02:08 – The Facebook group misconception
03:20 – Stages of running a community
04:30 – The ever-absent owner
05:29 – How do you step away?
08:31 – When your membership is the product
10:24 – What is engagement and how do you measure it?
13:14 – Can you succeed with Slack?
14:53 – Different types of communities
17:20 – The downsides of Facebook
20:30 – Common practice
22:44 – Community managers – how does it work?
25:41 – The community that works together
27:15 – Why emotion is important
31:39 – One of the fails and its takeaways
34:52 – Wrapping things up
Build, grow and optimize your own community with the experience of James and his coaching. Click HERE
James: James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is Episode 585 and we are talking about community strategy and by we, I have brought a special guest along, Diana Tower from DianaTower.com, who is a community strategist. Welcome to the call.
Diana: Thanks so much for having me.
James: So you’re a Canadian in Spain.
Diana: That is correct. Well, actually I would say I was from Calgary, Alberta, but I was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. And my father was in the military, so we moved around quite a fair bit. But I have settled down in the south of Spain.
James: That would be one hell of an address to put on an envelope.
Diana: I know, right?
James: Moose Jaw, Sasquatch.
Diana: Yeah, Moose Jaw and then Saskatchewan. It’s one of those. I don’t even think I could spell it. Like, if you tested me right now, I probably could not spell it without having to look it up. It’s a weird spelling.
James: So you’re in Spain and you are helping people with their communities, which is highly interesting to me, having been running a couple of communities for near on a decade. Not quite. But a lot of my customers have communities and people who listen to this particular show are super savvy when it comes to communities. It’s almost certain we have a high density of people with Facebook groups, private memberships.
And I think we could probably cover some interesting ground for someone who’s maybe not even got a membership yet or a Facebook group, which is something you sound like you specialize in. So it’d be good to cover a few of those topics today. What do you think?
The Facebook group misconception
Diana: That sounds fantastic. And I think, like a couple things to even start with, like, if we’re starting with people that maybe don’t have a community yet or they’re not really sure how to get their feet wet, the first thing I want to kind of knock out there is that this idea of having a free Facebook group to kind of kick-start your business. It’s actually something I kind of disagree with. Just because the sort of the backend of community, the management and all of the strategy that goes into it, it takes a fair amount of time.
And so, when somebody’s just starting out, they might think, ‘Oh, I’m going to start a free Facebook group so that I can magically grow my list and sell out my webinars or my flagship programs and it’ll be easy.’ And I think that there’s this misconception on the idea of like, I can just slap up a free Facebook group and Pied Piper all these people into my sales funnel or, you know, sell people from this type of group. And it’s just really, it’s not that easy, in terms of like, making a quality group that people are actually going to appreciate.
So I would say, like, the first thing to recommend is, if you haven’t set up a free Facebook group, hold off on that and really focus on a membership group that’s going to add value to your paying clients, because those are the people that you really want to pay attention to and add your most value to.
Stages of running a community
And then, it depends on, there’s different stages. I know that if you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have the funds to pay a community manager or even have a community strategist support that community manager. So that’s sort of when you want to set the foundation of a group so that you can manage it yourself in the beginning. And then, you know, from there, what you’re probably going to do is you’re going to be growing and then you’re going to realize that, ‘Okay, I need to offhand this to somebody else.’ And so the idea of like, hiring a community manager, like how do you do that?
And then from there, making sure that that community manager is actually coming from a place of obviously, caring for the people that are in there, but then also coming from a place, from like a strategic perspective. Like, how are you actually triggering engagement? Are you using your time wisely?
Because the number one mistake people make when they’re sort of managing a community is that they feel like they need to be directly involved in it in order for it to be “engaged” and it’s just not true. You can set up systems and you can set up sort of processes behind the scenes that can make your community be engaged, but not have you as the host be directly involved.
James: It’s kind of the first thing that that people ask, is how can they step away from it.
The ever-absent owner
James: It’s interesting to me. This is a very interesting topic. Probably the big point of difference that has served me well is that I turn up in my community. So I’ve probably been one of the people banging the drum saying, you know what, if you’ve got this custodianship of hundreds of people, the least you could do show up occasionally. And I was kind of driven by, there’s some famous bloggers who turn off their comments and they don’t respond to comments because it’s like they don’t really care. They just want to create and post stuff.
And then all these gurus come along and sell courses and create this, it’s kind of like a tick the box. You get access to this member’s private Facebook group and you never see them or hear from them. And I do hear people complain about it. It was actually my complaint, and that’s what founded my membership in the first place, on this idea that when no one would sit down beside me and show me what they’re actually doing, or listen to me or point me in the right direction, I was able to do that for other people.
So how do you set up systems and processes for the owner to step away? I’m super interested in that.
How do you step away?
Diana: Yeah. I think, first of all, like what you’re talking about, as well as like a really high quality community, I think the main thing is setting the expectation as well. So like, if you’re inviting people into a community and you’re sort of, not pretending, or you’re saying that, “Oh, it’s like my community, like I’m the host and I’m the face of the community and I’m going to be in the community”, but then if that person isn’t there, you’re failing to meet expectation. And it’s not like people are going to be upset, they’re going to feel a little bit cheated. They’re going to be like, what is this? Why isn’t this person present?
“One of the keys in the beginning is to really set expectations.”
And so one of the keys in the beginning is to really set expectations, and also as a host of the community to set up sort of boundaries for yourself. I’ve actually been working with Selena Soo and her flagship course for Impacting Millions, and one thing that she has is she wants to, obviously she really cares about her members and that shines through in everything that she does, but she also wants to balance this idea that, you know, she has other coaching. She has masterminds. There’s other levels of connecting with her. And so, sometimes what will happen is, you know, and this happens with a lot of different business owners when they create a community that goes with the course, is that they will put too much energy into it. Like, they’re always replying to comments or they’re always answering questions or they’re adding so much value in the community that they sort of, it kind of takes away from potentially the value of their other offers. Like, maybe they have a mastermind or maybe there’s one-on-one coaching.
And so you want to be really careful, and make sure that your community isn’t sort of cannibalizing your other offers. Because if you sign up for a course, you’re getting access to maybe live trainings from that person, the course material, and then the community is generally a bonus. So it’s a Facebook community bonus. And so, if suddenly the host is in there all the time answering your questions, basically providing almost like one-on-one support, your customer is going to think, well, I don’t need to sign up for a higher-level support because I’m getting it from the community.
So there’s definitely a balance, like you want to make sure that you’re balancing out what you’re providing in the community. So for example, you might say… like it sounds like, in your community, you do live training. So maybe that’s the way you show up for people, but maybe you don’t reply to comments directly all the time.
James: It’s not even close to that, actually. Here’s the interesting thing. In both my communities, people can have private coaching from me in their own thread. So it’s not just a once a month training. Sure we have that, and the higher level community, there’s once a week group calls. But both communities have personal private coaching with me and I’ve found it not to cannibalize the high-level offering in any way, even though there’s such a massive price gap. You jump from $1300 a year to $18,000 a year and there are other elements to the offer. But the thing that is the same in both is me showing up every day, basically. So I found that in the field, testing that, it hasn’t been an issue.
When your membership is the product
So what I think you’ve hit on there that’s very important is, in my case, my membership is the product, and in these other scenarios, they’ve got some flagship course or a one-time purchase for multi thousands of dollars, and then that’s it. So they have to have other products and services to keep that income coming. So I’d say they have a different business model. And this, I could see how serving their customer as a tail for their one-time product, then I’d say maybe their business model is different, and it doesn’t sound like it’s a great one for some of these people, especially if they’ve handed over a huge chunk of their launch money back to affiliates, refunds, copywriters and JV managers and all the rest of it, and now they’ve stuck with a Facebook group to answer questions until the next big launch. That would suck.
Diana: Well, it sounds like what you’re offering in your community is more of like, a community in the form of coaching, so it’s not in the sense of, it’s not peer-to-peer support.
“Getting the balance right is important.”
James: No, it’s got peer–to-peer. And it has information as well. It’s really, if you were to describe it, I’d say there’s three pillars. There’s content, there’s community, and there’s coaching. So I think getting the balance right is important. And I think when you’re talking about Facebook groups, that puts a heavy emphasis on community, because it’s much harder to organize content and it’s probably not the greatest place to coach people. So it is fascinating. That’s why I really wanted to talk to you and find out how the other world lives and what sort of challenges they’re having.
So you mentioned something before about having community managers. That sounds like people are hiring people to come and do the rounds and moderate and keep people engaged and I’d love to know what would you call an engagement and how do you measure the effectiveness of it?
Diana: That’s right. I just missed the last part of what you just asked.
James: What do you classify as engagement and how do you measure the effectiveness of it?
What is engagement and how do you measure it?
Diana: So I would say like, what we’re looking for in a course-based community is having people engaging in terms of asking questions, getting support and reaching out on a regular basis. So for example, you know, you can sort of check in with people and make sure that they’re using the course material or that they’re moving forward with what the specific course is working on. So for example, one way that you can you can check in with people is you can have, say, a weekly thread where people are sort of checking in on what they’re working on that week, what they’re applying from the course material. And then later in the week, you sort of check in with those people again and you can say, okay, how did that go, and what could you do differently, and what are you going to be working on next week, or what sort of roadblocks that came up?
And in terms of Facebook, it can be messy in a sense that Facebook is focusing on, it’s not like a forum setup. So for example, some people will set up their communities on, say, Slack. So you can sort of change and you can have set channels. So it’s like, imagine if you have different modules of your course, you can have a separate channel for each one so the discussion is focused and sort of in one place. But with Facebook, it’s more about, like, who recently posted or who recently commented. It’s sort of pushing up on the wall.
And so, one way you can kind of combat that and sort of work around it is in Facebook, they have the documents section. And so, you know, what I recommend people doing is having sort of a roadmap to your course or your program. So what you can do is, you can actually, generally speaking, what people will do is they have specific posts that they’re going to post throughout like the live program that’s coming out. And so then what they’ll do is, you can actually add links to those posts in one document. So it’s kind of like a roadmap that’s going to make it easier for people to navigate Facebook. So it’s kind of still using Facebook the way it was made, but then it makes it a little bit easier to kind of stay on track of things and think. ‘Okay, so what was happening for week one of the course?’ And you can go to those main sort of threads and check in.
It also depends, like in terms of engagement, we’re generally looking for making sure that people are actually checking in, that they’re commenting, that they’re sort of engaging with other people as well. This idea of, generally speaking, when someone’s taking an online course, if they’re doing it themselves and maybe they get stuck and they don’t really have somebody else to reach out to, generally they’ll just stop. Like, they’ll just stop using the material. And so with a community, depending on how you have it set up, like if maybe you have a higher level, like there’s a coaching element of it for example, you can post a question and have it answered by a coach. Or, if it’s more of a peer-to-peer sort of support system, then people can reach out and they can post and get insights from other people that have either gone through the program already, or it’s just people that are kind of in it at that moment. So it’s a little bit more like they can support each other and get some ideas from people that have maybe done that in the past.
James: Very interesting. Thank you.
You mentioned Slack, and we’re obviously talking about Facebook here. I expect Facebook’s probably very good at calling people up and getting people to come back in, because it’s most likely they’re using an app on their phone, and they’re probably the world’s best at keeping people hooked on to the device. Have you seen people be successful with Slack?
Can you succeed with Slack?
Diana: Yeah, there’s actually one of my good friends, Primoz Bozic. He has a course helping people write ultimate guides for their businesses, and he uses Slack for his community. So, his course is live, it’s a year-long program, and he basically did what I kind of explained before. So he has all the different modules, they’re set up so there’s a channel. They’re called channels in Slack. So there’s a channel for each module and all of the questions, they go into like, the separate channels. And then he also has additional channels for sharing your wins, maybe just like a water cooler, so people just want to chat or share funny things, kind of connect just on a human level.
And then so what he does is he can go through and, you know, people ask a question, and he can, what’s nice about Slack, actually, one of the added benefits too is that you can, it’s got threaded conversations. So you can have the channel that separated so it’s focused on, say, one type of question, but then also each person is getting feedback on that thread, so it’s sort of contained. So someone can ask a question, and he can jump in and he can provide some insights. And what’s nice about Slack as well, you can share video or audio or just a written text as well. So it gives you some flexibility in terms of giving different types of feedback. But that has been really successful in terms of the results that his students are getting and also the, just the feel that you get when you’re working through that live course.
Different types of communities
And I think that what’s interesting as well, like when you are building a community for a course, I think there’s different types of communities, there’s like, a community that’s just a community in the sense of connecting with people over like one topic, you know? Like, so for example, if there was a community about surfing, right? So like, you’re just connecting about that sport or that experience.
“It’s this idea of trying to help people.”
But I think that with businesses, community is, we’re trying to tap into that sort of human connection, but using it in a way to either get people results, like when there’s some sort of coaching that’s involved, or even just getting them results from a course that that somebody’s working through. So it’s this idea of trying to help people. It’s basically combating some of the negative emotions that we want to avoid, so when people feel a little bit overwhelmed or they’re confused about something, or they feel like maybe, mindset kind of gets in there and they feel like they’re not good enough to do something, so that they have this place where they can go and talk to people that they know are sort of sharing that same experience as them, and so that they can get that support.
And then especially in the case of Primoz Bozic, he’s the leader. He’s the coach. He’s coming in and he’s providing that that support, so that people can really kind of keep moving forward, and so that people can get success from the program. I think that that that’s something that’s really important as well.
There’s different types of programs. So there are some businesses that will create a program and they create a community, and they don’t really do anything with the community. There’s not really much in terms of moderation. It’s just sort of there. It’s like this token community. And I feel like actually, it’s a mistake. It’s almost worse to have a community that isn’t really sort of moderated and I guess, controlled in terms of quality. I would much rather actually not have a community than have one that’s kind of poorly managed and not really taken care of.
James: Yeah, I think we’re on the same page there. It’s something I’ve seen prolificated with the advent of the launch model, and it’s kind of what I was referring to before, where people slap that group onto the side.
James: You know, I’ve been curious with Facebook. To me, it seems like the last place I would send someone to reduce overwhelm, because whatever they go in there for, they’re going to be stuck there for quite some time. And I’ve deliberately kept off Facebook for nine years so far. I’ve resisted the temptation for my community, which is on a privately hosted, threaded forum environment, which is really good for laying out products and really good for having discussions. And with the use of an app, we can still get people to it easily.
What do you think the downsides of Facebook are for hosting a community?
The downsides of Facebook
Diana: Well, I would say that… like, you’re hitting the nail on the head in terms of, it’s kind of like noise. We said this, I think you mentioned this earlier, like Facebook is designed to keep you there. Like, they have experts that are, you know, it’s sticky. Right? They want you to stay there. They want you to, go in to see one thing and then click on something else and click on something else. And so I think that that’s probably one of the drawbacks in terms of, like, I guess distraction. So it’s like you’re trying to provide, what’s the word? Like you’re trying to provide structure. So for example, with that roadmap document, you’re providing that structure, but you’re also sort of fighting the distractions. You’re trying to keep people focused. And I would say that would be probably the main drawback.
And I think that the other is the fact that you can’t structure it like a forum. So for example, like with Slack, you can have separate sort of rooms for people to talk about certain things. I would say, actually, that would probably be the biggest frustration or drawback, just because it is sort of this continuous conversation on the wall that’s ever moving.
But I think that there’s this, I think it also depends on your members. So I feel like, if you have clients that are like, for example, the difference between somebody who’s just starting out as an entrepreneur versus someone who’s running a seven-figure business. The mindset of somebody at those different levels is very different. And so if somebody wants to get help with running their seven-figure business, they’re going to actively go into a community. They’re not going to need much in terms of like, trying to encourage them to go in. It’s like, hey, I need help, I need coaching, I need advice, they’re going to go in. Whereas, with someone who’s maybe starting out, there can be this sort of resistance. And it’s a lot to do with mindset, like we find that when people are working through programs, they get really excited at the beginning and then they might hit a wall, like they get stuck with something, and then so they just stop. And so that’s where I think Facebook is sort of continuously pulling people back in.
And I guess there’s also that that element of like, you’re seeing other people and their profiles, so it adds a little bit more of a human effect to it. I’m not really sure how that that’s established in a forum. Like, I mean maybe they have a photo or this sort of thing, maybe a profile. But with Facebook, it feels like you can sort of connect with people, even though it is like, a social media connection. But yeah, I would say that those are probably the two main things that would kind of be drawbacks, or things that you’re going to have to find ways to work around, is the forum, or the lack of forum, and the fact that it’s sticky. It’s just distraction, sometimes.
James: Yeah. I think Facebook’s very good for the profiles, and obviously you can click on people and see more about them and get involved with their life. In most forum software, you get a picture and maybe a bio. And another advantage of Facebook, I think, is it’s quite easy to set up and accessible. There are some customers I have where I would say Facebook’s probably a good fit for them. If they have a very unsophisticated buyer, they might not even be able to figure out Slack or Xenforo or whatever other platform, just might be too technical. So Facebook is easy for certain customer types, and it lends itself to that. So it’s really fascinating to see what the pros and cons are.
Would you say that most of the people who you’re helping with community strategy are starting out with a Facebook membership group of some kind?
Diana: Yeah. Generally speaking, like if they’re offering some sort of form of community or community in addition to a course, the default is Facebook, just because it’s exactly like what you said, it’s easy. There is the argument that, you know, because everyone’s there. I’m not sure if that stands true in the sense like, not necessarily everyone’s there.
Also, people are starting to sort of, not resist Facebook, but I know that a lot of people are maybe sort of regimenting their use of Facebook or social media in general. So that’s something to kind of keep in mind as well.
But I would say that in terms of providing value to their clients in a place where they know how to use, like you said, it’s quite simple to kind of set up and kind of know how to navigate it, I think that the cost of actually using another platform and then also trying to make sure that people use the platform… I know that, for example, for myself, I’ve taken courses for community management, like with community strategy, and the course community wasn’t on Facebook. It was in this other sort of platform, I guess.
And what I found was, as I did the course, I asked a couple of questions in the community, but as soon as the course was done, I never went back to the community. Whereas with programs that I’ve done, say, on Facebook and even in Slack, when the course is over, there’s still a desire to still connect with those people, because you connect with real people, right? You form some friendships with other people that you’re working with. And you might meet a couple of people. You might even like, go to the next level. It might be part of the program to actually meet some of these people in person, which is dependent on, obviously, people in the group or if that’s something that the host wants to organize.
But yeah, I think that it’s definitely like a default. A lot of people are just like, ‘Okay, so I’m going to set up a course. I’m going to create this’, and then it’s kind of like, well, ‘How am I going to approach the community?’ And like you said, Facebook is easy.
James: Yeah, I think it offers low resistance for the product owners. A lot of product owners are struggling with the technology. They got all these other things on their mind, like how to recoup the costs of their coaches, how to deploy the program they purchased, how to get the sales copy working, how to deal with their customers and technology stack, and so much going on that it can offer them an easy path to get into the market as well.
So let’s talk about the community manager, how do you get one? And you said something about paying them or being able to afford them. What sort of arrangements would be in place?
Community managers – how does it work?
Diana: So, with community managers, generally what I would recommend, like if you have a community and you’re looking to sort of outsource or not be sort of managing the community, like you want someone to be taking care of it for you, whereas you’ll still be providing your coaching and support and have your role in the community, but having somebody that’s there and sort of focusing on that. One of the things that I highly recommend is hiring somebody that actually is already in the community. So this, it would depend on your clients as well. So the people that I’m working with, it’s usually, it’s like a course community, and so we have people that’s like taking a course and working through the community as well.
But for example, like the way that Ramit Sethi hired me to be the Community Manager for his course and his coaching program was because I was a student. And what happened was, I joined one of his programs and then I joined this additional sort of coaching program called Accelerator, and what happened was, I inherently love helping people, and so whenever I join a community I just support other people and I like helping people answering questions and then using things that I’m good at. So for example, like proofreading things or providing support, just in like, as a friend. This sort of thing.
And so I basically started doing that, and the company noticed and so you know, they brought me on as the community manager. And the thing when you do that is like, the added benefit, like if you do have a community with a course and you hire a community manager that has taken your course, that understands the values of your community and is already a part of it, it’s much easier to, say, get them trained on the strategy side of things, or just creating systems for them, rather than hiring somebody that maybe is trained as a community manager, but they don’t understand your course, they don’t understand really the values of your company. And so it can be a really good opportunity to kind of use the people that you’re already surrounded by and see if there’s somebody in there that potentially could be a good fit for that role.
But I think that, you know, in terms of like hiring a community manager, I mean in terms of cost, like some people what they’ll do is between community managers, if you don’t have the budget to fully hire a community manager, what some people do in between is they’ll have sort of, say, like student mentors or ambassadors for the community. And that’s where you reach out to a member of the community that is highly active and highly engaged and maybe you can offer them some sort of perk or benefit to be like an extra set of eyes in supporting other people in the community or looking out for posts.
Like, I know that in some communities, we’re looking out for things like self-promotion or things that just don’t really fall in line with the values of the company. So having some extra set of eyes to support you doing that can be really useful, and it can sort of be a bridge going between doing everything yourself and then making that step to have a community manager come in and take care of it for you.
James: Yeah, I think to some extent you can recruit the whole community to represent the cause. So they seem to help people get back into shape fairly quickly if they step out alone, I’ve noticed.
The community that works together
Diana: Yeah. And that’s actually a really good point about setting expectations. Like, one of the things you really need to be very clear on, and I mean, if it’s in Facebook or Slack, it doesn’t matter. But like, having very clear guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable in your community. Probably one of the biggest mistakes people make is they don’t have guidelines. So they’re like, “Yeah, come on in and engage and help each other,” but they don’t tell people what isn’t OK. And so then that’s when there’s this gray area of ‘Well, I’m not sure if this is OK or not, but I’m just going to do it anyway.’
And it really opens up things to people being maybe self-promotional, maybe even just people being not very nice, or a little bit rude to other people, like just sort of not watching your tone or this sort of thing when you’re talking to other people. And I think that’s so important. If you can establish set guidelines right from the beginning and you get everybody on board, like you said, everyone’s going to be, it’s like a group of people, it’s like a tribe. It’s like, “Hey, this is the herd and you’re doing something that isn’t really in line with what is okay here, so you need to change or, you know, get out, basically.
So that’s such a good point, is really setting those guidelines in place in the beginning to make sure that it’s not like, you and your team against these members. It’s like everybody is working together, like everybody wants to have this one place that you know everybody feels supported.
And actually, that would probably be the last thing too, is knowing what emotion your members want to feel in your community is the number one thing that that people need to know. Like, you as a host and also as a community manager, if you don’t understand the emotions that they want to feel and don’t want to feel, it can turn into strategy. Like, for community, emotions is the strategy.
So for example, if you know that everybody in your group wants to feel proud, or they want to feel supported or inspired or elite or whatever that emotion is, you then take that emotion and you trigger it in every aspect of the community. And so that includes the images you use; it includes the messages you send to people; it includes the welcome post, the group description, even the cover image at the top, if it’s on Facebook. Making sure that you trigger the right emotions and also limit the negative emotions they want to feel, that in and of itself can really change a community.
James: That’s a killer tip, emotion. I like that. I’ve often thought of running a community is like being a parent.
Diana: Yes. Oh, my god, yes.
James: I’ve had these communities for – I mean, I haven’t had them as long as I’ve had kids, but it’s like they’re constantly changing, they’re pushing the boundaries, it’s like different hormones arrive, you know? Different members have different strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes they test you, push you to the limits.
Do you ever delete stuff?
Diana: Yes. Actually, yes. That’s the thing too. Like, so what I do helping with community managers is, you know, creating sort of like a community playbook for them in their company, so knowing how to react in certain situations. So when do you delete something? When do you private message versus publicly message?
And that’s actually a really good point as well. Like, don’t be afraid to sometimes trigger the negative emotions a little bit. So for example, if somebody posts something and it’s breaking a guideline, like maybe you have a way that you’re supposed to post, like a specific title or something like that – when you publicly say, “Hey, thanks so much for reaching out in the community. Can you just change this one thing…” or, “Can you update your post to include ____ (XYZ information)?” what you’re doing is you’re telling that person like, “Hey, you need to change this,” but you’re also sending a message to everybody else that a), this is how we do things here, but also that we care about the community and we’re taking care of it. So everybody else knows like, ‘Yeah, I post the right way,’ or ‘I’m doing things like XYZ way.’ But knowing that balance.
I think that that’s sometimes a challenge for a lot of community managers or even hosts of community, is knowing, when should I delete stuff? When should I send a private message? When should I post publicly? And really that just comes down to experience and looking at each situation, the context of it, and thinking about how is that person going to feel, and which is probably going to be the best way to deal with that situation? Because it really does, it just all boils down to emotions.
“You have to create a safe place.”
James: Yes. I think you need to have a high emotional quotient if you’re going to be corralling people. And I also agree, you’ve got a duty of care to these people. You have to create a safe place. And if you don’t have guidelines, you could actually be risking your business, your reputation – there could potentially be liabilities. So I think it’s wise to have guidelines. And maybe even, if it’s a serious business, maybe run it past someone of a legal nature to make sure.
James: I think that, you know, you have policies around who owns the content. I mean, that’s one thing with Facebook. I think since the data breach, there has been a bit of sensitivity around what people are putting there. Have you seen people react to that? Are they moving offsite at this point? Are they concerned about where their members’ data is going?
Has the data breach affected things?
Diana: I mean, right now I haven’t noticed anybody, like nobody’s really brought it up in terms of asking me, like if they’re concerned about it or what should we be doing differently? Actually, nobody said anything, so it seems like…
James: Too hard.
Diana: Yeah, like they’re not really concerned about it, I guess. But I think in terms of students or members of communities, it depends on the type of person. Some people are a little bit more concerned about it. Some people aren’t. And that actually sometimes can be an issue. Like, if your target audience, if your members don’t like Facebook, don’t make a Facebook group for them, because they’re not going to be comfortable on it. You really need to find a platform that works for where they are and what they’re comfortable with.
“Find a platform that works for where people are and what they’re comfortable with.”
James: Imagine that, focusing on the customer.
Diana: I know, right? Customer first!
James: What’s one of the all-time classic fails you’ve seen, like a meltdown, a failure, a closure, something didn’t work. What lessons did that produced it that you could share with us?
One of the fails and its takeaways
Diana: So one that I knew about, I didn’t run the community, I wasn’t really involved in it, but Ramit Sethi’s RBT, so Ramit’s Brain Trust.
James: I think he did a public post about a forum…
Diana: He did.
James: …that he closed.
Diana: Why he closed down.
James: So I don’t think that’s a secret.
James: I actually did a whole training around that on the topic of churn, because I think with a subscription business, churn is very, very important. Like, keeping people, getting a result, all the things we’ve talked about here actually. And his post inspired me to make that topic because it’s, you know, I think his churn reached such a high level that it wasn’t profitable anymore.
James: What happened?
Diana: Exactly, and I think that they were focusing on maybe the wrong thing. So for example, there was, you know, it was interviews and videos, like very high quality interviews with different interesting people, and Ramit would sit down with them. And what happened was, they were focusing on that and sort of investing in the videos when it was the community that sort of was bringing people together. They weren’t putting attention, I think, on what the people wanted in terms of the community and how to grow the community out. And so then when they were looking at the numbers, it just was one of those things where, I believe he even says in the post, it was a really hard decision, but the numbers were sort of just showing, like, this is what needed to be done.
So I think in terms of learning, for other people, really taking a look at your numbers and making sure that, maybe you really enjoy a community or you think it’s, providing value to people, but make sure…. Just because you have people coming into your community or your subscription doesn’t mean that it’s working. You need to see like, how long are they staying? And, you know, are they getting value from it? And if not, then maybe it’s something that you need to either dig into more or you need to pull the plug.
James: Yeah, it’s definitely worth researching your audience. I found a lot of value in meeting my customers a lot. Over the last nine years, I’ve been to a stack of meetups, like hundreds of them. And I did a very comprehensive research to end up with different categories. And now we’ve used those categories. Everything from attracting customers to the onboarding material they get will be segmented to their needs. So I think that’s a really intuitive thing to do, and, yeah, people probably don’t value the content as much as the community. They might come in for content, but I think they stay for community. At least that’s what I’ve found.
Diana: Yeah. It’s funny you said that. It’s like, you come for the content but you stay for the community, and it really is true. It’s the relationships, and it’s the way you feel, right? It’s the emotions that you are feeling, being involved with a certain group of people that are working towards a certain goal.
And so, as a community host or facilitator, it’s our job to make sure that they’re feeling A, the way they want to, and limiting the other emotions like feeling excluded or feeling stupid or feeling alone, making sure that that’s minimized.
Wrapping things up
James: Diana, it’s very interesting talking to you. I’ve got stacks more things I’d like to ask you. I was going to ask you about health checking your community, seeing how you can find out if you’re on track with them or not. I’d love to ask you things about onboarding and attracting people to the community and other things. Maybe we’ll have to have another session if you’ll come back and talk about those things.
James: Gosh, the big tip here is emotion. That’s a winning tip. And choosing the right platform for your audience. And maybe we’ve put some contrarian points of view there. And I certainly, as the non-Facebook guy, I’ve seen some really strong evidence that you can still do things that the market isn’t doing and go just fine. And it’s great to get someone from the Facebook side of things, talking about best practice for membership groups, especially if you’ve been publishing a course and you have a group. You can’t just slap it on the side, you’ve got to put some effort and thought into it and plan it properly with, you know, proper community management guidelines and setting the tone.
So Diana, thank you so much for joining us. People can find out more about you at DianaTower.com. And I’m sure you can assist people if they’re interested in learning about community strategy and coordination of managers, etc.
Diana: Definitely. Thank you so much for having me. It was great.
James: Great. All right. Well, you’ve been listening to SuperFastBusiness. This was Episode 585, all about community strategy, and I was chatting with Diana Tower. And I think we’re going to have her back for another session.
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