How to assess new community building hires for token networks
Understanding what matters, and what doesn’t
Roles in community building (settler, explorer, planner)
Community building is the process of bringing together people for the purposes of achieving a set of shared goals and missions.
This is mission critical for every token network that intends to be operated by a decentralized community of token holders and contributors.
When hiring for team members to drive community building efforts, there are three general ways to consider candidates:
- [value alignment] Are they aligned with the values and overall mission of the community?
- [track record] Do they have any past crypto community-building experience? Or if not, do they have the potential to become a great community operator?
- [ability to execute] Can they execute and follow through?
Are they aligned with the values and overall mission of the community?
The most important thing to vet for when hiring a community builder is whether they are able to fully get behind a project’s mission and surrounding domain knowledge.
This compatibility and ability to carry their responsibilities with a sense of ownership is what will make or break success for the community.
When possible, you want to be hiring people who are already involved with the community. If they are already involved, it is highly likely they’re already invested into the community’s success to some degree.
For vetting candidates from outside the community, what matters is their willingness to learn and immerse themselves in the mission of the community. Whether this is the case or not usually is clearer over time as you build a relationship with the candidate and hence the importance of work trials in the hiring process (to be discussed later).
When someone cares about the work they do, others naturally notice, this is especially important being ultimately a people orientated role.
Eg. Someone deeply fascinated in decentralized finance with great writing skills will likely be able to produce better content and also be a better evangelist for a community than someone with operational experience but lack luster intrinsic interest in the field of decentralized finance.
Questions to ask candidates
- Why do they think the work of the project is important?
- What sort of values do you think the project should protect and uphold?
- Why are you in this space? Why come work for this community?
- How has a community personally influenced yourself?
Do they have any past crypto community building experience? Or if not, do they have the potential to become a great community operator?
While prior experience is not necessary for someone to be able to build a great community, it is a big plus. The smaller the margin of error you have, the more you should be investing in hiring someone who is more senior to lead efforts as a means of decreasing execution risk.
With that in mind, crypto is a land of failed communities, where more often than not, a candidate’s past job titles and experiences on paper are rarely representative of what they’ve actually accomplished. Take caution on those that call themselves ‘community builders’ or those that may have held senior titles such as ‘Head of Community’. Do your due diligence.
Understand the outcomes of the work produced at prior roles
Figure out what exactly they did in their former roles. When did they join the project? Where was the project when they joined (in terms of product, community maturity) and how did they progress the community beyond that point? Was the community already thriving or did they take the community from 0 to 1? Ask them to outline how their thinking around the community had evolved over the duration of that time. How did they measure progress and success?
Assess their level of direct influence on the outcomes produced
Can they point to specific actions or initiatives they led that propelled the community forward, or fixed a problem/growing pain the community was facing? Try to assess whether the candidate’s past initiatives led directly to a positive outcome or were they at the right place and the right time. Generally, if a person was not really responsible for their accomplishments, they will not the details.
Mistaking influencers and audience builders for community builders
Oftentimes, great audience builders are mistaken for being competent community builders. While audience building is part of community building, it is only one component of the whole process.
We can think of audiences as groups of people with “one to many” type relationships with a central figure head whereas communities look more like groups where the relationship network is “many to many” and much more collaborative in nature.
To build up an audience, you need to be able to command attention but to foster a community, you need to create something people want to invest time, effort, and energy into. And while audiences can become communities over time, many founders often hire audience builders with the expectation of community building, leading to misaligned expectations and outcomes.
Community is a long term process. It is one thing to create temporary attention but another to foster meaningful networks of relationships and rally entire communities to contribute their time, and energy over a period of time.
In the context of token networks, if we purely build an audience we may end up with a large number of token holders that mostly remain passive, whereas if we directed focused towards building a community of active contributors, we end up with a decentralized contributor workforce that can govern and operate the network.
While it being the most socially visible community may make sense, in most cases this sort of hyper attention fades away over time. In the end, those that stick around when times get tough in a bear market are usually ones that are the true believers surrounding the ecosystem.
You want to be investing into people, not attention.
Be wary of candidates that start many communities that last a short period of time. More often than not — they may be great at marketing but often times lack the operational rigor and commitment to execute on building a community. Make sure you are aligned on that goal.
Many audience builders actually make great community builders, these considerations here are more so a means to create an important distinction between the two practices.
Assessing community building track records
When assessing a candidate’s past experience, I’m not necessarily looking for outlier success but rather self awareness around their work, and the lessons they’ve gained while working with communities.
Questions to ask candidates
- When did you join and start working on the community, where was it back then, and as you worked on it, how has it evolved your understanding of how to build communities?
- What were the initiatives that you owned and executed in your current role and how did you plan, measure, and launch them?
- (If the candidate started a community) What was the goal of your community, why did you start it? Were you successful in the mission of your community? What did you leave behind?
Experience in an official role is not only an indicator of potential but also their level of participation in other communities.
Community builders come from all sorts of backgrounds, from former founders to those in business development, operations, customer support, content creation, writing, etc.
In many cases, some of the best emerging community builders I’ve come across are often ones who’ve not had a lot of experience but are those who’ve been first hand witnesses to how real thriving communities form and emerge over time, usually as a community participant themselves.
Running trial work periods for candidates
While values fit and past experiences may be useful indicators of potential greatness in a candidate, nothing usually beats working with them first.
Find a part of the community that needs work, scope it out in terms of objectives, success metrics, timeline, and rough path of execution.
Allow the candidate to estimate how much time they’ll need and provide compensation for 2–4 weeks of either part time or full time work.
Examples of work challenges include: “Governance participation right now in the community is at an all time low. We aren’t doing a good enough job actively engaging community members, ensuring proper flow of communications, and aren’t even sure people understand what is a DAO/how to participate in it. Please outline a 3 month plan to tackle this problem.”
During a hiring process, the ideal practice is to quickly vet their values fit and also their past experiences but mostly getting to a place where you’re comfortable offering a paid work trial. It is during this phase that you get to better align on whether the role is a fit or not for the candidate.
When ramping up hiring for community building roles, be ready with several challenges, problems, or objectives for potential trial candidates to try to solve and execute on.
You can link to this post below for your job description: https://medium.com/1kxnetwork/how-to-grow-decentralized-communities-1bf1044924f8
Community building talent will continue to emerge as a key human resource within the world of crypto and web3.
Hope these thoughts and musing help you along the way.
Thank you to Nichanan Kesonpat for editing and Jiho (Axie Infinity) for notes.
Peter ‘pet3rpan’ is part of the team at 1kx an early token fund that is investing across crypto inc. DeFi, NFTs, Data, DAOs and more. If you need feedback or want to share what you are working on, reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org