Investing in Community for Your Business

By: Evan Hamilton, Director of Community, HubSpot

On stage at INBOUND 2022, HubSpot CEO Yamini Rangan made a dramatic declaration: “Companies are disconnected from their customers. You’re all sending emails like they’re going out of style, but you just can’t reach that prospect. Digital fatigue and distrust are at an all-time high. We are in a crisis of disconnection.”

HubSpot Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah suggested that he had the solution: community.

We believe strongly that businesses should be investing in community. But that starts with an understanding of what community is, how it can help your business, and how you should weigh an investment in community.

What is a community?

Put simply, a community is a group of people coming together over a shared interest, situation, or goal and gaining value out of interacting with each other.

A community can take many forms: an in-person event, online forums, chat rooms, conferences, etc. But the through-line is that a specific set of people with something in common are gaining value out of interacting. That word is crucial, as we’ve seen the word community co-opted to mean everything from being part of a read-only newsletter mailing list to living in a country. Interaction is where the magic happens, where people get value that might otherwise remain elusive.

The last crucial element of communities is that they are win-win. A community driven by a business cannot just extract value, it must create value for its members as well.

What benefits can a business get from community-building?

“That’s the power of community; all of us together can do something that none of us individually can.” — Dharmesh Shah


Many hands make light work. Community can help you get a group of people to each contribute a small amount that results in a big outcome for your business.

A common place to see this is open source, where many community members contribute small improvements to a codebase that results in a better overall piece of software. This, in turn, helps them grow their skills and reputation — a win-win.

While this might not be appropriate for your business if you only have 3 customers, you don’t need tens of thousands — even a few passionate community members can help you host events in new regions, or provide multiple eyes to proof-read your next blog post.


People like, and benefit from, hearing from others like them. Community can help you provide those perspectives for your customers without having to hire all those perspectives internally.

Sephora is a great example of this, as makeup is incredibly subjective. Rather than trying to represent every perspective with internal staff, Sephora’s Beauty Insiders community brings together many thousands of fans to talk about what combos of product they’re using and how it works with their particular skin tone and style — all within a safe, supportive environment.


Connection often drives affinity and loyalty. Community allows you to harness and enhance that passion. By giving your customers a space to be supported, heard, and educated, you can deliver outsized impact.

This impact isn’t just touchy-feely; Brainshark, for example, found that attendees of their user groups used the product an average of 15% more and had renewal rates 10–15% higher than other customers.

Note that community takes many forms in the examples above. As long as that core of interaction and commonality is present, don’t get hung up on format. Your community should use whatever tools and venues are best for them. Check out the SPACES model for more details and examples.

So, should I organize my own community?

The choice between organizing a community of your own versus participating in an existing community is complex, and depends on the status, priorities, and resources of your organization.

Generally, you should organize your own community only if all of the following are true:

  1. Your business would benefit from community
  2. You can provide value to members of a community (support, belonging, insight, influence, assistance, etc) and that value isn’t already being sufficiently provided by someone else
  3. You are able to invest time, people, money, and passion into a community

How much investment will this take?

Communities require time; relationships aren’t built in a day or a week or even usually a month.

Communities require people; to foster a successful community you need one or more people bringing humans together, encouraging conversations, solving problems, etc.

Communities require money; in addition to investing in staff, you will need to consider software, event budget, swag, etc.

Communities require passion; you need to be willing to take the good with the bad, to make time for your community even when you’re busy, to consistently engage, to build trust, and to put them at the center of everything you’re doing, including decision making.

Businesses have differing priorities. Community is a powerful tool and a valuable strategy, but whether building a community is a priority for your business truly depends on what your business’s current state and needs are. If you’re not ready to invest time, people, money, and passion, you should wait on building your own community.

What should I do if I’m not ready to organize my own community?

Fear not! Just because you are not the party host doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the party. There are many existing communities out there, and you can still gain value by participating in them.

Participating in a community can:

  • Build up your reputation
  • Provide you with valuable insights
  • Inform and equip you to eventually build your own community

You can find communities to participate in by asking your customers where they spend time, searching on Twitter/LinkedIn/Reddit for people talking about your subject area, and attending local events. You can, and probably should, participate in more than one.

The key thing to remember when participating in communities that you don’t own is that you are a guest. Much like a guest at a party, you want to make sure that you prove yourself to have been worth inviting:

  • Be authentic; focus on helping instead of selling.
  • Give more than you take; don’t worry about immediate ROI.
  • Focus on relationships over conversions; people don’t want to be sold to in a social setting.
  • Be a connector; the most valued people in a community are those who bring people together.

In other words, leave the community better than how you found it.

Community is a powerful long-term investment for your business. Instead of chasing short-term wins, community invests in long-term loyalty and network effects. Take the time to assess how your business should approach community, but don’t let the long-term nature of it scare you off. As with any investment, patience is rewarded!



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