Unlocking the value that powers your community engine
Hey community builders,
A special welcome to the 44 new community builders who joined since last week’s newsletter. If you’re new here, drop me a reply and tell me a bit about the community you’re building.
This week’s newsletter is going to build on the last two issues.
Two weeks ago we discussed the importance of Building for Believers. To find community-member-fit, you focus on members who are already committed.
Last week we answered the follow-up question, “How do you know you’ve found Community-Member-Fit?” I introduced a measurement tool called The Community-Member-Fit Score (CMFS) you can use for tracking CMF over time.
This week, we’re going to explore another model you can use to find, and measure, Community-Member-Fit. It’s a new concept I’ve had bubbling around in my head and have been testing out with clients.
I call it “The Community Activation Point”. I’ll sometimes refer to it as “the CAP”.
I didn’t mean to write an entire series on Community-Member-Fit, but this has been a fun topic to explore together. As this model is so new, I’d love your reflections and feedback. Drop a comment or reply to this email.
Let’s dive in…
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So…what is “the CAP”? ⚡️
The Community Activation Point (aka “the CAP”) is the point at which a member starts creating the value that other members come to the community to consume. It’s the action that sparks the community engine (hence the ⚡️).
If members are organically reaching the CAP, and continue to contribute at that level, the engine gets going and the community grows. If members don’t reach the cap, or they reach the cap but don’t remain there, the community engine comes to a halt. The community stops growing or fails to get off the ground.
You can visualize the CAP on the community commitment curve as a critical point in your members’ journey:
The CAP might be just one action or there could be multiple. It depends on what the “value consumers” are coming to your community for. I’ll explain…
All Communities Are Two (or More) Sided Ecosystems
You may already be familiar with the concept of “two-sided marketplaces”.
Marketplaces typically connote an exchange of money. While not all communities involve an exchange of money, they all involve an exchange of value. You could say that they exchange social capital, financial capital, or both.
Put another way, every community has “value creators” and “value consumers”. People who power the community engine, and people who consume that energy.
Note: A member can be both a value creator and a value consumer. In a small group, like a 10-person discussion circle for example, all of the members are likely to create and consume energy. Still, some members will create or consume more value than others. As communities grow, there’s a more clear delineation and there are members who clearly create value, and members who solely consume value.
Both are important parts of a community, but creators tend to be much harder to engage and much more critical to the success of a community. So that’s where you need to start when seeking community-member fit.
Without value creators, your community won’t work.
Without experts, StackOverflow doesn’t work.
Without hosts, Airbnb doesn’t work.
Without organizers, Meetup doesn’t work.
Without reviewers, Yelp doesn’t work.
Without chapter leaders, Startup Grind doesn’t work.
Without teachers, Udemy doesn’t work.
Without members of your community contributing value, there’s no value for other members in your community to consume.
You could say, “But David, without the consumer, creators will have no one to create for!”
True subscriber… true…
This is our “chicken-or-egg” challenge. But in the case of community, the creator almost always comes first because you can get a creator to create by selling them on the vision and then go out and get the consumers for them once they’re committed. Without any value being created, you have nothing to entice consumers.
For example, when we started CMX Summit, we started by recruiting incredible speakers. We hadn’t sold a single ticket yet, but we sold the vision to our “value creators". Once they committed, then we brought that lineup to community managers, our “value consumers”, and asked them to buy tickets.
When a company asks for my advice on how to launch their new community, I always tell them to seed their space with high-quality contributors and content *before* they start inviting other members to join. Don’t welcome people into an empty room. Fill it with believers and value first.
Now… it’s not enough to get creators to contribute any kind of value. It has to be something that consumers want or need. That’s when you’ll truly have community-member-fit.
The CAP is the point at which a member starts creating *meaningful* value for other members.
It’s when an expert answers a question on StackOverflow.
It’s when a host posts a listing on Airbnb.
It’s when a member reviews a restaurant on Yelp.
…you get the point.
And the quality of that contribution matters.
Developers had to find the answers to their questions on StackOverflow to be high quality. One word and snarky answers create a negative experience. So StackOverflow tracks how many questions are deemed as “successfully answered”.
Airbnb guests had to be excited about the listings they find and stay at. If you get one of those creepy hosts or have an otherwise bad experience, that’s no bueno. Airbnb will remove those listings.
People had to find the reviews on Yelp useful for choosing a restaurant to go to. They ask members to rate reviews as “helpful” or “funny”.
For those working on truly innovative communities and platforms, part of your challenge will be that members may not value the contributions at first. The idea of staying at someone else’s home was really novel and scary at first. It took time for people to understand the value of Airbnb. To some extent, all communities will have to teach people that what they’re offering is valuable.
That’s why, if you’re starting a new community, it’s important to start small.
The simple process for getting your community engine going:
Build the engine: You may just need a few good creators to recruit an initial group of consumers.
Start the engine: Stay small and focused until creators are consistently reaching the Community Activation Point and consumers are getting high-quality value.
Rev the engine: Once you have community-member-fit in that small group, start recruiting more consumers. More consumers will attract more creators and more creators will attract more consumers.
How to Measure your Community using “The CAP”
To track this progress, you’ll need to be able to track how many members reach the CAP and how often.
It’s not enough for someone to reach the CAP just once. If a sufficient number of creators don’t stay there, your community isn’t working. You have a “leaky bucket”.
As a simple example, let’s use a generic online forum.
The CAP in a forum is “answering a question”. That’s the value that consumers come for. They want to learn. They want their questions answered.
To measure this community using the CAP, track how many members answered at least one question per week.
You’ll end up with data like:
100 members (10%) answered a question in the last week
50 members (5%) answered a question in each of the last two weeks
20 members (2%) answered a question in each of the last three weeks
Depending on the community, you can change the time interval. For example, Twitter would measure the CAP on a daily basis and Meetup would measure the CAP on a monthly basis.
There are no industry benchmarks for a metric like this. At least not yet. It’s a metric you can use to benchmark your own community against itself. If you see the total number of members reaching and staying at the CAP growing over time, that’s a good sign that your community engine is working.
If you find that 5% answer a question in one week, but only .05% of members answer a question two weeks in a row that might be a red flag that you don’t have community-member-fit. You have a leaky bucket. Turn your focus to understanding why that drop-off is happening and see if you can get that number up.
Like all metrics, the CAP is just one perspective and won’t give you the full picture of how your community is doing. It’s just one blind man describing an elephant. To get a full picture of how your community is doing combine the CAP with other methods like the Community-Member-Fit Score, surveying, interviews, and other activity data.
The Community Activation Point aka “the CAP”)⚡️ is the point at which a member starts creating the value that other members come to the community to consume. It’s the action that sparks the community engine.
The action taken at the CAP has to provide the right value for consumers. It has to be something they want or need. It has to be high quality.
You need a sufficient number of creators to reach the CAP and stay there daily, weekly, or monthly (depending on the community) to power the community engine.
🔥 Talent Collective Updates
The Pallet team (the tool I’m using) just shared with me that the collective has a 78% intro accept rate, the highest they’ve seen of any collective yet. 47 introductions have been made so far!
My goal is to help 100 companies land their next community lead through the collective next year.
A new candidate drop just went out this morning and we’re now up to 80+ community leads looking for their next gig including candidates from Calm, The New York Times, Canva, Microsoft, Twitter, Dataiku, Airbnb, Orbit, Ghost, Intuit, Dell, EA, Meta, Yelp, Google, OnDeck, Shopify, Rally, CourseHero…. There’s never been a better time to hire for community!
I’m offering a limited-time free month for hiring managers who participate in the beta. Use the code “betatesters” when you get to the payment page.
If you’re looking for your next gig, or just want to see what’s out there, apply here.
Notes and Reflections
This was a really novel billion-dollar community business concept founded by, you guessed it, Reese Witherspoon.
I tried using Hypefury for publishing to twitter this past week. A lot of Twitter influencers use it. I found it to make my feed feel too noisy. Mostly I just want to be able to schedule twitter threads since Buffer doesn’t do that. The writing prompts/ideas were helpful, but also makes my content feel generic. Don’t think I’m going to keep using it.
I’ve been feeling the pressure to do more. It’s always a challenge for me. I lose interest in things quickly and want to try something new. I’m working on staying focused on my three things right now: this newsletter, consulting, and the talent collective. I want to see if I can get the Talent Collective to be a consistent revenue driver before I move on to the next experiment.
One month until baby #2 arrives. Have any wisdom to share?
That’s all for this week!
If you need me, I’ll be rediscovering salads after a full week of stuffing my face with turkey and gravy.
See you next week!