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Your Audience Is Not Your Community with Bri Leever

Posted Dec 12, 2022 | Views 638
# Community Roundtable
# Marketing
# Events
# Replay
Bri Leever
Bri Leever
Bri Leever
Community Builder @ Ember

Bri Leever has been formally designing, leading, and growing communities in-person and virtually for over seven years, but she grew up in a bed and breakfast, so community and events have always been a part of her life. She got her start building a community for a social enterprise named Sseko she launched and grew a community of “Fellows” who drive millions of dollars in sales annually for the brand.

Now, she partners with purposeful brands to help them transition from being product-led to community-led by crafting a community framework to activate their top customers. She splits her time between Portland, OR and Hawaii Island and you’ll usually find her in the mountains or in the water in her free time.

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Bri Leever has been formally designing, leading, and growing communities in-person and virtually for over seven years, but she grew up in a bed and breakfast, so community and events have always been a part of her life. She got her start building a community for a social enterprise named Sseko she launched and grew a community of “Fellows” who drive millions of dollars in sales annually for the brand.

Now, she partners with purposeful brands to help them transition from being product-led to community-led by crafting a community framework to activate their top customers. She splits her time between Portland, OR and Hawaii Island and you’ll usually find her in the mountains or in the water in her free time.

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One of the most common mistakes community builders make (especially when they come from a marketing background) is treating their community like they treat their audience. Having a marketing background gives you an amazing leg up in the community space, but you're prone to certain myths that need to be busted. Join Bri Leever as she explores the similarities and differences between working in marketing and building a community, and shares about her own mistakes along the way.

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So our topic today is that one of the most common mistakes that folks make, or especially community builders who have a marketing bent, is treating our community and our audience the same when those may be different. So I'm excited to have Bree here. We're excited to be here to dig into this topic. Bree has been formally designing, leading, growing communities, in-person and virtually for the better part of seven years, but grew up in a bed and breakfast community.

This concept of being in commune with one another and events have always been a part of her life. So she got to start building community for social enterprise at Cisco and then launched and grew a community of fellows drive millions of dollars in sales annually for the brand. So now she is taking all those experiences to help other purposeful brands help them start on the road of becoming community, led by crafting that framework for them and for their top customers.

So lots of great experience. Bree, you'll fill in anything else that I missed, like how do you live in a mountain town in Hawaii and usually find you on or under the water, but so excited to have you and thank you for for joining us today. Yeah, thank you. Kyle Yeah, I've been a part of community for all of my life.

Whether I wanted to or not is kind of what I was growing up also. Well, thank you for having me. I don't know if actually I'm going to do the gallery view on my end. Does that change it for everyone? It doesn't. Once you start screen sharing, it's going to switch, switch it. So everybody's looking at your slides and your gallery view on the top.

Okay, perfect. Okay, here we go. All right, here we go, everyone. So let's start with some basic definitions to orient ourselves. So first is what? What is an audience? The Internet says it's an assembled group of spectators or listeners at a public event such as a play movie, concert or meeting. What is a community? I took a stab at my own definition here, a diverse group of people coming together for common purpose, goal or affinity.

So each has their own uses and an audience is most powerful when you are trying to generate an awareness for your idea, your service or your product. A community, on the other hand, is most powerful when you're trying to create not not a stage, but a landscape of discovery, discovery and collaboration for a group of people who have those similar desires or challenges.

So let's dive into a couple key differentiators between ways the audience and community are different. So audience is public and on the other hand, community tends to be private and audience is spectating, as the definition said. But community involves participation. An audience expects to be fed, but community is more of a potluck situation. We talk to an audience, but a community talks to each other.

And then finally we speak to an audience from a stage. But communities gather in more intimate spaces, doesn't necessarily have to be at home, but they do gather in spaces that are more intimately curated. I'm curious, are there any that are coming to your mind that I missed? Differences between the setup or layout of community versus an audience?

Anything come to mind? I think with an audience you prepare all the content, but with the community they do a lot of content preparation as well. For each. Yes, exactly. That's a great one. That's actually we're going to get to that one in just a second, too. And I'd like to say one of the differences to what you kind of touched on was audiences come and go and communities sticks around.

And yes, that's a great one. Tim, thanks for bringing that out.

Awesome. All right. Well, let's dive in. So I just have five simple mistakes or maybe there's six mistakes that I see people make when they especially marketing folks. Oh, so that was the other thing I want to ask. Who here? Give me your background. Like, where did you come from? Did you come from the product side, the marketing side, the sales?

Like, were you a contractor in a former life? Like, just give me a little bit of background, okay. Marketing. I come from more of a sales and marketing background. I didn't even call myself a community person until about a year ago. So I certainly approached community from a more marketing posture, events and marketing customer success. Awesome. Okay, great.

My assumption was going to be that there were going to be a lot of marketing people here. Jerry just threw in the curveball of engineering, but yeah, because this is definitely this topic of audience versus community is something that we wrestle with a lot in, in marketing in general. And Tim came from the nonprofit space more marketing than anything else.

Okay, awesome. Okay, let's go back here and I'll start working through all of the mistakes that I've made as a marketing person. All right. So here we have mistake number one, creating too much content. NASIR You mentioned this one, so it's one of the most common mistakes that I see marketing folks make. And they think that they need to create a ton of new content for their community.

And when you're when you're used to feeding this, like horde of people who like constantly one content from you as in social media or even arguably from your email list, you'll think that in order to launch a community you need now you need, in addition to all of the content that you've been giving your audience, now you need like private and like secret and like a whole new treasure trove of content in order to provide value in this space.

But the focus is it's completely the wrong purpose for a community space. Your audience does want a lot of content, so I'm not saying that you shouldn't create content in general, but you don't need a ton of content to get a community off the ground. Focus instead on fostering a space where members, contributors and even leaders in the community are rewarded for creating or sharing their own content and resources.

And with an audience, you're kind of used to being the constant producer. Your focus is on content production, but with a community you want to be to focus on becoming the marketplace. It's the place where these ideas are exchanged and content has a role to play in that. But it's not a primary one and it's certainly not as much as we make it out to be.

If we're deep in marketing. All right. The second one is setting low expectations. So you do have to be careful here. But in many ways, people it's a little bit of a U curve, but by and large, people will rise to the expectations that you set for them. So I see people set expectations for participation in too low all the time.

I recommend telling members right off the bat that their participation is not only necessary, but critical to making this space valuable and that their leadership is welcome. So by providing ways for them to get more involved and become contributors, they can eventually become leaders and even take off some of that content responsibility that we just talked about in the last one.

Next up, mistake number three. Assume people know how to talk to each other. I like to joke that this is 95% of our job as community builders is literally just teaching people how to talk to each other. When you're used to being the one on the stage or behind the social media, captions or the ones speaking out to the audience, it's really easy to accidentally expect your community to know how to communicate with each other because you're not used to fostering those types of connections.

You're used to fostering a direct one on one relationship with that customer. So I always like to be extremely explicit about what type of actions I want to see happen in the community and then calling those out and prompting them really specifically. So if you want if you're like no one is commenting on other people's introductions, my first question is, well, where are they prompted to to to comment on someone else's introduction?

If you want that to happen, tell them when and where to do so. If you want them to like a post after they've read it, tell them to do that for each action that you want to see them taking. Make sure that you map a specific prompt and even reward. And by reward I don't mean it has to be financial or even formal.

A reward can be as simple as the comment that they made. Receiving a reaction from you or another community member. But the more that you're able to map every approved action back to a prompt and a reward, the more you're going to see the actions that you want to have taken in your community, make progress. And that's just basic habit formation.

Much more brilliant people than I have thought about this before, really just stealing their ideas. Okay, so mistake number four over designing the beginning spaces. This is a really common one that I see and I have made a lot. We spend a lot of time designing, redesigning and kind of perfecting this community home, especially if you have an all in one platform like gradual or and other platforms, it can be really tempting to spend a lot of time curating that space before anyone has joined it.

And again, a community is it's more like this grassroots potluck where everyone contributes together rather than this grand feast that we've been planning for six months. Of course, you're going to provide some appetizers to kind of get things started and a cozy venue to kick things off. But the sooner that you bring their communities into the space and the more blank the slate is for them to begin to connect on, the more they will actually make it their own.

This is where I like to bring in the IKEA effect so people will value more What they build or they'll value what they build more than what is built for them. So by over designing the beginning, the beginning home for your community, sometimes you're robbing your community members of the agency, of putting it together themselves. Mistake number five feedback means that we must create.

This is one that got me so anxious in my earlier years as a community builder. I because we get feedback all the time from the community members, right? They're like, Oh, we love it if you guys offered this or we'd love it if you had like accountability partners like Laura is nodding your head. She's like, Yes, do not please start sending me feedback.

So it's so it's actually so good because what I want to free you of is the responsibility that you have to be the one who does it. Now, when I get feedback from community members, it's like the it's absolute goal because I'm like, Yes, that is a great idea. You all should go build that. What can I do to empower you to go build that?

So when you get feedback, don't assume that it means that you have more work to do. Assume that you have people in the community who want to contribute energy and instead of getting discouraged that you have to now run more things. Think about how you can empower them to implement their own feedback or constructive ideas. Okay. And mistake number six, this is especially rampant in the marketing space.

And as a farm girl, which I grew up on a farm in this one especially, it drives me absolutely bonkers. I'm get ready, I'm going to go off for like a second. So. So there's kind of this like motif that happens in the marketing world where people will say, like, we just want people to organically connect. And what I found they actually mean over the years is we just want things to like spontaneously combust.

Like what they mean is I don't want to have to teach anyone. I don't want to have to prompt anyone or anything. I just want this thing to happen, which is spontaneous combustion. That's that's what happens when fire occurs without any application of external heat source. So they essentially want an effect or an outcome without creating any cause.

Okay. So let me just break this down for a second. With this whole farm background, organic, if you've ever tried to grow anything organic, it actually requires more interaction, more fostering, more intentionality than in organic produce. So it means instead of taking cheap shots and seeking out the quick wins, you're committed to taking the high road and providing that you have to provide a thoughtful structure so that, for example, the tree can bear its fruit.

You, for example, go out day after day and you're guiding the vine up the trellis so that you can get it, can get the most light, or you do the hard work of pruning the tree in the off season, or you install netting so that the birds don't destroy your crop. You put in a pond to get the ducks, that they'll eat the slugs so that they care for the eco.

So when people use the word organic, they tend to want they're trying to say, I just want things to happen without contributing a ton of energy and design. If they want to come, they will. And I shouldn't have to put in a lot of effort to make that happen. But my argument is that you have to care for the ecosystem and in the same way that you wouldn't look at a failed strawberry crop and think, well, I guess like we're just not strawberry people, you would say, Oh man, what are the conditions of the environment that failed to foster the growth for these amazing strawberries?

So in the same way people give up on their community too soon because it didn't spontaneously combust when in reality they didn't do enough to change up the environment or any of the elements or programing in their community to help it actually thrive. So those are my top six mistakes. I'm curious, are there any other blatant mistakes that you have seen or even made yourself?

I'll be the first to jump off the ledge here with an agreement on one. I think the last one is the misunderstanding. You're falling for organic that it's not going to happen automatically, that it does take work. And I really like the farming analogy on that. Mm hmm. Yeah. If the build if you build it, they will come.

That applies to a dream. The fields that community feel, the dreams. That's. Yep. Build it and they will come. Not quite.

I'll share one too. It's not recognizing that you can't actually ask a lot of for a lot of help from the community. And they are so willing to help out and be vulnerable and just share the real challenge you're having. And and they will jumping in to help. So it took them to figure that out in early days during Yasi.

But that's a very early learning and mistakes about community that there's a lot that's really good. Awesome. Nausea agrees. Sweet. Well, I want to I saw some comments and some questions here. Actually. I'll stop screen sharing nausea asked. Do you have examples of how to empower them and nausea? I'm trying. Can you explain a little bit more maybe the context of when you ask this question?

Yeah, let me just quickly before you jump in the if everybody wants to if you want a more democratic feel in the top right, you can switch your view from speaker to gallery and then you get to see everyone's smiling face, which may be more conducive to this this portion of our agenda here. Perfect. Yes. So this was in relation to mistake number five.

Feedback means you need to create. So that's one of the biggest mistakes that we've made every time we've had feedback we've gone and created was done and created and then we just ourselves so within and also not been able to implement everything properly because there's just too many things going on. So I 100% agree that the community's always interested in actually doing some of those things and supporting, but we haven't found a way to actually empower them in the in a consistent way or like, yeah, yeah, yeah.

So a couple of ideas come to mind. For me, this is where like starting to have some sort of qualifications for who is recognized as like a contributor or even more formally as a leader in your community can really help. So even before so they might have like a ton of like kind of offshoot ideas coming your way.

And maybe it's like a committee who reviews those ideas. And these are people who have like showed up consistently. They have participated consistently, like there needs to be any time you're elevating someone's status in the community, there have to be standards that they have met that they meet consistently. But if they're if you're able to set up a more formal structure before before starting to implement the ideas, you can you can set up a system where they're funneling through that new leadership structure so it doesn't have to be anything formal, as formal as a committee.

It could be like one person in the community who is like super gung ho and saying like, Hey, we'd love to bring you on as a moderator to help, like sort through all of these ideas that are coming up and and run a call with our top ten members where you all hash out and talk through. Like if we could only implement one idea, which one would it be?

Or if, you know, maybe giving some guidelines to around how much power they have to start their own initiative. So like an easy one is like anyone who wants to run an event in this space, like if you can submit your ideas like the date and the time, like you're free to run with it. Like we'll have a really hands off approach to events because those are one time if it bombs, it's fine.

You can move on, everyone recovers. There's like more long standing content or structures are like we launched when I in my last community, we launched interest groups and it was like they really wanted them. So we just like kind of came up with a system for voting an interest group into existence. And then actually we launched it and they were like so quiet and we had to completely revamp it.

And part of that was we when we revamped it, we had we said, Hey, if you want this interest group to keep existing because we kind of jumped the gun and like launched it, but we didn't really know how it was going to go. If you want this to keep going, we need one person to volunteer as like the leader of this interest group Here would be your expectations.

Here's what you get. Like, we're actually it's this awesome thing where you get to like launch a micro community in the community. So it's a great experience for you. But if you guys want this to exist, like we need someone to step up and to take on this leadership and, and it did and it was awesome. So and then like, totally, like, revamped the energy of those spaces.

Does that answer your question at all? Does it does. Thank you. Yeah, totally. Awesome. Welcome, Scooter. Everyone, What's going on? Sorry for being late, but excited for the conversation and hang out with you all. Now. You're good. We're just. Just taking some Q&A on audience versus community. So Nazeer had a great question about ways to empower members. Let me go back to that slide really quick.

So I can just recap. We were talking about mistakes in differentiating your audience versus your community. And this one was feedback. Feedback means that I must create it when in reality, in the community approach, feedback from your community means your community has more opportunity to create things and it doesn't always necessarily have to create more work for yourself.

No, I love that. I think that's one thing I'm racking. My brain is trying to make sure that it's more of a gotcha you. That's helpful here. Thanks, Kyle. It's more of a, you know, a campfire chat in conversation. Right. And how do you get people to kind of organize even without you? Right. At a certain point and kind of create new nodes versus having to facilitate that and be the middle person each and every time?

Yeah. And it really, man, your ego really takes a hit when you truly move from audience to community, you, that's exactly what happens. You start to realize like, Oh, I'm not all that important anymore. I'm I'm the facilitator, I'm the bridge, I'm I'm designing spaces to foster and facilitate these connections. But if you're used to just being the only one who provides all of the content, all of the value from in a space, it really does take a while to reframe for yourself what your role is in the community.

So it can it can take some time. And it's not it's it can be humbling to out keep going. I think there's an unmistakable reason I was I wanted so the mistake around assume people know how to talk to each other what are what are some of your favorite ways to teach people to do that? MM Yeah. Okay, let's go back to this one.

Assume people know how to talk to each other. So the way that I like to map this out is by using a framework called the like just creating a member journey. But I do it in a more, in a way that's like really there's like a habit formation layer over it. So I kind of assess at each stage in the member's journey through the community, let's just assume they're from, you know, day zero.

They're going to go all the way up to leader, however we define that. What are all of the actions that they can take to help them progress in that way? And for each of those approved actions, I call them approved actions, and this is all from a book, if you haven't read it, called Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg.

I think it's like very similar to atomic habits, just like probably slightly different language. So we look at the approved action and then we tried to see how can we turn this into a 32nd action. So rather than focusing if this is a pretty big action, like come speak at an event, we are going to get started with share your idea for what you would what you would host an event for.

So rather than the call to action being like this big thing, like I'll have to go like speak at an event. Well, I might not be ready to do that mentally, like consciously, but it's much more ease. It's much easier for my mind to get to wrap around like submitting a proposal for an idea for what I would speak about.

So I like to really think and really my newly about every single action in the last one of the last communities that I built, we actually changed our language. It was so small, but from like react to a post after you've read it to like telling them the exact emoji to leave because we were like, Let's take the decision making out.

Like when they go to react, they actually have like 6000 options of what emoji they're going to leave out. Like that's like decision paralysis for like this simplest action. This is ridiculous. So we're like, let's just change it to like instead of leave your favorite emote, let's just say like, leave an eyes on anything that you've read and just like, make it sort of this community cultural like value thing of like you just leave eyes on it or like, I don't know, whatever however you need to like branded or frame it, we just try to make every, every approved action a lot simpler and a lot smaller.

So that's, that's one way other things with people. So the first, the first way that I loved do people talk to each other is on their introduction posts. So I love to like use that philosophy to asking them to, to invite them to comment on each other's posts and find someone that they have something in common with. MM My other favorite way, and this is just from my own personal experience, is at events like this.

I love to say like find someone Hills ideas you like appreciated or whose question you resonated with. And at the end of this call, or before the end of this call, like reach out and see if they would like do a one on one with you because likely you guys are trying to solve is your if you're both coming to an event with the same topic you're trying to save solve the same problem at this event and so you're very likely going to benefit from connecting with each other one on one because you're solving the same problems already.

So those are those are just a couple of mine, but I'd love to hear if other people have ideas or things they've seen of getting people to talk to each other. So when we first started, we had like a bit of a room that everyone was like super excited to be. It was a new community that were like really excited.

And then it like really dropped off. There's like a I don't know what happened but basically dropped off. So then we actually planted people to like create the behaviors. So they were all people that we asked. Like every time someone introduces themselves, please welcome them every time. It's one last question. Here are all the answers. But it doesn't.

I don't want it always to come from us. So we literally planted people and then it created the behaviors and now it happens naturally. I love that. Thank you for sharing. Yeah. That I we very, very much agree with with that one that also plays into your last mistake free of organic. It was like, no, you can engineer it.

That doesn't mean it's inauthentic, but don't expect it to just happen. Yes. Yes. Yep. It's a design problem. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What other questions do people have here in a few minutes? Once Laura had a once she's back, we'll. We're going to jump into some breakouts and I've got a brie and I came up with a prompt that we are hoping can spur some discussion but before we do that what, what other questions do people have?

How do you I guess like ways to measure impact. Obviously there's a lot of anti metrics, likes, retweets, share or things like that. And you can obviously get discouraged when you're like, okay, only 15 people like this. I guess no one's coming. But then, you know, 17 people show up to maybe your roundtable and there's like, you know, someone walk through with amazing impact, right?

And you can kind of track that. What are some ways to kind of, you know, whether it's esoteric and mentally stay in the game. But then I think also realistically measure the impact so that when you get approached by people, you can actually, you know, if numbers may not be impressive, it's like that's not the impressive. It was impressive.

X, y, Z. Mm Yeah, it's a really great question. And I think while the community space is certainly catching up to the audience space on how do we, how do we walk away with the ROI from our press respective gathering places. I do think that this is where community does tend to shine because we where however, okay, there's a couple of different ways I can approach this.

One is it depends on your platform and it depends on the gathering place where you're meeting, like what type of data you're able to gather. So from the most, the most rudimentary position, I would say your event attendance, your repeat event attendance. So someone who has attended a second event I think is similarly to in sales, you would have like a repeat purchase metric.

I think repeat event attendance is really a significant. It shows you that they attained value in the first one because if someone attends an event, all of they're telling you is that they that they thought there was value in their like original pitch of the event. They might give you good feedback on the event, but they don't you don't necessarily know for sure that they got a ton out of it until they they RCP for a second event.

In my mind, that's kind of how I look at it. So from the metric side, I think those are two really important ones, especially if you're community is more event centric. Like a lot of these communities on gradual R you can also. So I like to break community into three pillars events, conversation and content. So in whatever way you're able to analyze and gather the data for conversation happening and happening in your community, how many replies on average do we get to each post for content?

You know, you can analyze this the same way that you would for an audience. How many views. And then I loved your point on there is this qualitative data or sorry quantitative data that we get. But at the end of the day, so much of the value of community comes from a more anecdotal place. And so what I recommend is I do like surveys in two parts.

There's like there's an onboarding experience survey where I tend to gather information once someone has been onboarded, and then there's more of a quarterly assessment as a community. And so that's where I love to. And even sometimes it can merit doing one on one conversations with community members about what they think about the community changes. They would like to see what they love about it, and I think those are such important conversations to be had because they're not going to come out in the numbers.

But there's a lot of energy that your community members have there that needs to be shared with you or with your executive team, not only in order to prove the value of what exists today, but to show that there is energy to making it even better tomorrow. I really like the repeat buyer behavior lens for for that metric, I think that starts to become sticky, starts to you get the there's obviously value derived because they're making the decision the second time to to come back and engage.

Yeah. Yep. No well I will just say thank you first to everyone jumping in, participating, joining, sharing your questions and insights. I jumped into one of the breakout rooms and it was awesome. And thank you Brie, for leading this conversation and being here and sharing your your insights with us. It was so wonderful and really appreciate you giving us the time and all the benefit of your experience.

So happy to. Thanks for facilitating the conversation. Thank you. Thank you, Brie. Thanks, everybody. Laura is going to fire off a notification. We've got more events coming up next. One's going to be in January. We do have some gradual events. Product update next week. You're welcome to join, but hopefully we'll see you all at the next one. Will post the recording of this, an email to you as well.

If you missed part of it or want to revisit it. But thank you all so much for being here and we'll hopefully see you at the next one. Sounds good. Thanks, everybody. One Thank you.

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