Community platforms like reddit, Ideascale, and Telescope can be used for free, are easy to setup, and provide a more modern user experience than traditional forums or “bulletin boards”. This creates an incredible opportunity for brands to build a community for their audience that supports business goals and generates a return on investment.
We are especially excited for independent content creators because many of them have limited funds and large audiences that are ripe for community. Podcasters, bloggers, and YouTubers have the opportunity to leverage the power of their audience and raise the value of their brand through community development.
Building Community for Content Creators
We want to see more content creators give their audience community. In an effort to encourage content creators to utilize community, we are developing a community from scratch for one of our favorite content creators.
The goal is to create a community that delivers value to a content creator and their audience.
Choosing a Content Creator
Our choice for a content creator weighed heavily on the following three factors:
1. We must be fans of the content creator.
This ensures we will continue to consume the content they create and be able to participate in the community as audience members.
2. The content creator must have a large audience.
“Large” is a relative term, but the key is to choose a content creator that has a sustainable audience.
3. The audience must want community and get value from the community.
The audience must be active in existing community channels and the community must be able to provide value to the audience. This is an assumption that must be proven through research.
Initial Research & ValidationWe brainstormed a list of content creators that could potentially meet the criteria. The two content creators that stuck out to us were Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk. Researching and validating a content creator as a candidate for community is a process that takes time and consistent effort. We have a slight bias towards Tim Ferriss, so we decided to start with him.
Tim Ferriss is the author of 3 best-selling books, host of a top ranked podcast, and host of a TV Show.
Here is our initial analysis of Tim Ferriss in regards to the criteria that was previous mentioned.
1. We love Tim’s content.
We are both fans of the Tim Ferriss Show podcast, his best selling books, and the Tim Ferriss Experiment (TV show available on iTunes). We are also fans of the various themes Tim covers across all of his content which include entrepreneurship, health, the learning process, and world-class performance.
2. Tim has a huge audience.
Tim has written best-selling books, has over 1.25M followers on Twitter, and he consistently gets 100+ comments on his blog posts. This is a large pool to draw community members from.
3. We can deliver value to Tim’s audience with a community.
This seemed obvious to us, but we knew it was an assumption that should be tested before spending the time and effort to build a community.
To learn more about Tim’s audience and determine how we can deliver value to them, we read over 450 comments left on the latest 6 posts of the 4-Hour Workweek Blog. Through this research, we were able to identify multiple opportunities to deliver value to the audience with a community.
Here are the patterns we identified:
- It is very common for a user to ask Tim a question that could be answered by other fans. Tim rarely replies to questions in the blog comments section, so the community could be a place where fans ask questions and are more likely to get a response (from other fans and Tim).
- Many comments were great conversation starters, but the blog comments section does not facilitate in-depth discussion very well. A feature like email notifications make a community more conducive to back-and-forth discussions.
- Sometimes an “expert” would offer their thoughts on a subject. These experts could benefit by having a community where they can regularly contribute value and develop a reputation.
- The blog posts for his podcast episodes include a “Question of the Day” that are largely ignored by commenters. In the community, each Question of the Day could be its own thread and generate more responses.
- Sometimes a link to the podcast guest’s website would be shared. In the community, the podcast guest and their content could be discussed more thoroughly.
- Every blog post has off-topic comments. The community would give fans a more appropriate place to discuss topics that are not directly related to Tim’s latest blog post.
- Some users shared their own content or business venture in the comments. The community could be a place for Tim’s fans to share their creations and support each other by sharing resources or providing feedback.
Based on our research we have identified multiple ways that a community can deliver value to Tim’s audience, but will they actually use a community?
There are two pieces of evidence that make us optimistic that Tim’s audience will utilize a community platform.
- Tim often asks community style questions to his audience on Twitter and these questions always receive multiple responses from fans.
- In the past, Tim used the now defunct “Google Moderator” tool to crowdsource questions for his podcast guests. Google Moderator was a crowdsourcing platform where users could submit questions and vote other questions up or down. In his last use of the platform, 1,400+ fans posted 800+ questions for Sam Harris.
While these two anecdotes are encouraging, they are not proof that anyone will actually participate in a Tim Ferriss fan club. Luckily, we have a powerful tool called Telescope on our side.
Launching a Telescope Community
Telescope is an open-source community platform that can be installed and configured in minutes and hosted for free via Heroku. We have already setup a basic version of the community at tffc.herokuapp.com. In less than one hour, we have a fully functioning community that we can use to validate the demand for community.
The plan is to drive traffic to the community through a Twitter campaign. We will create a Twitter account for the community and use it to follow, retweet, favorite, and engage fans. The Twitter account will promote the community with a link in the bio and through occasional tweets. We hope to drive enough traffic over a 1-3 week period that will generate participation in the test community that validates the idea and gives us the confidence to dedicate more resources to the community.
Next Steps and Long Term Goals
The next step is to use Twitter to drive traffic to the community and then analyze the results of that traffic. We will continue to document each step of this process in a series of blog posts here at GroupSRC.com.
Our long term goal for this specific community project is to develop a valuable community for Tim and his fans. While it would be nice to turn this community into a source of revenue, our motivation at this stage is to demonstrate the power of community for content creators.