5 key traits of a successful community — Learnings from Secret Cinema, Avant Arte and Jonny Burch

Jenny Gyllander
Mar 6, 2018 · 3 min read

A few weeks ago we organised the first Canvas Night: “Building Great Communities”, a gathering of experts organised monthly in London. Here are our notes and learnings from the evening.

Learning #1: Building a strong community starts with curiosity, a vision and a lot of research

“We didn’t know anything about art when we started. We spent a lot of time researching. Those insights are the reason for why people started following us.” — Christian, Co-founder at Avant Arte.

Often true communities don’t start because of a defined business goal; they start out of curiosity and a vision. However, building a community takes a lot of time and research. The initial research and purpose lay the ground for a functioning community.

“Our customers really appreciate the amount of research and attention to detail that we bring to our product.” — Nicola, Commercial Director at Secret Cinema

Learning #2: Collaborating toward a shared purpose

Sometimes communities form around frustration in order to solve a problem, and sometimes around a shared love for a product, service or interest. In both cases the community is purpose-driven. Transparency of learnings, insights, and content happens organically from the ground up. The members of the community feel responsible for collaborating toward a shared purpose that is superseding their individual needs. Meanwhile, they’re pragmatic enough to engineer ways for people to gain some direct personal benefits along the way.

“The delivery riders live in reddit threads and facebook groups, helping and figuring out each others problems.” — Jonny Burch, Ex-Design Lead at Deliveroo

Learning #3: Community ≠ marketing

When communities grow into valuable networks, it can be tempting to turn the curious community into a cash generator. Communities can be quite sensitive to this change. Don’t lose touch with the original intention of the community and turn it into your own benefit. None of the communities that were discussed during the evening had decided to start monetising on their communities directly (like through advertising or referral programs).

Learning #4: Combining online + offline

Members of networks, as opposed to communities, do not truly care about each other. Facilitating offline events can transform the networks into real communities and build trust among the members.

“Online is great for scaling but offline is the most powerful way to create the connections” — Christian, Avant Arte

Learning #5: Super-fans and communities live their own life

Building a community organically often means that the community will live an organic life. Super-fans will explain what the product is in their own words and educate new customers. You can’t fully control this story — just trust your community.

What is Canvas Nights?

We were sick of conferences and communities overloaded with bigger agendas. That’s why we started Canvas. Canvas is a casual and curated meet-up where you can actually connect with people. 3 speakers, one living room and a curated guest-list with experts on the topic. Sign up to the waitlist of our next canvas events here: canvasnights.io


Where founders paint the picture no-one else sees.

Jenny Gyllander

Written by

Founder, Thingtesting



Where founders paint the picture no-one else sees.

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