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A key metric of community health is growth; how well you are able to scale your programs as membership increases. A lot of factors affect the growth of a community: word-of-mouth communications from early adopters, relevant content to showcase community members, and in-person meetups run by local leaders. All of these factors contributed to building out Foursquare’s Superuser (SU) community, which has grown to nearly 44,000 members around the world since launching more than a decade ago.

Once a community expands at an international scale, local sub-communities naturally form. People desire connection with other likeminded and local people, and the community can give them that. This is also an important catalyst in online community formation. Additionally, members are spread out across different cities, countries, timezones, and speaking different languages. This makes managing the community as a lean team increasingly difficult – you can’t be everywhere, physically or digitally, at once.

On April 16th, SUs gathered in 27 cities around the world to celebrate Foursquare Day. This is an annual celebration of the volunteers who help make sure all of our content is fresh and up-to-date. We host these meetups as a way of honoring the passion and contributions our SUs have made to our two consumer apps: City Guide and Swarm. What started as a means of promoting local businesses is now a holiday! Local communities come together, united by a dedication to exploring the world through Foursquare. This year Foursquare hosted 27 different meetups globally, making this one of the most successful events of recent years.

Many community professionals know, local meetups and events are a highly effective means of connecting members, and increasing brand awareness and engagement. Here are three keys to empowering local leaders to build a global user community:

1. Identify and Build Rapport with Local Leaders

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Don’t think everyone will follow you just because of your title or position in the company. Identify local leaders who can provide the insights, insider knowledge, and language skills necessary to support a global network. When selecting a local leader, survey a large group of active users in that region and encourage them to initiate a democratic process and have them determine a leader. A strong leader will serve as a bridge between the company and the community; raising community concerns, flagging bugs, and moderating regional discussions.

2. Open up Communication Channels with the Internal Team

Giving access to your internal team is one of the best ways to equip your local leaders with the knowledge and resources to successfully lead other members. People trust and follow those who can guide them to make better decisions and build meaningful relationships. Foursquare’s Superusers are able to reach out to our team on public mediums such as our Community Forum, as well as private channels for just the higher level SUs via Slack. This way, we are able to provide real-time feedback that goes both ways.

3. Empower Local Communities with Customization and Recognition

Each local sub-community has its own unique set of rules, conventions and quirks. These can act to bring members closer together by defining their shared identity. You can see this in the regional style guides for editing or the custom swag our local communities created for their respective local 4SQDay meetups. To bolster the local connections, we sent out translated celebratory pings for each region and highlighted the hard work of our members both on an individual basis and on our public-facing company blog. The acknowledgement you bestow on the local community leaders will be returned to the larger community in increased membership, engagement, and lasting companionship.

Building out a global user community does not happen overnight. There will, of course, be bumps along the way. You will be engaging with difficult members, organizing swag internationally, and trying to keep tabs on a rapidly growing member base. Your members will require a fair amount of nurturing in the beginning to encourage them to become leaders. Trust in your leaders to do what is best for their local community. And most importantly, trust yourself! It is your job as the community professional to act as the anchor of the community. You are the captain holding the ship together as it sets sail in near and far waters.

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Lizzy is a community builder and content creator currently based in New York. She currently manages the Superuser community at Foursquare, focused on improving support workflows and driving user engagement. She is a cross-functional teammate who prioritizes infusing user feedback into the product development cycle. Prior to Foursquare, Lizzy moderated communities on YouTube for various publishers at a social media agency. A writer and listener by trade, Lizzy graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism.
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