The Community Roundtable

The Community Roundtable

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Stuart G.

Stuart

How useful is an entrepreneurial approach to building online communities?

Marketing Consultant at Plectic

Have you come across any examples of community managers using lean start-up ideas and practice to grow online communities?

The reason I ask is that I've been working on a start-up idea since leaving a community management position at eBay, so it seemed a good opportunity to put together a presentation on how lean start-up methods can help build community, based on the methodology put forward by Eric Ries.

I'll post the fruits of my labor after my short talk on this subject at Cass Business School on 13 February.

@stuartgh stuart-hall.com

I was there! I got to attend the BLN Lean Start-Up event last night, with Eric Ries presenting his thoughts to an audience of entrepreneurs. I talked to one attendee who’d flown in from an unnamed European country just for the...

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  • January 31, 2012
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  • Terry C.

    Terry

    Terry C.

    CTO at Marine Learning Systems

    I can't say that I have really applied them directly to community building, but I certainly think that the approach makes sense. Since the fundamental tenet of the lean start-up is to be customer-focused and to continually seek actual customer validation for what you are creating, it seems to intuitively fit as a model for community development.

    The biggest challenge I would foresee is critical mass. As a lean startup with a specific product/service you can engage in customer validation with a small number of customers -- sometimes even just a single one. But in a community, you need to have interaction amongst the community members. So you clearly need to have more than one :-) The actual numbers are going to depend on how willing people are to contribute, but given the 90/9/1 rule of thumb, it would seem like you might need at least some tens of people involved in order to have even a minimal level of interaction.

  • Stuart G.

    Stuart

    Stuart G.

    Marketing Consultant at Plectic

    Interesting point Terry about customer validation vs community critical mass, thanks that's useful. I'm attending a lean start-up weekender coming up so will bear that in mind for sure.

  • Christopher David K.

    Christopher David

    Christopher David K.

    Senior Consultant Social / Mobile Solutions at Oracle

    If we are talking Min Viable Product as one tenet? Question which is unclear is are you talking about community software platform building or using an established platform and just building the population around a community?

    I have used many platforms, but designed few. So I can't answer to that fully as there are too many variables to get a quick comment that could be useful.

    As for building a population, I have built many. If I understand Ries work, then community building is all MVP... The issues comes up with who are you iterating the network for? Communities are dynamic and change, small changes can alter the entire makeup of the community in the long term.. Everything from Privacy, to Payment, to Feedback can alter how and who the community attracts and keeps.. See Digg, FB, Meetup as examples..

    I did my senior thesis on Meetup dot com, and I analyzed their database 2009-2011.. So depending on the rules you set up you may find growth patterns work well for small groups in the community or better for large groups...

    Content that works well with the majority, may shrink the vibrant minority.. So as long as you have good analytics, you should be able to steer the community in the direction you want.. But you will need very very good analytics to do this lean-wise and not over-react to how complex communities change over time or rapidly if they are moving in the direction you want..

    Not sure if that is helpful.. But I took a second look at Ries work due to your post for new ideas.. So thanks!

  • Stuart G.

    Stuart

    Stuart G.

    Marketing Consultant at Plectic

    Thanks Chris, excellent comment, and in answer to your pertinent question, yes I'm thinking around the question in terms of using an established platform to build a community. And I also very much appreciate your point about the importance of the quality of analytics too, having delivered a simple Drupal community metrics plugin before - in that I now see such a product contributing to help the community manager build the community in the context of delivering that 'validated learning' Ries talks about. Cheers!

  • Stuart G.

    Stuart

    Stuart G.

    Marketing Consultant at Plectic

    My blog post on social networks and containers, following a lean start-up competition weekender might have a few useful ideas - it certainly confirmed the value of MVP for community building for me: http://www.stuart-hall.com/2012/02/06/explaining-the-power-of-the-facebook-social-graph-using-containers-and-social-networks/

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