Communities come in all shapes and sizes, with all sorts of different programming to boost engagement, drive business impact, and add value for members. We always begin community strategizing with the Business Level Strategy. This gives the strategy a northstar metric and a clear idea of the business goals we are driving.
Once we know our business goals, we move onto the Community level Strategy, and begin to look at what programming needs to be put in place in order to achieve those goals. What kinds of programs should you put in place in order to achieve that business goal? Online forums, community-led programming, user groups, content channels, training programs, meetups, events, volunteer programs, gamification…the list of program options feels endless!
All of these examples fall under two buckets: Live (synchronous), and Online (asynchronous), and it’s important for every community strategy to include both types.
This article will talk about the differences between live and online-only programming, as well as the benefits of one over the other. My hope is that by the end of reading this, you will have a better understanding about why it’s important to include both types of programming into your community strategy.
Two Types of Programs
Live Community Programs
Live community programs are ones in which members connect in real time. These programs can take many shapes, but the key is that the conversation is happening live. When members make time to meet or talk, communication is more engaged and encourages those present to invest in the conversation. Live or synchronous programming typically includes events, both in person and virtual.
- A Community-led events or chapter program
- HQ led community events
- An HQ-led annual conference
- Live AMAs
- User Groups, MeetUps
- Local, in person community events
An example of a live or synchronous community program is CMX Connect powered by Bevy. This is CMX’s Community-Led events program, that is run by an amazing group of passionate volunteers. We host both in person and virtual events in almost 50 chapters around the world, during which our community gets to meet and connect in real time.
Online-only Community Programs
Online or asynchronous programs involves the exchange of information between two or more groups of people without the involvement of live or immediate responses These programs often take shape in forums and online discussion spaces.
- Online forums and community-contributed knowledge bases
- Public online discussion space (Facebook group, Slack Workspace, Discord, etc.)
- Privately owned online discussion space (Mighty Networks, Vanilla Forums, Khoros, Discourse, Discord, etc.)
An example of an online-only or asynchronous program is the CMX Facebook Group and CMX Slack Community! Here, over 20,000 members come together to learn from each other, discuss challenges, share experiences, and connect asynchronously.
Live programming vs online-only
Both types of programming have their advantages and disadvantages. Live, or synchronous programs are much more conducive to member engagement, and community participation.
With Live Programming
Members can develop a true sense of community. When your members meet in real time, whether in person or virtually, they can interact directly with one another, and will form stronger relationships.
Organic conversations. When members engage over the same topic or theme, or around the same presentation, it leaves real opportunity for organic conversations to unfold. Questions can be answered as they come up, attendees can collaborate in real time, and conversations among attendees is where experience sharing and understanding takes place.
More participation. When members attend live events, whether in person or virtually, they are more likely to participate in discussion and chat. The presentation or conversation unfolding around them will prompt them to get involved, ask their own questions, or offer their own advice.
Introducing community-led synchronous programming means exponential scale. Because the events are hosted by members of the community themselves, the potential scale of these programs are incredible. With this kind of program, one community manager has the opportunity to reach hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of members around the world.
If you’re looking for a place to start with live community programming, HQ-led community events are a great way to begin! Start in a few popular cities or with a few popular products/topics. Most synchronous communities start this way, it becomes obvious who your ambassadors are, and you can start scaling from there! Just make sure you get out of the way and let the authentic community driven conversations happen; the agenda and tone needs to be set from the community, not by you.
And the winner is?
Which type of community program is most effective? A hybrid approach is best for both driving business impact and adding member value.
It’s important to give your community members a real-time opportunity to meet and connect over your brand. Building community is such a successful business strategy, and building meaningful and lasting relationships is at the core of it.
Instead of speaking directly to members, community-led brands and organizations are empowering their members to speak to each other. They realize the importance of taking the corporation out of the conversation and giving the torch to the customers. These companies are harnessing the power of human interaction and using it as their most effective marketing, customer success, and market education tool.
How do you do it?
To learn more about the power of synchronous community programming, check out these resources:
Community-Led Communities: The Future of Business
Launching a Community-Led Events Program: Advice from Real CMs
Need a team to help launch or scale your live community programs! Send us a message! We’re happy to help.
Ready to dive in and get certified?
Check out our CMX Academy Course, The Community-Led Event Program Playbook!
It can be daunting to be in the beginning phase of building a distributed events program. There are a lot of questions that will come up, and many “what if’s” that will be hard to answer. This course will take you through the necessary steps to get you and your program ready for launch day, and point out the potential pitfalls you’ll probably run into.