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  • Writer's pictureSnickerdoodle Knits

Creating a Phenomenal Community Experience for Members

Community is something I’ve held as a priority within my business. In 2019, I started the first Snickerdoodle Knits community for knitters; in 2020, I started the Fiber Friends Group and Pen Pal Swap to further connect fiber artists during the pandemic; and in 2021, I created the Pattern Design Circle as a membership to connect knit and crochet pattern designers in a supportive community.

The value and importance of community

The rewards of a successful community are tremendous for its members. Knowing that you aren’t alone in your experience, having a safe space to share your frustrations and ask for feedback, and developing a group of friends that are eager to celebrate each of your smallest wins… it’s an incredible feeling that helps each of us as humans to feel a sense of belonging.

Establishing and maintaining an active community can be difficult

However, despite it being such a common need and desire, it’s not easy to develop and maintain a community that truly feelings inviting, safe, and meaningful. Often, members join with great excitement, eager to connect with fellow members and discover the content available inside the community. This can make it easier to encourage engagement, particularly if several members join at once (for example, with a launch).

Naturally, though, folks will settle into a new normal, with less excitement and vigor for engaging within the membership. Overall, this is a good thing. It would be rather unsustainable for members to remain constantly active at a very high level within the community; and in many cases, it would actually take away time from thematically implementing and seeing progress from their involvement within the group. This could lead to burnout and a perceived low return on their investment within the community.

One role of community leaders is to encourage member engagement

As the leader of the community, however, it is important to maintain some level of engagement. The specific level will depend on the mission and purpose of the community itself. Some level of engagement will be required in order for members to feel as if they are receiving value from the community.

So, ultimately, what are the important things to do as a community host in order to foster engagement within the community?

Circle, the platform I use to host my membership community, recently performed a large study to nail down what really makes a difference for hosting an engaged community. They call this the Community Benchmark Report. I’ve personally found it valuable to know that I’m on the right track with the strategies that I’m implementing and have planned for the future inside Pattern Design Circle.

What makes successful communities stand out from the rest?

This report looks at qualities of the top communities, which they refer to as Platinum communities, in onboarding, engagement, and retention strategies. I find it particularly fascinating that Circle provides percentage differences when comparing categories between “regular” communities and “Platinum” communities. It is also a helpful mechanism to show where and how successful communities stand out from the crowd.

The key to success is not more.

While I definitely recommend reading the report for yourself, here are the key pieces that I appreciated and found helpful for myself and the communities that I host:

1.A community doesn’t need to be huge for it to be active, engaged, and/or impactful.

Circle found that the size of “Platinum” communities wasn’t significantly different than that of other communities. What that tells me is that it is not about the quantity of members, but about the quality of the membership. If you’re like me, it can be tempting to feel like the key is just to grow the community size, and this myth debunked helps me exhale a bit!

2. Onboarding is a key component of a successful community.

I found this finding particularly interesting, because this is something that happens only at the beginning of a member’s experience within the community, as a one time event. It’s easy to focus on engaging and re-engaging community members, providing value within the community, and ultimately trying to improve the experience once a member is already in. But a community member who is lost, doesn’t know where to begin, and doesn’t feel invited to participate in the community yet, is going to feel more like an outsider than a community member. They may find that they feel like they don’t belong, and ultimately they aren’t going to stick around for very long. So clearly, onboarding is going to be really important to building a successful community!

3. A successful community doesn’t require additional team members or additional expenses.

How many times have you thought, “I would be successful if I just could hire someone to help me!” Often, this is a method of deflection for us to blame a lack of success on an external factor, when in reality, the missing element won’t be fixed with the help of another person! Usually, we need to hone in our strategy man’s be super clear on our goals, purpose, and mission (as well as business, marketing, and community strategies) before we can fully reap the benefits of team help. Otherwise, it’s just putting a bandaid over a larger problem!

Overall, Circle’s Community Benchmark Report reminded me that success usually doesn’t come from having, doing, or being more. Instead, it’s really focusing in on the strategies that work. More specifically, the strategies that work in general, but also work for you personally and for your community members. Those are the strategies that many of us already know and just haven’t fully committed to you yet. If you’ve already learned and researched all the things, it’s not a key you’re missing; it’s just implementing more of what you already know!

I encourage you to read the full report for yourself, but as always, remember to filter the information through your own business, brand, and values, and keep in mind what is truly important to your community members and customers.

I’d love to hear what your key takeaways from the report. I hope it inspires you, gives you a renewed sense of purpose and focus, and helps you to move forward with more clarity and excitement.

Here’s to greater, more impactful community building!


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