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10 ways to take your thriving community to the next level

Your community has flown past the inception stage and is maturing every day as you see all your hard work paying off, but what do you do now to take it to the next level?

At our first-ever in-person Disciple event in London, we bought together some of the leading minds in the industry to share their stories and strategies for enhancing and advancing existing communities.

Head of Community & Brand at Disciple, Nicolette Roses-Agoro was joined by Disciple customer Holly Woodford from Her Spirit; Co-founder of Standing on Giants and pioneer in the community-led space, Vincent Boon; and Community Experience Manager at Disciple, Valentina Ruffoni.

Here are the top 10 tips from our community expert panel.

1. Continue to be purposeful and passionate

Now’s not the time to back down after all the progress you’ve made to build such a thriving community, so harness that passion and purpose you set out to share and continue to be the reason why your members come back every day, get involved and help grow, engage and convert your community with you.

When asked to talk us through the journey of Her Spirit and how the community has changed the way the business operates today, Holly said “That shared purpose and passion that drive will get you out of bed and keep you progressing towards that thing you really want to do. And then when you do it you just feel amazing, so you share it with everybody else and that creates the community.”

“I don’t think Her Spirit would be here without it. We wouldn’t have got this far without Disciple providing something that’s affordable for us.” – Holly Woodford

2. Use the power of community to leverage your business

“If you’re running a good community then customer service often sorts itself out.” – Vincent Boon.

Building and managing a business is tough and having a community alongside that is no easy feat, but its impact on retention and future growth is undeniable. The opportunities for cost-saving for support staff with active knowledgeable members and a sense of belonging that just feels real and genuine will attract more customers and members

Why not start an ambassador or super member program to get more of your members involved and spread the word about your community, and your products or services

How to start an ambassador or super member program

3. RESPARK areas that have burned out

Over time your community strategies and efforts may have changed due to resources or even motivation which has led to some areas not performing as well as you would like. Don’t worry there is always a way to ignite the flame with the RE-SPARK framework by Community Experience Manager, Valentina Ruffoni

  • Recall what you wanted to achieve when you started out
  • Embrace the facts of your successes and failures to find what works
  • Strategise and plan how to approach growth, engagement or conversion
  • Participate actively and visibly in the community to lead by example
  • Acknowledge and reward the most active and valuable members
  • Review what isn’t working, rework and make changes that will lead to success & Repeat when strategies take off!
  • Keep track of activity and performance to compare against previous years

Find out more about the SPARK Framework

4. Reassess your metrics and responsibilities

Vincent Boon warned against using growth metrics as a measure of success for community managers. Instead, focus on relationships and quality conversations. To quantify this, you can look at the portion of conversations being started by the business vs those started by members. A thriving community, according to Vincent, is one where less than 1% of the conversations are started by the business.

“As a community manager, I’m responsible for engaging the community, and getting all the value from that. I’m not responsible for people coming into the community. If you want me to be responsible for that, I need the same budget as marketing.” – Vincent Boon

5. Livestream to create moments of true connection

Human connection is your most powerful tool as a community manager. And while groups, forums and feeds do a great job in connecting your members, you can’t beat a livestream for memorable, personal experiences that bring them closer together.

One of the unexpected benefits of offering livestream classes, as discovered by Her Spirit, was the creation of micro-communities. What started with people attending a regularly livestreamed swimming, running, cycling or other fitness class – where they would get to know each other and have a chat as well as work out – has branched off into even more tight-knit groups. One of the swimming groups, for example, have even got together to swim the lakes of the Lake District.

“We all kind of get to know each other and look forward to turning up and having a chat on the livestream. Seeing how people are and where they are… It’s those rich bits of engagement that we’re now starting to see that make us feel we’re getting somewhere.” – Holly Woodford

Discover the benefits of livestreaming

6. Ask questions to discover new opportunities

Want to know what your community members value? It doesn’t always take rigorous research and prototyping to learn the answers… just ask them! This simple tactic has helped Her Spirit go from assuming they know their audience to confidently giving them exactly what they want (challenges, in Her Spirit’s case) and charging for it too.

“We’re now looking at how to use in-app purchases to monetise our new community challenges. Maybe where somebody isn’t yet ready to pay a premium subscription but really want to take part in that specific activity. We have learned that most people join the community at a specific moment for a clear purpose. So we can give them that clarity without making them sign up for everything.” – Holly Woodford

7. Gamification isn’t the only way to make things rewarding

Gamification is a great way of spicing up otherwise dull content or keeping people engaged with exciting interactive elements, but Vincent Boon argues that it is becoming over-hyped. You don’t always need bells and whistles to make people care – you just need to make them feel valued.

The giffgaff model, a hugely successful and replicated approach to community management, includes a ‘payback system’. This means members can earn a little bit of money each time they ask a question or give an answer.

“We’ve seen churn reduction of up to something like 40%. Huge, right! And that’s simply from getting a couple of pennies in payback for asking a question. It’s that idea that any contribution is great. As you’re asking a question, we’ll get answers that will help a lot of other people that had that question and didn’t dare ask. So for me, all of these things are incredibly important for learning and community building.” – Vincent Boon

8. Help lurkers and readers get involved

Don’t underestimate those quiet members of your community. The ‘lurkers’, as they are popularly known, or ‘readers’ to be more accurate (and polite!).

According to Standing on Giant’s research, these members can be much more valuable than they seem. They are 2% less likely to churn than other members, they are incredibly informed, and they are likely to spend twice as much money as someone who isn’t in your community. And just because they haven’t taken part much so far, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

To lend a helping hand, start by asking for an opinion in a private message. Then encourage them to share their answer on the public forum.

“Some of them will, and then have their very first message on the community. In the background, what you’re doing is you’re tapping all your other group members and you’re saying, ‘Hey, this person has created a message, can you reply to it?’. Get them in the conversation.” – Vincent Boon

9. Consider the line between freemium and premium

Instagram is free, Facebook is free, most apps are free. People have become used to freemium services, especially where community is concerned, so any premium offering needs to be well-considered.

In planning their premium services, Her Spirit tracked how their members behaved in their app. They found that 10% of members access livestreams, whereas 90% access the same content on playback. Using this information, they redrew the line between premium and freemium, and have doubled their turnover this year.

“So it kind of makes sense to make livestream free, to create engagement and a short window for what you can actually get with the free side. Obviously if you don’t have time to do that class, or you’ve enjoyed it once, then you can get it on playback on premium.” – Holly Woodford

How to monetise your community

10. Connect with other Disciple Hosts in The Collective

When creators and business owners choose to work with Disciple, they don’t just use our community platform and get support from our team, they also connect to a network of community hosts from over 20 different industries through our customer community, The Collective. A place for connection, collaboration and a chance to learn from others on how to prove the ROI of your community for your business.

“If you need help with building your community, The Collective is a great place to go. As the leader of a community, it can often feel like you are alone and you’re not alone. We have over 500 community hosts in The Collective now. Plus 100s of resources and lots of livestream events.” – Valentina Ruffoni

Resources, guides and livestreams from The Collective

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