How To Build Community

(and keep it going)

A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.

👋 Welcome to issue #12 of For The Love. I would normally follow this up with a cheery “happy to have you all here!” and while I am happy to have you all here, I’m not feeling very cheery. The news of RBGs passing has me fearful for America’s future. As some of you may know, I’m Canadian, which means I can’t vote and I can’t donate to political campaigns, and I’m at a loss for how to contribute. I’m still new to writing this newsletter and I know this isn’t exactly what you signed up for, but I’d really like to know how everyone is doing and if you have any advice on how I can get involved. Thank you.

Today we’ll be discussing:

  • Five tips for building and growing a community.

  • A roundup of new things that launched this week, including a new at-home test to tell you what the quarantine has really done to your body.

  • An interesting solution for getting back to business in the age of coronavirus.

If you have any curious friends that like learning about new brands and DTC trends, please share For The Love.

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For The Love of Doing Good

In anticipation of writing about building community, I spent some time in Modern Fertility’s Slack channel, observing the honesty and vulnerability with which women share their questions, concerns, worries, and joy surrounding their fertility journey. 

The Modern Fertility community is now 12k members discussing all this and more. I spoke to Reina Pomeroy, their community manager, about how she built, grew, and fosters the community.

1. Build it and they will come 

“A community is a group of people who are connected by a similar theme or challenge, if you are willing to create the space for these conversations, it will happen organically.”

Starting and maintaining a community isn’t easy so when someone (or some brand) puts the effort in to create a space for discussion, people will come to meet like-minded people, and stay for the connection and conversation. 

The Modern Fertility Slack started as something functional—a support channel for their customers, “but now it’s about sharing experiences,” and open to non-customers as well. As Reina told me “we want it to feel like a safe place, but also an inclusive space.”

And lest you think this only works for a topic as significant as fertility—”We’ve seen this with gamer communities, and beauty brands. Community can happen anywhere. People are craving these types of interactions.” 

2. Size matters

The Modern Fertility community lives on Slack. This choice was a function of their particular needs. 

Reina explained:

“There’s value in having large groups where there’s critical mass—I see this in fitness communities where there's one singular goal of using a particular tool or getting exercise. With fertility everyone has a different goal in mind so it makes it a little more challenging. Facebook is one big thread. In Slack, these channels can get very specific, and you can have deep conversations.”  

The other benefit of Slack is that many people already use it for work (although that can be a detractor for some), and it’s a casual, synchronous communication tool, as if chatting with friends.

By tailoring the platform to the goals, needs, and types of conversation your community wants to have, you’ll create the best possible opportunity for members to interact.

3. Listen, like really listen

“Information is only as good as it being personal to you.”

One of the main factors in maintaining and growing a community is a dialogue around topics that are meaningful to your members. While prompts are necessary every once in a while you should really be listening to what the community is saying and what they’re telling you they want to hear.

Take one example Reina gave me of an initiative that didn’t go as well as planned. They scheduled a live AMA with an OBGYN (not a fertility expert) and most of the questions coming in were fertility specific, so they went unanswered, which is pretty awkward when it’s a live event. The team learned two things from this. One, their community mostly wanted fertility-specific advice, and two, this format would function better as weekly office hourswhere members can drop questions in the chat and get answers by the end of the day. This is now one of their most popular, active initiatives. 

“Really what we’ve done to be most successful, is to let the community lead the discussion and tell us what they’re interested in.”

4. 1+1=3

“We create opportunities for people to connect.” 

You should prioritize connecting members as soon as they join the communitygive them touchpoints so the experience immediately feels meaningful and personal. 

As soon as a member joins the Modern Fertility Slack they are invited to relevant channels, if not introduced directly to another member.

Reina told me: “Slack can be hard to navigate sometimes so we want to make more of those instant connections so that people feel that they’re connected as soon as they’re involved in the community.”

And this, in turn, promotes more connection. “When we implement things that allow us to scale intimacy we see ripple effects—we just create the space and allow people to talk about what they're going through.”

They’ve also begun holding channel/topic-specific Zoom meetups, capped at 15 people so as to maintain that intimacy. These video chats have inspired not only friendships but further community engagement—a number of participants have become channel leaders (a volunteer role), wanting to take on responsibility and give back to the community.  

5. The power of agency

A hurdle that many communities experience is a lack of ongoing engagement. Modern Fertility has avoided this by “empowering our members who are already invested—giving them the keys to the kingdom to keep the community engaged.”

Reina explained:

“At the most basic level, we really want to reward people who are commenting and engaging—we acknowledge them in the comments and DM and thank them for being an active part of the community. As we model those behaviors, it creates a ripple effect.”

The more active their members are, the more encouragement they get, and in turn the more involved they want to be. In a community, you really do get what you put in, both as a member and as a brand.

Now, more than ever, community is important—for connection, support, and action. As RBG said:

"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."


🔥 For The Love of Newness

Base is a brand new at-home test to “improve your diet, sleep, stress, brain.” (I know this because my husband is an investor.)

There’s a new DTC non-alcoholic spirit to add to the growing list, called Bonbuz.

Redheads are no longer left out of the Glossier Boy Brow club.

Pepsi announced the launch of Driftwell—a soda to help you...sleep?

If you’re redecorating, might I suggest a coffee table from the newly-launched (and aptly-named) Wiggle Room?


 💡 For The Love of Usefulness

Current and future founders—highly recommend signing up for Open Office Hours this Wednesday. It’s an opportunity to get in front of 50+ investors from funds including Third Kind Venture Capital (Pinterest) and Primary Venture Partners (Jet.com) for 20 min meetings for feedback or just to get on their radar. It’s part of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures’ Fall Fundraising Days, which has lots of great programming all week, including an interview with Sequoia’s Jess Lee on Raising a Series A.


🔍 For The Love of the Details

I’d like to bring your attention to AIR—as far as I can tell, a space helmet with HEPA-filters for business dudes. 

Are you like this guy?

A serious businessman? With a tie and glasses?

Or this guy? 

A roguish businessman that may or may not be fundraising for a music and technology festival on a tropical island?

Then AIR is for you.

Now where would said businessman wear such a helmet, you might ask?

Business class. And I guess coach as well. Really a HEPA-filter helmet for the people.


A few more things...

Is there a topic you think I should cover? Or a funny ad I can dissect? I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at info@ajasinger.com, respond to this email, or drop it in the comments ⬇

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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.