer serves your needs? Are your community members calling out for a better platform or way of doing things? Maybe it’s time to migrate to Circle!

Unfortunately, Once you realize you want to migrate your mature Facebook community to a different platform, anxiety can set in.

How will members react to the migration? What do you need to do to make the transition seamless? What if you lose long-term members during the migration?

Don’t worry; these are all very normal questions and thoughts to have during this new chapter of your community!

Gesche Haas, the founder of Dreamers & Doers, a membership community for extraordinary women entrepreneurs, migrated her community from a Facebook group to Circle, got amazing results, and told our Circle members exactly how she did in an informative show and tell session.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that dives deeper into migrating a mature Facebook group to Circle to help you prepare for such a monumental community change and get all your members on board.

If that’s something you’re interested in learning, just keep reading!

The problems with Facebook groups

Let’s first explore some of the reasons why many communities are deciding it’s time to leave Facebook groups behind.

Annoying ads: Facebook can be distracting when you’re trying to concentrate on a community. Members can easily get sidetracked by ads popping up or posts on their newsfeed catching their attention.

No customization: On Facebook, it’s challenging to segment different discussions and content or add your branding; everything has the Facebook logo on it no matter what!

No paid memberships: With Facebook, you can give paying members access to the group once they’ve paid for it on another platform. But the platform doesn’t allow you to gate access to specific content or offer flexible memberships.

Why do Facebook Groups migrate to Circle?

Now, let’s examine why many Facebook communities choose Circle as their new community platform. (In case you’re not already convinced!)

No ads: Circle will always be a 100% ad-free platform. This distraction-free approach allows your members to enjoy the community without getting distracted by ads or endless cat videos and gives you full ownership of your data.

Fully customizable: With Circle, you can customize almost anything, embed Circle on your website, and white label it completely. Having full control over the Circle community platform lets you create the community you want – not one dictated by us.

Flexible paid memberships: With Circle’s paywalls, you can receive payments from members within minutes for weekly, monthly, and yearly memberships. You can also offer discounts, upsells, and gate access to certain content or areas within your community – making earning a living from your community easy.

Our top 13 tips for migrating from Facebook to Circle

We know migrating a mature Facebook group to a new community platform isn’t always easy. From telling your members about the upcoming changes to getting their buy-in and helping them use the platform, there’s certainly a lot involved. But by taking these migration tips on board, we hope you’ll feel more confident and prepared for the big move.

1. Conduct surveys

Get feedback from your members regularly to see how many people find it challenging to use your Facebook group, are interested in migrating to a different platform, or are disappointed with something else about the community. This will help you gauge interest in migrating from Facebook to Circle and resolve any non-Facebook-related problems before doing so.

2. Get Circle support

Migrating your community to a different platform is a big deal and can be very stressful and nerve-wracking. So, we definitely recommend taking total advantage of Circle’s support service to facilitate the move, answer any questions you might have, and guide you through the process.

3. Secure early adopters

Before migrating all your Facebook members to Circle, iron out the kinks by getting a beta testing group together. Post in your Facebook Group asking members if they’d like to get a first look at the new platform and give feedback in exchange for some kind of incentive, like a gift, free 1:1 coaching, or a discount on their membership.

4. Create brand ambassadors

While your beta testers will mainly be helping you improve your Circle community with honest feedback, they’re also vital for boosting hype within the old Facebook Group since not everyone will be as eager to migrate to a different platform. So ask early adopters to post about their experience in the Facebook Group and recommend Circle to others.

5. Market your migration

As highlighted above, getting every Facebook group member on board for the migration might be challenging. To ease the transition, create a marketing strategy for a successful migration that contains the following key elements:

  • Announcement posts: Make sure everyone is aware of the move with an official announcement post/ email when you’re migrating to Circle and, more importantly, why.
  • Invite questions: Ask your Facebook Group members if there is anything they’d like to know specifically about the migration and answer their questions.
  • Show Circle in action: Post screenshots and videos of you using Circle, so your members know what to expect.
  • Create reminder posts: Make members aware of the deadline for migrating to Circle to create a sense of urgency.
  • Ask people for feedback: Create a poll to see who is and isn’t migrating to Circle and ask them what you can do to encourage them to migrate to convert as many members as possible.

6. Welcome your members

Since your Facebook group members are getting used to a brand new platform, creating a fantastic onboarding experience is paramount. Smooth onboarding helps your community get their head around Circle’s features, give feedback, ask questions, and get the most out of the Circle platform.

Remember: Try not to overwhelm members in your onboarding space – just focus on the most important things they need to tick off their list. Circle is entirely new to them, so make user adoption easy with simple step-by-step instructions and achievable goals.

In your new member welcome space, you may want to include:

  • An onboarding checklist
  • Guides on using Circle
  • FAQs
  • Space for newcomers
  • Space for questions

7. Put spaces into beta

Nothing loses member trust faster than providing a poor user experience. So if you’re trying out a new space for the first time, add (beta) at the end of the space title. This trick will ensure your members are much more forgiving, as they know the space is still in “test mode” and may not be picture-perfect just yet.

8. Practice your design

Before you launch a new space or design, you can make sure it’s in draft mode on Circle, so you can see how it looks before you launch it. This way, you can get the design right without worrying about members visiting a half-finished space that you’re not 100% happy with yet!

9. Keep spaces similar to Facebook

Your members already have many new changes to come to terms with. That’s why keeping your spaces as similar to your old Facebook group as possible is a good idea. This will help make the migration that bit smoother, as members will be familiar with the setup and have the chance to continue their conversations.

10. Segregate casual spaces

If members in your Facebook community often share non-community-related content, try keeping these topics in separate spaces to ensure they don’t disturb your community’s core focus. You can also create a space where members can vote for their favorite topics to inform future interest-based spaces.

11. Make expectations clear

When migrating from Facebook, it’s vital to set clear boundaries for every space so that your members know how to use each one and understand what is/isn’t appropriate to post. Outlining space rules ensures that they all stay relevant, informative, and helpful for each topic.

12. Organize all content

One of the major benefits of Circle is that you can upload and organize your community content into different spaces, making it easier for members to find events, videos, guides, newsletters, checklists, etc., on various topics. Once you migrate your content, try to make it as organized as possible so members can easily find what they’re looking for.

13. Create a feedback space

Creating a space specifically for feedback will help you quickly ease any concerns with using the new platform. There are bound to be some Facebook members who will take longer to adjust to the new ways of doing things and want to have their say. Showing them you’re taking feedback on board will help you improve your Circle community and keep members long-term.

Ready to migrate from Facebook to Circle with confidence?

We hope this guide has given you the confidence you need to successfully migrate a mature Facebook group support to the Circle platform and support your members as they do so!

With our care team and fantastic Circle knowledge hub by your side, we know you’ll have no problem seamlessly migrating community members and creating a better overall community experience on Circle.

We want to thank Gesche for the expert advice she explored in her Facebook migration show and tell, and we can’t wait for the next one! To learn more about Gesche and her thriving community, visit her website.

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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Circle Editorial Team

104d

11 min read

A new approach to increase valuable engagement in your community
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Cultivating strong, meaningful, and sustainable community engagement is something that even the most successful and large communities struggle with.

If you find it difficult to measure community engagement, increase it long-term, or keep trying out different approaches with no luck, this guide is for you!

Community Consultant and Teachable Community Builder Neole Flowers gave our Circle members a stimulating expert workshop on “Engagement, but better” to help them increase community engagement using a unique approach – and our members loved it!

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that shows you how to look at community engagement in a new light, focus on what matters in your engagement strategy, and implement 5 key engagement tactics to build a thriving community.

Let’s go!

A new way to approach engagement.

Community engagement: but not as you know it! From our experience working with countless community builders, community engagement can be somewhat of a mystery – and no one strategy will work for everyone.

Engagement means different things to different communities, so by taking this new approach, you’ll have a better understanding of what engagement means in your community. Once you know what valuable engagement looks like, you can then go about increasing it over time!

Focus on quality over quantity

While there’s certainly a level of activity every community needs to engage their members, having a loud, active community with lots of discussions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re generating quality engagement.

If there are a lot of conversations happening, but they’re irrelevant, not related to your community purpose, or don’t offer genuine value, then they may as well just be background noise.

It’s not how many people are talking in your community. Valuable engagement is about what people are talking about and the impact it has on the community.

Community is about connection. And if your members are only chiming in for quick chats, they’re not as likely to form strong bonds and engage in your community long-term.

Understand your community purpose

When thinking about your strategy for increasing engagement, it’s vital to first understand the “why” behind your goals.

You might set a goal of having “100 interactions a day,” but you need to focus on why you want that many interactions.

Maybe having that many interactions a day will provide an influx of high-quality content that you can recycle for blogs, webinars, and use to get more conversations going in your community.

You’re not looking for engagement for engagement’s sake. You want a certain result to help fulfill your community purpose.

Prioritize values over guidelines

Pretty much every community will have a set of community guidelines in place that outline a list of do’s, don’ts, and general community etiquette. You might tell your members not to spam, self-promote, or post support questions in the general community space.

But what about your community values? Your community values have a much greater impact on producing high-quality content among members because before any member writes a post or responds in the comments, they’re thinking, “am I aligning with our community values here?”

Maybe your community values could be to “give as much as you take,” “share your vulnerability,” or “never leave someone hanging.”

By focusing on your community values, you can help members share a sense of responsibility to uphold them through their behaviors – all helping to increase quality engagement.

Know what a quality contribution looks like

Think about the types of content people post in your community. What does a quality contribution look like vs. a poor quality contribution? Usually engagement that aligns with your community purpose and community values is what you should search for.

If your purpose is to help other coaches grow their businesses, for example, maybe you rate interactions where members share their professional insights and career journeys more than quick questions about using a certain coaching tool, for example.

To increase community engagement, you first must gain clarity on the type of engagement, interactions, and contributions that matter the most.

Trigger better quality contributions

When people aren’t engaging with a new space you’ve created, it can definitely be worrying. But by leading by example, and posting content that mirrors what you’d like to see in that space, other members will generally follow suit.

By asking the right kind of questions that fire up an active discussion, helping members connect with one another by tagging them in the comments, and becoming a “model contributor” yourself, your members will find it easier to participate themselves!

Redirect or remove irrelevant content

Don’t be afraid to remove content or redirect a conversation elsewhere if it doesn’t fulfill your purpose or align with your community values.

If you see a post that falls outside your defined parameters for “good quality contributions,” you can even comment on them asking a follow-up question that brings your members back to your main focus.

If you’re finding irrelevant contributions are happening often (maybe people are talking about politics when your community is about gardening), kindly redirect them back to the community purpose or even create a special space for off-topic conversations.

Your framework for meaningful engagement

Now that you understand what engagement means to you and what quality, valuable contributions look like, you’re ready to design more meaningful engagement strategies.

Using this unique framework below, you’ll be able to stay focused on increasing only the engagement that actually matters in your community.

Understand your “Engagement Ladder”

Your engagement ladder depicts the different levels that people engage in your community. Maybe some people read all of the posts but never interact, post only once a month, or are those “super members” we all know and love that post and engage every day!

The thing is; even though some people may not appear to be actively engaging in your community (those who “lurk” but don’t interact), that doesn’t mean they’re not getting value from your community.

Some of these “lurkers” may even desire to take a more active role in the community, but they can’t go from 0-100. They need some steps in between to climb up the engagement ladder and become a more active user.

Design your own engagement ladder, creating personas for every level to better understand who interacts in your community, how often, and why.

Design engagement opportunities for everyone

With such a broad spectrum of engagement, you need to create opportunities for everyone, not just your super members to contribute- no matter where they fall on the engagement ladder.

Making it easy for members of all engagement levels to interact in your community will help keep overall engagement rates high and move people into the next engagement stage (if they wish to be there.)

Creating content for lurkers, for example, might mean posting content or polls they can quickly interact with that doesn’t take much effort.

Creating content for super members might be more about thought leadership pieces, expert workshops, or master classes that take much more effort to engage with.

Design engagement opportunities that vary

Think about the type of content you offer to your community. What is the ratio of webinars, long-form content, surveys, small workshops, 1:1s, etc.?

Do you have enough or too much of a particular type of content? Are you posting enough content that newcomers or “lurkers” can easily engage with?

The more you understand your barriers to engagement for each member’s engagement “persona,” the quicker you can remove them and make engagement feel more natural and easy for every member of your community.

Search for engagement opportunity gaps

When you plan your community content, plan intentionally. Proactively think about every engagement level and member persona in your community and how a certain type of content might offer them an engagement opportunity.

Look for places where the steps on your engagement ladder are too far apart by conducting a full audit of your engagement opportunities.

Not every piece of content or activity type will suit everyone. The idea here is to plan content with enough variance to appeal to a wide range of your members.

Test your engagement hypothesis

How do you truly understand where your members fall on the engagement ladder? Take a random sampling of your members every so often and look closely at their activity. What personas can you pull out? What type of content do they engage with?

Now, create opportunities for them to climb upwards, implement your content plan, and see what results it brings.

Bite-sized engagement strategies to try today

Below are some “mini engagement strategies” you can test in your community that has been shown to help increase community engagement. Tweak these to make sense for your own community and see its impact!

1. Create community rituals

Community rituals are recurring anticipated things that happen in your community. Rituals can be anything from weekly goals to Friday digests.

They give your members a reason to open and engage in your community, because they know what to expect.

Using community rituals for things that take more effort (like sharing their best strategy for X) is a fantastic way to get members actively contributing and remove barriers to engagement.

Once your members become familiar with the weekly/ monthly ritual and see others put in the effort, many of them will too!

2. Switch up your CTAs

When creating a post, instead of asking a generic question like “comment your thoughts below,” try switching up your CTA to something that will provoke more engagement.

Maybe ask members to create a post sharing their best landing page design or ask them to add an upcoming event to their calendar. These kinds of questions will spur more long-term engagement and create a snowball effect.

It’s also a good idea to play around with the different post format options Circle has, like our feed, card, and post layouts, to strategically encourage people to post long-form content or jump on a quick post.

3. Design an engagement flywheel

All engagement strategies are an opportunity to know who your members are and invite them to engage on a higher level. Let’s say you ask people to share their best homepage, for example.

Maybe one person will simply post a link to the homepage they’re most proud of, another will add information about how they optimized it for SEO, and someone else will describe their approach to testimonials.

You can also outsource engagement to other members, by asking them directly to elaborate on a specific comment using their expertise (if they are comfortable doing so!)

Once other members see them contributing with insightful content, they’ll feel more confident doing the same – creating an engagement flywheel effect.

4. Create exclusive engagement opportunities

Creating exclusive opportunities for engagement like connecting with members 1:1 or scheduling long-form webinars, events, and workshops will help your community members connect with others in a more special space.

After they’ve met each other “virtually,” they’re more likely to continue the conversation after their live interaction. They will come for the content but stay for the lively discussions and connections they make afterward – increasing more valuable engagement in your community.

5. Schedule community reminders

Whether it’s through weekly digests, automated email campaigns, or your onboarding sequences, look at ways you can bring people back into your community from another channel.

Not everyone will be checking your community every day, so by reminding them what’s coming up and sharing quality content based on the conversations that are happening, they might feel like they’re missing out and engage once again in your community.

Ready to approach community engagement differently?

From understanding where your members fall on the engagement ladder to proven engagement strategies you can implement today, we hope you feel more confident creating your own meaningful community engagement strategy!

We’d like to thank Neole for the thought-provoking ideas she explored in her expert workshop and can’t wait for the next one!

If you’d like to build an engagement strategy of your own, why not try out Neole’s Engagement Ladder Template to help you better understand your member’s engagement levels and get them climbing to the top?

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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Circle Editorial Team

104d

10 min read

How to create a business model for a profitable paid community
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Ever feel like you’re building a community business based on guesswork? Not sure how to create the right business model to build a more profitable paid community?

Generating income from community memberships can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time building a paid community or you’ve been running a free community for a while and are just starting to transition to a paid one.

Don’t worry; you’re certainly not the only one struggling with creating a paid community. That’s why Community Strategist and Coach Tatiana Figueredo recently gave our Circle members an interactive workshop to help them develop a profitable business model for their community.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide showing you each step to creating your very own business model with plenty of insightful tips and a business model worksheet for good measure. Just keep reading!

Define what community means to you

Before you start building your business model, it’s a good idea to think about what the word “community” means to you. One definition could be “a group of people interested in nurturing their own and another’s growth,” for example.

Now think about what a business community means to you. How do you make money, what makes your community a business? Finally let’s look at “business model,” which is, in essence, “the story of how your business works and makes money.”

How your community can make money on Circle

To get you thinking about your own business model and ways you can make money with a Circle paid community, let’s take a look at some examples of business models from successful communities on Circle.

Ness Labs: Helps people interested in self-improvement find others to collaborate with by providing a platform to host events and connect via a Circle community.

They find customers from their email newsletter and charge $9 a month or $49 a year for membership.

Dreamers and Doers: Helps womxn entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing visibility and networking via PR opportunities and a Circle community.

Moving from Facebook to Circle, they find customers via referrals from members and make money charging $105/month for quarterly membership.

Building a Second Brain: Helps busy productive nerds get organized and expand their creative output via a cohort based course and ongoing Circle community.

They find customers via referrals and make money by charging $1500-$6000 per cohort.

What is the dream scenario for your community?

Take a second to think about what success looks like for your community. This success doesn’t have to be about money specifically. Maybe you define success by what members are doing, how many you have, the impact your community has on their lives, etc.

Keep this dream success scenario in mind while you move on to the next steps in creating a profitable paid community: Your business model.
Your community business model template

Below is a framework for spelling out your community business model. Take a few minutes to fill in the gaps and begin pulling together a rough business model.

Tip: Be realistic -Make sure you can execute whatever you write for your business model in 6-8 weeks with the resources you currently have.

We help [members] overcome/solve [problem you solve] by [your solution]. We’ll find most of our customers [your main channel] and will make money by [your revenue].

  • Members: What few words best describe your members?
  • Problem you solve: What pain points do your members have?
  • Your solution: What does your community include/ offer?
  • Main channel: Where will you find people? Twitter, partnerships, email, etc.?
  • Your revenue: What will you charge money for? How much and how often?

Great, you’ve just created a first draft of your business model! If you struggled with it, don’t worry, we dive deeper into each element further down in this guide!

Business validation mistakes to avoid

Business validation is the process of determining if there’s a need for your community in your target market. Validating your business model can help you predict if people will buy your membership and whether your business will be profitable or not.

Here are some business validation mistakes you should avoid when validating your community business model.

Don’t spend a lot of money

Don’t spend your hard earned cash trying to validate your community with a bunch of business books that contain outdated information about using only Facebook and Google ads to drum up business.

This approach is simply not sustainable as it doesn’t help you find new members long-term. There are all kinds of free tools you can use to recruit members, so don’t pay people for interviews or hire anyone. People should be willing to chat casually about your business model.
Don’t use opinions as validation

Asking industry leaders or prominent figures in your niche for their opinions on your community doesn’t matter. The only opinions you need to focus on for building a strong paid community is that of your members.

Don’t use only surveys or focus groups

1:1 interviews with your members are always better than relying on surveys or focus groups, even if you only interview a few people. You learn so much more this way, as you can really dig deep into what they’re saying and learn things you didn’t even know to ask them about!
Don’t test without a goal

Before gathering data, know your hypothesis. Don’t go in blind and try different business tactics without thinking of the questions you’re trying to answer.

Be specific, like “I want to understand what age groups my target members fall into.” This will create too many roads for you to go down and will leave you feeling more confused than when you started!

Build your community business model step-by-step

Now it’s time to dive into each element of our business model template to help you develop a solid, strategic, and profitable business model for your community.
Meet your members

If you’re not sure who your members are and what they’re like personality-wise, meet them! Arrange interviews with current and potential members to see how you’d describe them, then try this format:

Adjective + identity

Are your community members new moms of twins? Nerdy dog parents? Ambitious female business owners?

If you’re starting a new community or trying to narrow your focus, pay more attention to the people in your community or potential members that give you energy and excite you.

Collaborating and serving these kinds of people will be much easier to sustain in the long-run since running a community can be very energy-draining!

Let’s take a look at this example from the Petminded community who originally served all pet lovers, but then realized they were most attracted to dog owners specifically:

“Petminded helps nerdy dog parents feel more confident taking care of their pets by providing regular events about Dog Science. They find most customers through event partnerships with other brands and make money by charging for courses and individual events.”

Define the problem you solve

Talk to your members or potential members about their day-to-day challenges. Gain an insight into how they feel, what they think, and what they’re doing when they look for a community like yours

Ask them about what happens when their challenges or problems crop up. See what that moment in time looks like and how they are already solving the problem.

Let’s take a look at a problem that the Buckskin Revolution solves. Instead of just teaching people how to survive outdoors, through member interviews; they learned that the major problem they’re solving has more to do with a connection to nature.

“Buckskin Revolution helps crafty outdoorsy people increase their sense of connection to the world around them by providing bi-annual online gatherings that include access to an online community. We’ll find most of our customers through YouTube and social media and make money by charging $285 for each gathering.”

Build your solution

For a community to work you need to think about how to get people in the door at the same time, instead of selling a membership one by one.

Through group coaching programs, courses, challenges, partnerships, and small events, you can transition your target members to a paid program.

By building a valuable solution to their problem. What can you offer them that will make their lives easier? If you don’t already have members, how can you convince people to join your community?

Try offering things like 1:1 coaching, webinars, and valuable resources to get new members to bite – or offer a founding member discount to those who are interested.

Decide your main channels

Choosing the channels from which you’ll attract your members can be difficult if you don’t have members in your paid community yet.

To get started, you can try getting involved in partnerships with others in the industry who appeal to your target members and spread awareness that way.

You can also engage in other communities your members are active in, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and podcasts, to reach people who may be interested in joining your paid community.

Petminded partnered with other brands through Dog Science week, where other pet brands’ audiences attended, making it easier to launch her paid community to new audience members.

“Petminded helps nerdy dog parents feel more confident taking care of their pets by providing regular events about Dog Science. They find most customers through event partnerships with other brands and make money by charging for courses and individual events.”

Calculate your revenue

The important thing to figure out here is how much do you want to make? Then you can reverse engineer from that number to see how many members you need and how much they need to pay.

Do you need to make your membership expensive for a smaller group of people or cheaper for a lot of people? How often will they pay you and how much? Is the community membership included in a broader offering or are they just paying for the community?

Answer these questions to gain clarity on exactly what you need to achieve your desired profit from your paid community.

Tip: It’s beneficial to charge more upfront and create a lower tier later on than not charge enough and increase the price later on.

Want a profitable paid community? Get working on your business model now!

Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of our guide to profitable business models on Circle. Now it’s time to apply this framework so you can create, test, and validate your community business model for more profit and success!

Why not give Tatiana’s Business Model Worksheet a try and see how it can help you develop a winning paid community? Simply make a copy below.

Google Doc Worksheet
Notion Worksheet

We’d like to thank Tatiana for the insightful ideas she explored in her training workshop, and can’t wait for the next one! If you’d like coaching from Tatiana for your community, check out her new cohort on building a community business.

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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12,000 of your peers are already in the know

Circle Editorial Team

104d

12 min read

How to Build Healthy Community Culture in 8 Easy Steps
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Building a healthy community culture can be a tricky process. You want to balance the carefree enjoyment of your community with a sense of security. While it’s important that members feel free to be themselves on your platform, a healthy community culture should provide a safe space for members, without constant negativity or unwelcoming feelings.

Community expert and CEO of Design Cuts, Tom Ross, recently gave an expert workshop to our Circle members. Tom runs a community of 800,000 creatives so we couldn’t think of anyone better to break down the practical strategies for how to build a great culture within your community.

After the success of Tom’s workshop, we’ve decided to create an accompanying guide with 8 simple steps on how to build healthy community culture. Great community culture has to start somewhere, so we hope this guide helps you streamline the process more efficiently.

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Why is a strong community culture so important?

The general definition of culture is that it’s the shared values, behaviors, and beliefs within a community group. While each community group will have different standards of culture (depending on where they’re from), it is possible to create a sense of culture that feels welcoming and open to everyone. But why is building a strong community culture so important?

Even though the behavior of individual community members can’t always be controlled, constantly reminding members of the standards your community wishes to uphold helps keep a community feeling more secure. Positive community culture consists of users acknowledging guidelines, but still feeling like they can showcase their true personalities.

A strong sense of community within online spaces allows for other members to set the tone for how new members integrate. If a strong sense of community culture is achieved, it will naturally be easier to maintain — regardless of how large a community grows! Positive community culture is infectious and new members should be able to slot right in if you manage to get the balance right!

But how exactly can you ensure a strong sense of community culture for your platform or online network? Here’s some simple steps you can follow:

Step one: Determine which values you want your community culture to have

Even though some values of community culture will be obvious to members, vocalizing the values you want to prioritize helps keep community members more unified. Do you want your community to be open and inclusive? To be honest and transparent? To have a flat structure with no hierarchy?

While strong community culture will naturally have a range of values that are both positive and negative (we’ll talk about this more a little later!), good community culture generally tries to promote positive values and inclusion as much as possible. This helps set a general tone for your community and provides members with a baseline for determining whether your community is for them.

Tip: If you want to establish a true sense of community amongst your members, a flat community structure is always best. All community members should feel equal, so while ‘community leaders’ will naturally exist, highlighting that these leaders are still just community members is beneficial.

For your community to be perceived as a positive space or to breed a more upbeat sense of community spirit, you must first define and promote the positive values you want your users to support. These might include:

  • Kindness
  • Inclusivity
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Friendliness
  • Empathy
  • Consideration for others
  • Positivity/Humor
  • Accountability

While some of these values might seem obvious, a community that consistently and publicly promotes positive qualities within their community is one that users know care.

Remember: ‘Successful’ community culture isn’t always positive

While a toxic environment should always be avoided when it comes to community culture, the reality is that negative comments are a natural part of building a strong community. Members should feel free to be open and honest about their feelings, even if these feelings are negative.

The difference between negative comments that help strengthen a community, and ones that tear a community down is largely to do with how you respond to negativity within your community. Communities that want to support a more positive atmosphere will have a zero-tolerance policy for trolls. However, they will still be welcoming for people wanting to share honest thoughts and opinions on certain matters.

Some of the most successful communities are ones that breed negativity, but it’s up to you to choose whether this is the vibe you want your community culture to have or not. Communities such as Reddit or even YouTube can be brutal in terms of commenters voicing their opinions — but they’re still some of the most popular platforms out there.

For your community to avoid a high level of savage commentary, accountability can be key. Are you members free to make anonymous comments or do they need an established profile to get involved in conversations? Are there consequences for trolling or personal attacks on other members?

These are just some of the things you need to consider when trying to establish a strong community culture. Your members are largely responsible for how the culture of your community plays out, but there can still be guidelines in place to steer this culture in the right direction.

Step Two: Know which traits signify bad community culture

A bad community culture is one that’s difficult to come back from. Once a community member has a bad experience within your space, they’re unlikely to return. This is why knowing the signs of bad community culture is essential.

Bad community culture can consist of:

  • An unenjoyable or non-engaging experience for members
  • An unenjoyable or non-engaging experience for the community leader(s)
  • A sense of disconnect between the intentions, values or mission of the associated company or community leaders

Some traits of bad community culture can include:

  • Toxic member/leader behavior e.g., trolling
  • Negative feeling & atmosphere
  • Unwelcoming feeling for new & existing members
  • A sense that the community needs to be heavily ‘policed’ or moderated
  • Community leaders that don’t uphold the core values of your community / Seem unhappy in their roles

Bad community culture is also one that doesn’t carry cohesive brand messaging. From your community interface to how leaders interact with members, every aspect of your community should reflect how you want your community to be perceived. Your brand messaging should be a key focus when onboarding new community leaders, and when advertising your community or welcoming new members!

Step Three: Create and evaluate member personas

Your members play a vital role in helping your community culture thrive. Understanding these members is therefore hugely beneficial.

If your member personas align with the culture you’re trying to achieve for your community, it’ll be much easier to develop your community in the way you want. If certain members of your community don’t align with your values, observing their behavior and adjusting your interaction with these members might be necessary.

For example, if you feel that certain members of your community are having a negative impact on others — ask yourself why? Is this member not getting what they need from your community? Are they not being engaged directly enough?

Find out what problems negative members have with your community and instead of just hoping that they’ll go away or change their attitudes, give them what they might be missing.

Step Four: Establish and promote your community’s mission

Every community developer wants to build a strong community culture, but what impact do you hope to have in achieving this? A strong community culture is one with purpose, so make sure your members are aware of what you’re trying to achieve.

To draft a community mission, consider the following:

  • What will members gain by being a part of your community?
  • What long-term impact does your community hope to have?
  • What is your community doing to achieve its ultimate goals?

Communities are a place for members to grow as people and interact at a level they might otherwise not. Promote the transformative nature of your community to users wherever possible — how will members change for the better after joining your community?

Step Five: Define your culture

It seems logical that for your members to understand the culture you’re trying to achieve, you’ll need to set it out in your own mind first. This can be a process that involves some serious thought, but breaking it down into smaller phases can really help.

To define your culture from the beginning:

  • List 3 core behaviors you want to promote in your community
  • List 3 core behaviors you don’t want to promote in your community
  • Vocalize how you want your members to talk about your community to others

Something to consider: Barriers for your community

For a strong community culture to exist, all members should want to be there. Consider using barriers such as cost or public values to narrow down the types of persona joining your community.

If possible, follow these steps:

1. Establish your core values with a small group of initial members
2. Don’t just let anyone into your community (people should want to be there, so a membership fee might be a good option!)
3. When onboarding team leaders or welcoming new members, set out your values and guidelines from the start (and don’t be afraid to repeat them over and over!)

Step Six: Moderate your community, but also allow your community to breathe

It’s possible to be an assertive leader without making your community constantly fear expulsion or stifling members with endless rules. The best way to do this is to set your guidelines loud and clear from the start, and consistently (but gently!) reminding members that this is the type of community they’ve chosen to be a part of.

With this method, members are more likely to naturally observe guidelines without feeling like they’re constantly being monitored or moderated.

While moderation will still be necessary when certain community guidelines are broken, micro-managing your community is never advised. Long-term and committed members are usually happy to help guide new members on community guidelines, so often, issues can be resolved without ever needing to interfere.

Tip: Think about moderation as more like good housekeeping. If something doesn’t belong in a certain place, it’s okay to remove it. Once all moderation actions can be justified to users through clear guidelines set out from the beginning, there shouldn’t be any issues. The need for moderation should be minimal though, so if you find that it’s a constant in your community — it might be time to rework your guidelines!

Step Seven: Communicate with members, gauge satisfaction, and make sure they feel included

The best way to ensure that your community members are happy is to talk to them. Asking the right questions can make all the difference to how your community culture develops. Some tips on how to communicate better with your members:

  • Create surveys to gauge member satisfaction
  • Ask members to describe your community in 3 words
  • Conduct social listening to find out what people are saying about your community

Members love to be engaged individually, but this isn’t always possible. Because of this, it’s especially important to ensure that all community members feel seen. If you don’t have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategy, it might be time to develop one.

To ensure that DEI is a core element of your community:

  • Focus on educating yourself on diversity and inclusion
  • Weave DEI throughout all of your core community practices
  • Vocalize your DEI mission and ensure members know that your community is a safe and open space for all
  • Don’t wait on members to notify you of issues about accessibility or inclusion, get ahead with regular audits and updates to your policies

Step Eight: Don’t just discuss the culture you want, demonstrate it!

Last but not least, if you want your community to have a strong sense of culture, lead by example! From welcome messages to community events, you and your team should showcase the best of your community through your own actions.

If you want your community to feel fun and free-spirited, host events that reflect this core messaging. Share external media that reflects this core messaging. Do everything you can to embody your core messaging and allow community members to see exactly what you’re about.

Now that you know how to build a healthy community culture, all that’s left is to get started!

Building a healthy community culture isn’t something that just happens overnight, but hopefully with these steps, you can set off on the right track. Overall, the most important thing to remember is that your members are what make your community what it is. That’s why it’s so important to let them be your guide in making your community the best it can be!

We’d like to thank Tom for taking the time to speak with Circle members and sharing his expertise with us. If you’d like to learn more about the topic, why not check out Tom’s website (he’s always open to meeting new people and sharing his wisdom!).

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration and top tips from community and business experts.

If you’d like to share the Circle experience with some of your friends or business associates, you can also let them know about our 14-day free trial. Circle, the all-in-one community platform for creators and brands.

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Circle Editorial Team

110d

9 min read

How to boost community engagement with proven methods
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Community engagement is one of the most talked about topics when it comes to building a successful community, and for good reason. If your members aren’t engaging with your community, something is most likely wrong.

Engagement is how you measure success, know what you’re doing fulfills your community purpose, and help you strategize for the future to deliver the best community experience possible.

But why does it seem so hard to articulate what valuable community engagement actually is? Why is it so hard to know what’s working and what’s not to engage your community members long-term?

In an exciting expert workshop on how to boost engagement, FeverBee Founder and Community Consultant Richard Millington helped Circle members better understand the motivation behind why people participate in communities in the first place.

So, we thought it would be helpful to put together an accompanying guide that shows you how to boost community engagement by understanding the key motivators of your members and creating more participation.

What drives people to engage in a community

Looking at the self-determination theory, below we explore what makes people want to participate in a community in the first place to help you understand how to best meet their needs.

Amotivated: Why people don’t join/ participate

  • They don’t know the community exists
  • They don’t see the value in the community
  • They don’t trust the community to deliver value
  • They’re members of competitor groups
  • There’s a personal conflict involved

Extrinsically motivated: Why people join and initially participate

  • Immediate gratification: They want to solve a problem they know they have and improve skills by accessing unique expertise
  • Social reward: They want to increase their status with exclusivity and influence
  • Group norms: They have major FOMO (Fear of missing out.)
  • Pursue passion: They want to explore interests with like-minded individuals

Intrinsically motivated: Why people participate long-term

  • They have a genuine interest in the topic
  • They enjoy participating in the community
  • They get satisfaction from helping others

The fundamentals of engagement matrix

Now that you understand why people participate in communities; let’s take a look at how community builders can meet more of their community member’s needs through this engagement matrix.

Member’s needs usually fall into four categories

  • Belonging: People want a place where they feel like they belong
  • Influence: People want the ability to influence a group or their surroundings
  • Exploration: People want to dive deeper into their passions and explore new solutions.
  • Support: People want to find the answers to their problems and get help from others.

Increase engagement by expanding topics

If you want people to engage more often, the idea is to satisfy more of their needs.
Think about the areas you give your community members value. In the framework below, we chose “career, product, and lifestyle.”

You can choose the areas most relevant to your community. Now expand your list of topics to keep delivering more opportunities for engagement.
Increase engagement by expanding value

Take a look at the other vertical on the matrix below, and explore ways you can expand value by fulfilling the different needs of your members (belonging, influence, exploration, and support.)

These needs may differ from community to community. The important part is that you know what needs you can meet over time, why you should meet them, and how.

Use this matrix as a template

Begin in one section of the matrix and gradually expand the value of your community to include more and more topics, content types, and solutions to grow engagement and value.

Using the matrix, you can add in the topics most relevant to your community and create a long-term framework for community engagement.

You don’t need to start at the bottom and work your way to the top; you can begin by filling in just one section most relevant to your community.

Outline typical activities in your community

Once you’ve filled in your matrix, take a look at this other framework below to further understand what specific activities need to happen or do happen in your community to satisfy a particular section of the engagement matrix above.

These could be discussions, content, challenges, activities, or another participation type that has the potential to boost engagement in your community by satisfying different member needs.

Having a good community manager matters

Community engagement fundamentals don’t stop there. Another major factor that influences the level of engagement in your community is you!

Community managers drive interactions, discussions, and offer participation opportunities in every community. Without them, members are left to fend for themselves and won’t do anything if a community goes quiet.

Having a good community manager makes all the difference. The more training you undertake to improve your skills the better your community engagement will be. Think communities can be 100% self-sufficient and still increase engagement?

Here’s what happens to engagement without a community manager.

Now see what can happen when a community manager is brought in and does the basics of increasing engagement (triggering discussions, talking to members 1:1, etc.):

How to increase community retention

A lot of communities struggle with their retention rates, but getting these fundamental principles right will have a massive impact on boosting engagement and retention in your community.

Make sure every question gets a response

If someone responds to a new member’s question, they’re much more likely to participate again. As we can see from this graph below, if nobody responds the likelihood of that member making a second post drops dramatically. You don’t need to answer every question. Instead, you can send a link to a helpful space or tag others to help answer it.

Respond to every question/post fast

Ensure none of your members are waiting too long for a response, or they’ll be far less likely to contribute to the community again. There is a small window to turn a new member into a long-term engager in your community. So pay special attention to posts from new members in your community.

Encourage quality responses

Assess the responses in your community and see if they’re personalized, friendly, result in further questions, and give a sense of impact or influence. These are key factors to increasing future member participation and engagement.

Every interaction is an opportunity to build more understanding, introduce connections, advise on other topics, offer validation, share useful information, and encourage further discussions by adding other members.

If new members don’t have any questions, the next best thing is to make sure you tag them in a welcome thread and have them introduce themselves to the rest of the community.

How to stimulate more activity

Here are some top tips below to help you stimulate more activity and therefore boost engagement in your community.
Ask a question instead of making a statement

This one may seem obvious, but it really does work. Asking questions in your community encourages far more replies than asking no questions at all.

Keep subject title lengths around 100 characters

Are your subject titles too long or short to grab your members attention? According to this research below, 100 characters is the sweet spot for subject title length. Give it a go today and see if this simple change makes an impact for you.

Make a specific space for off-topic discussions

Every community should have an off-topic space for discussions that fall outside of the core focus of the community. If you keep these more general conversations away from the key purpose of your community, you’ll avoid deterring people who don’t find value in them and retain those who like these kinds of social interactions.

Create more “how to” content

Try focusing on more “how to” type discussions in your community to boost engagement. Describing how to do something instead of “what to do” is more difficult to explain and requires expertise, which offers more value and increases engagement.

Engagement tips for advanced community builders

Now we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the more advanced engagement boosting tactics you can implement to create more participation and long-term community success.
Run an audit of popular discussions
Dive into your analytics and see what people like the most, what the top discussions are, and how much traffic these discussions account for. Make sure you keep these discussions alive by continuing to reference them, repost them, update them, and tag members in them for related posts.

Long-term value over quick wins

While a webinar with an expert might create an influx of engagement in the short-term, producing valuable resources will contribute to long-term traffic that keeps growing member activity along with it, creating more cumulative engagement.

Here are some of the most engaging resources to post

  • Case studies
  • Analyses/breakdowns
  • Templates./resources
  • Survey/data
  • Interviews

Consider specific programs within your community

Think about creating specific programs that offer exclusive rewards and benefits to your members like discounts, exclusive content, or reputation badges. These programs will help boost engagement and give your members a real sense of value.

If you want to take your community to the next level, you need to think about specific programs for different member types, creating value specifically for their level of engagement within your community – whether they’re super users, advocates, influencers, etc.
How to avoid collective action issues

To avoid people freeloading off the contribution and hard work of others in your community, you can create a set of rules that only allow them to receive value if they give it by:

  • Only letting contributors enjoy resources
  • Create a social norm around contributing
  • Forge an identity around being a “contributor”
  • Reinforce reputational benefits of featuring in the community

Ready to put these proven methods of boosting engagement into action?

Now that you understand the fundamentals of engagement in your community, how to increase participation and retention, and some key engagement tips, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and get started on your community engagement strategy!

We’d like to thank Richard for his well-researched, insightful, and eye-opening expert workshop and can’t wait for the next one! If you’d like to learn more about him or get in touch, check out his website, FeverBee.

Check out Circle’s other training videos for more inspiration, motivation, and top tips.

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