The Key to Entrepreneurial Success: Build a Community Within Your Network
Communities create a place for you to work with other people and help you to build and sell your product.
Communities have become strong players in the startup world. Even if this word is thrown around a lot recently, it’s been here for a long time now. Companies like Product hunt, Buffer, TikTok, etc. has used it to build where they are today.
Entrepreneurs, creators, and founders build a community not only to build and sell a product but also to build a solid foundation of a marketplace and connection for the long run.
In fact, my first product failed because I didn’t focus on building a tight-end community before launching it. And this could be the story of most of the first-time founders. As founders have amazing ideas, plan out execution and know-how to target the audience but don’t realize that the early users will only buy from you if they trust you, because you don’t have brand authority and awareness yet.
When you talk to most of the founders about how they got their first few users they’ll say the people who know them already, people from their network, friends, colleagues, or community.
This is the community you’ve built on network effects & it plays the key role. If you have a community, half of your promotional work is already done.
If you want to read how your favorite brands get there early customers, read here.
Community for a product/startup
Most people are mistaken by the “audience” as the “community”.
When you build an audience your focus is on a single individual, while building a community your focus shifts from a single individual to a group where members collaborate, contribute and participate over something.
In a community, people get more value by interacting with each other on a similar topic. They had built a connection with the other members of the community so that helps gain feedbacks and build the network.
Whereas the audience only values when you create content that interests them, entertains them, or educates them.
What the audience does is act out of emotions. Communities are more bend towards building each other. Even if the audience disappears, a community will stand strong like a pillar.
It’s not that hard to build a community than to build an audience as the network of valued content & members will help accumulate the people itself.
Tell me, would you rather buy from a community or an ad?
What is it like to build a community?
Imagine this scenario:
You have an idea that already has a market and you did an idea validation of it. You understand that there is a need for this product and you know who is your target audience.
You start working on designing the product, then developing it and a perfect launch plan ready to take off. But your users won’t come to you, you have to go to them and introduce yourself.
Everything goes as you planned, you’re happy, reach out to potential users (but actually they don’t know you) and you’re ready to launch. You’ve also made a teaser on social media about what you’re about to launch.
Product is launched, you’ve estimated on an average 30 users per day — some through the launch announcement, some through reach out, and some through these referrals.
But in reality, you got very few users and now the growth you expected doesn’t increase as you planned. Because the product need isn’t important, the way you build it isn’t important, the way you’ve planned the marketing isn’t important but who you get first is. The rest will go parallel.
(Confession, this is my real story 🙃)
Your first few users should
- need what you’re building today and not in the future,
- build a connection and interact with you, so they can suggest to you what features they need or how you can make their work easier,
- happily spread and talk about your product.
Well, that’s the best a community does, you’ll get the word-of-mouth so you can move over marketing.
You start by building a community around your network who are interested in the same topic. They will add more people and more people will add more people, this way the chain will continue.
Successful representation of community building
Gen Z VCs — Meagan Loyst started building a community around her network of 50 people on Slack which grew into 1000 members in a week. It got featured in Business Insider and today the community has crossed 9000 members in just 12 months. Gen Z VCs is a global collective of young investors, founders, startup enthusiasts, aspiring VCs, and creators.
Many people rather than creating their own community start with Twitter, Telegram, Slack, Facebook, etc.
Product Hunt — Ryan started building Product Hunt with a couple of dozen influential people in the startup industry that Ryan personally knew. He started building an email list with the right people which helped him get 170 subscribers & who were enjoying his daily digest.
I’m able to build a community through my newsletter for first-time founders and inspiring founders which has enabled me to build a beta list of 150+ people even before launching the product.
There are more communities that prefer having a separate place to build a collaborative place such as Maker Log, Women Make, Indie Hacker, etc.
And some communities that focus on Q&A style such as Quora, Reddit.
But the first things is to gather your network who enjoy the same topic and start from there.
When you decide to build a community remove the time from it. As building a community is true fun but you never know when it kicks off — maybe in a week like Gen Z VCs (got 1000 members in a week) or can take months.
Communities create a place for you to work with other people not only to build your product but also to help build them. The most important thing is building a culture of like-minded people.
It takes time and dedication to keep showing up for your members with content to re-engage and flourish the growth.