Hey community builders,
It’s been a couple months since my last newsletter. As a reminder, you’re getting this email because you signed up to be kept in the loop about the presale launch of my upcoming book, The Business of Belonging.
I’m going to be writing here a bit more consistently as we roll up to the release, sharing what I’m seeing and learning in the community space. Thanks for coming along for the ride! If you just want book updates (and a sneak peek at the jacket), scroll to the bottom.
I’ve been having a lot of interesting discussions over the past couple weeks about what it means for a business to be truly “community-driven”, and what community teams need to be successful in the world of business.
The conversation kicked off in part by the release of the 2021 Community Industry Report.
There’s a lot of interesting data this year, which all points to an industry that’s growing really quickly, but also still struggling to get buy-in.
One of the most common questions I get asked is what department community should live in. I believe that community has to be its own department for it to truly be successful. And for it to truly be its own department, it needs to have a C-Level position that it rolls up to. Ideally, a Chief Community Officer.
But right now, only 15% of businesses have a dedicated community department. The rest mostly roll up to marketing and CS.
This explains why community teams still have a big disconnect with leadership expectations, even when leadership “believes” in community.
Yes, community teams are growing and getting more investment. This year 67% of organizations had at least 2 full-time employees on their community team, up from 57% in 2019. 9% have 11 or more full-time employees on their community team, up from 7% in 2019. 88% of organizations have at least one dedicated community manager, up from 71% in 2017.
But quantifying value is still the #1 challenge that community teams face.
There’s a disconnect in the metrics that are being tracked that further explains this challenge.
The top three metrics that community teams are tracking?
New user/member signups
The top three metrics that leadership cares about?
So there’s this really interesting dynamic happening in the business world right now where community has become a great word to use in marketing, but in practice, most companies claiming to be “community-driven” are still viewing community through the same exact lens they’ve always looked at their business and customers.
The reality is that yes, community needs to drive growth and retention, and as I talk about in the book, community can do this at a scale never before seen.
But there has to be a new set of expectations around how those results are achieved. For one, timelines need to shift. If you’re investing in community today, I’d recommend giving it 6-12 months before you start to see actual business results. Before that, the community team needs to be razor-focused on building relationships, creating the foundation of community, and serving members’ needs. They need to fill the reservoir before they start pulling from it. Otherwise, it’ll run dry.
This is why a Chief Community Officer position is really important, and until then community teams should roll up into the CEO. Otherwise, community teams will be biased and limited by the department they’re living within, and leadership won’t be aligned with what it takes to truly build a community.
An interesting angle that I haven’t heard before came up for me this week when meeting with our Director of Finance at Bevy. We’re trying to figure out where community sits in the P&L statement for the company. Investors expect everything to fit neatly under marketing, product, CS, operations and a couple other standard buckets. There isn’t a standard bucket for community right now, so investors don’t know how to analyze it.
They need to know what the customer acquisition costs are to determine if the company is on the right track. Community impacts marketing, product, and CS, but as I mentioned, it doesn’t fit entirely under any one of them. So community as a dedicated department isn’t just a strategic challenge, it’s also an accounting challenge.
I’m interviewing Lolita Taub and Jesse Middleton from The Community Fund this week on Masters of Community. I’m planning to ask them how they, as investors, fit community into their financial formula. I’ll report back in the next newsletter.
Let’s keep talking:
This is a conversation I expect to keep having in the coming months as the book rolls out. Can’t wait to get it out into the world and give community teams and business leaders the language and systems they need to truly understand community.
As we get closer to the book release, I’ll be hosting different spaces to join in the conversation. A couple coming up this week:
I’m hosting a Clubhouse discussion about the Chief Community Officer position on Thursday at 12pm. pacific withErik Martin (CCO at Teal), community execs Holly Firestone and Angie Coleman, investor Sarah Drinkwater, and a few other guests TBA. RSVP here if you’d like to join in the discussion.
We’ll also be doing a live webinar of the key findings from the 2021 Community Industry Report and a community AMA on Thursday at 9am pacific. RSVP here to join in and dive into the data together.
Book updates and jacket sneak peek:
We’re in the home stretch! We’ve been finalizing designs, doing final edits on the content, and getting a marketing plan in place. Here’s a sneak peek at the book jacket (still a couple small edits to be made).
Let me know what you think!
The book will be fully released on March 23rd.
Look for an announcement about the presale opening up in the next two weeks. I’ll be sending out a newsletter to all of you with the details.
How you can help:
Book website feedback: I have a mockup of my book landing page up but not public yet. If you’d like to take an early look at it and give me feedback, just respond to this email.
Podcasts, events and clubhouses: I’m opening up my calendar to do a lot of podcasts, events, and clubhouse chats in the next few months. If there’s something that’s a really great fit for the book, I’d love to add it to my list.
As always, I love to hear from you. Hit reply and let me know what you thought of this email, and what challenges you’re thinking about in the world of community building right now.
Thanks for reading!