Community is at the core of any successful crypto project. An application is only as valuable as the people who use and love it, making its community the greatest signal for a token’s health.
But here’s what often happens in crypto…
A whitepaper launches, people get excited, and they’re financially motivated for early adoption; so they join the Telegram, Discord, or wherever people are talking about the project. They participate, share exciting news, refer friends, and promote it publicly. But they’re not deeply engaged, and are often just looking to promote their own applications. They’re not developing relationships with each other, and they’re definitely not loyal to the community. Their short-term perspective and financially motivated connection to the project is weak. And when another token comes around, they’re onto the next shiny object.
Their “community” was actually a bunch of seagulls flocking to the closest piece of bread. As it becomes harder to grow your community, with a lot of platforms banning crypto ads, building an engaged community of advocates is more important than ever.
To stop your flock from flying away — for those planning an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) — your investment in community needs to start today, not after the sale. During these early days, you have a real opportunity to build the foundation of community. Because it’s a smaller group, you have a lot more influence over its culture. Your early adopters will set the example for how to behave and how to belong for all your future community members. If you wait until mass adoption, it will become more difficult to adjust the colony’s culture in a different direction.
However — even if you’ve already completed your sale — you can still apply basic community development tactics to set the foundation for a healthy, long-lasting community.
I’m still in learning-mode in the crypto space, and I’m not an expert. But I have been building digital communities for close to 20 years and CMX has trained hundreds of organizations in community strategy since we started four years ago. We’ve developed community training programs for Facebook and Google and with over 20,000 community professionals in our network, we’ve seen it all when it comes to building online communities.
So perhaps we can help you wrap your head around your own community strategy.
To begin the planning process for a community at any organization, we always start with the community canvas. The community canvas is similar to a business model canvas, but for community planning. In this post we’ll use this canvas to plan a community around a new token. At the bottom of this post, we’re including a blank canvas for you to print and fill yourself.
If you find this useful and you want to ensure you’re managing community the right way, you should consider taking our full Fundamentals of Community Strategy Training (a 6 week course!), attending CMX Summit 2018, or joining CMX Membership. You can also get in touch to learn about our consulting and recruiting offerings.
Ok sales pitch done… lets dive in.
I’ll go into each section and explain how to put into action for crypto communities.
1. Business alignment
What is your primary objective? What business outcome do you want from building this community?
Knowing your goal is the absolute first thing you need to do for any community campaign or platform. This might be obvious; you might working toward an ICO, or you’ve already had your sale and now want active participation and contribution from your community. You might want to collect feedback and insights from the community to guide your product. Some communities focus on helping members get answers to their technical questions.
Write it down, even if it’s obvious. “We are running a community program in order to accomplish [clear, measurable objective].”
Often, people launch communities as a nice to have. The truth is community’s a real investment, and one you’ll need to put time, resources, and money into. Don’t launch anything without knowing why you’re doing it.
Important note: In the short-term, pumping Telegram groups full of members in order to raise more money works. But keep in mind, growing a group too fast can destroy a sense of community in the long run. Balance your growth with meaningful engagement.
Need more guidance on choosing a clear business objective? Check out the SPACE model.
2. Member alignment
Who are your members and what motivates them to contribute?
Next step is to get to know your members. I mean *really* get to know them.
You’ll find your community is made up of many different types of members, who each contribute in different ways. Some are more passive. Some are super invested. Some prefer talking online, some offline. You can break your community down visually similar to how I broke down Airbnb’s community.
How many members have you spoken to? Have you hosted any member interview calls? Do you know why people want to be involved?
What is their motivation for joining your community? Is it purely financial? Are they excited about the vision you’ve set?
Are they young or old? What industry are they in? Do they even know what it is you’re building or were they drawn in by the buzz? What platforms do they like to use to communicate? What time of day do they usually check in on the community?
There are countless very useful questions we often leave unasked.
This might sound hard or intimidating, but you don’t need to do a whole lot. Set up three calls. Just THREE calls, and you’ll already be 10x smarter about the needs and motivations of your members. We do three calls every month with our CMX Pro members. If we can do more, we do more.
What is the vision and values that will guide your community?
A community without a vision lacks a destination. A community without values has no compass. Both will leave you lost.
You must set a clear “why” for your community members to buy into. This will serve as your, and their, north star. It’s a reminder of why they should contribute, and what everyone is working toward. And it gives them the language they need to convince others to join the movement.
This is why your vision should be simple, and concise, so it’s easy to remember and repeat. A lot of crypto projects feature long videos explaining their lofty vision with lots of fancy visuals, and at the end of 3 minutes, the viewer still cannot explain the project to someone else. That means it’s hard for them to advocate for you.
Be clear; what is the difference you’re hoping to make in the world?
At CMX, we believe that community is the future of business, and our mission is to help community professionals thrive.
It’s your vision that will inspire people and motivate them to get involved.
Your values are equally important. They’re your ethical code to live by, and you expect your community members to live by them too.
These values serve as the foundation of your culture, and will guide members in how to participate in the community and how to treat each other. Whenever you make a decision, come back to your values and let them guide you.
What words come to mind when you think about the kind of company and community you want to build? Power? Money? Decentralization? Community? Inclusion? Transparency? Write down all these words, and then narrow them down to 3-7 values which speak to the core of what you’re trying to build.
For each of the words, write a quick description of what they mean to you, and how you will practice them. Boom you have your values.
Don’t worry about getting them all right now. We revisit ours every three months to make sure they’re true to who we are and are useful in decision making.
How will your members participate in the community, and what are your community guidelines?
Now that you know why your communtiy exists and who your members are, you can plan the experience you want your members to have.
To plan your experience, you should define:
- Who are the member types in your community (refer to #2)
- Where are they participating?
- What actions are they taking?
- What guidelines exist to guide their actions?
Each level of identity in your community will experience it in a different way.
Once of those differences might be where people are participating. Discord, Telegram, reddit, events, Twitter, email, Facebook…write them down. This will inform you of your community’s scope and all its different touchpoints.
Then, record all the different ways people can participate in your community. There’s posting in these groups, investing money, recommending it to others, attending an event, writing code, etc. This will outline all the different activities that your members engage in, and you’ll identify some of the roles that members can take on.
Finally, define your guidelines for you want people to participate in these these spaces. This is really important both to prevent conflict and negativity before it starts, and gives you something to refer to when you have to moderate your community.
The three rules I include in every community I start:
1. Share your ideas, but please do not promote your own content and products
2. Challenge ideas respectfully, but do not attack the person
3. Give more than you take, it’s what makes communities awesome
Feel free to steal them.
5. Content and Programming
What content will you create for your community? What rituals will you have? How will you bring members together?
Now that you know all the spaces, roles, and activities that your members engage with, you can craft your content plan. Content can be anything that you, the team, creates for your community.
List out all the content you’ll create: progress updates, events, questions to prompt discussion in the community, articles, videos, etc.
A few things you can include in your content plan:
- Onboarding: how do you welcome and bring people into your community and what requirements do you have of new members? Do you want them to fill out a form or contribute in some way? What first actions should they take?
- Rituals: what content are you creating daily, weekly, monthly and annually?
- Offline: how will you connect people in the real world?
- Education: what content will you create to help members learn and grow? What experts will you bring in?
- Updates: what updates about your project will you share with the community regularly?
- Website: what information does your community regularly need that you can make easily accessible on your website?
What metrics will you track and review to ensure the community is healthy and objectives are being accomplished?
We break down a community measurement strategy into three levels:
- Content and Programming: the results of the specific email you send, the event you host, the post in the community, etc.
- Community Engagement: the rate that members are coming to your community, posting, commenting, liking, and reading.
- Business Objective: the metrics associated with the objective you set in step 1.
For content and programming, you must look at each piece of content you create, whether it’s a post, an email, an event, whatever and track them over time so you can improve.
For community engagement, what metrics will tell you if your community activity is growing or shrinking? As a simple starting point for an online community, you can look at login and activity (post, respond, like) rates for the previous 7 and 30 days, tracked daily and reported weekly.
At CMX, we check in on this metric as a team every week. We also compliment the activity metrics with community healthy surveys we send to members, once or twice a year (per member).
For business objective, what metrics will validate that you are achieving your objective? This could be money invested, feedback submitted, code shipped, etc. Should be pretty easy for you to track.
Who will be responsible for managing, responding to, moderating, and growing the community?
There are way too many crypto projects running massive groups without any dedicated community teams.
You need someone to own and be responsible for the community, and founders rarely have the sustainable bandwidth to give the community the attention it needs. In the early days, you may not have a choice; the founder is the default community manager. As you grow, the community will quickly become too much, and you will need to get a community team in place ASAP. If you don’t, you risk your community descending into spammers, low quality content, self-promotion, and unmanaged conflict.
You can hire for junior level community positions from your community. They’ll know your product and the audience well because they’ve been participating in the community. But they won’t have the community strategy chops and will struggle to juggle all the different platforms, plan ahead, manage conflict effectively, etc. So you’ll either need to train them or hire an experienced community professional.
Here’s a guide to creating a community manager job description.
Beyond the community professional, who else do you need to help run your community? Content creators? Designers? Developers? Event organizers?
Write it all out in this box, so you know exactly who’s responsible for what in the community.
(If you need help hiring for community roles, get in touch)
What channels will you use to communicate with the community and how will the community communicate with you?
The community will want to get in touch with your team. Do you have a clear method for this? It can be as simple as a #support channel in Discord. Do you want them to message you directly? Make sure that’s clear for your community.
You should also define exactly how you’ll communicate with your community. Where will you share your updates and how often? The best projects do this on a weekly basis. Where will you post announcements? How will you communicate changes? What will you do in times of crises? What’s your process?
Trust is built on good communication. And communities are built on trust. Be transparent and accessible. Communicate consistently.
Write down what information you need to communicate, how often, and what channels you’ll use to communicate that information with your team and your community.
What expenses are in your community program (tools, staff, content, events, swag)?
Community can be low-cost, but there will be costs. Start simple in the early days. You can use plenty of free tools like Telegram and Discord. If you don’t know what tools to use, you can ask others in the CMX Pro community what they’re using, or explore our guide to community platforms.
You don’t need a massive team or expensive tools. But if you’re planning to running a large scale community, defining all the tools, tech, staff, content, events…everything you’ll need to make it run, will make sure you’re spending wisely. It can add up quick.
Hopefully, this planning framework helps you wrap your head around what your community will look like, where you have flaws in your strategy, and how to move forward with confidence.
We just scratched the surface here, and there are a whole lot of frameworks and models we offer to help you with things like community engagement, mapping out member journeys, understanding the community lifecycle, and more.
And as promised, here is a blank canvas you can save, print out, and fill in on your own, and one with some more question prompts to guide how you fill it out.