Now that we understand the fundamentals of Community (link to the first blog), let's dive into some key benefits and risks associated with it.
Benefits of having a community
Growth flywheel: As the natural behavior of members in a community is to produce and consume value with each other, this organically enables the growth flywheel for the business that has a community. Every new member that gets added and communicates, spins the growth flywheel forward and faster.
Emotional and cognitive elements by enabling connections: Communities take the user experience of your product/service beyond the transactions by enabling members to connect with each other. These connections create emotional triggers and instill a sense of belonging to the product/service as your users build relationships with each other. Example: One of the features that makes Wattpad stand out from other reading apps is that while reading a story, readers can discuss specific parts of the story with each other. This not only enriches the reading experience as a new reader can now read what other readers are saying about the protagonist and various story plots along with the main story, it also allows readers to connect with each other over something they love. This interaction leads to a unique relationship between the readers and makes them come back to Wattpad to maintain these connections even when they have finished reading the story.
Network Effects: As the community grows, more members are now able to communicate with each other, hence it becomes more valuable for a new member to join the community, thus indicating strong network effects. As a result, we see members spending more time consuming and producing value within the community (i.e. High Life-Time Value ) and the community becoming progressively more appealing to new members as it grows (Low Customer Acquisition Cost)
Risks associated with Communities:
Communities are formed by humans. Therefore, while they have some great benefits to the business, it also comes with their own set of risks that are mainly driven by the irrationality of human behavior -
Trolling: “Troll” is an internet slang to describe a person who intentionally upsets people on the internet. The act of doing so is called “trolling”. A Community should have a clear definition on what classifies as trolling for them so that they can identify such mischievous characters early on and take necessary steps to ensure that the community isn’t affected.
Amplification of Bad WOM: As a community provides an open mic to every member to share their opinion with everyone else, some members use it to create bad word of mouth against the business’ products. Instead of raising a ticket, they use it to create dissonance amongst the community.
Content risks: As the community grows, the risk of a member posting inappropriate content (willingly or unwillingly) to other members increases. This is especially risky for communities where UoV is a photo or video.
How to mitigate these risks?
Moderation policy: Always have a clear stance on what is allowed and what is not allowed within the community so that members understand what the community rules are. This way even if you have to take harsh steps like deactivating a guilty member, then other members of the community are able to empathize with your action, and the chances of them creating a backlash is low. Also do ensure to mention that these rules will evolve as the community evolves.
Empower the members: Empower each member to report something they find inappropriate for the community by providing them the right tools and processes. This way members feel accountable to ensure that they grow the community with the right people.
Community managers: Algorithms can only do so much in preventing risks, we need to remember that communities are made up of humans and human issues are best understood and resolved by humans as sometimes understanding the context is important. Select and train the community managers to ensure that they always take actions that are best for the spirit of the community, even if it means making a hard decision.
Incentivize positive behavior: From the beginning, figure out the behavior that you would want all members to do as it will align with the growth and health of the community. Then design incentives to celebrate positive behavior from members. This reinforces the members to focus only on positive actions and not deviate to negative actions. Example: Promote the content by members that follow the community guidelines more instead of penalizing the members that do not follow the community guidelines.
In Part 3 of this blog series, we'll learn about how you can grow and measure the health of your community.
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