How do you build community in public? What is ‘building in public’?
‘Building in public’ has become somewhat of a buzz phrase in the entrepreneurial community.
However, you don’t need to be a VC backed entrepreneurial superstar to benefit from the principles of building in public. In fact, it’s one of the smartest ways to build community.
What is building in public?
Building in public is pretty self explanatory. It is when you share the journey of building your (business / product / community) publicly. This is typically via blogging or social media.
Imagine if Steve Jobs had publicly shared each decision as he built Apple. It would have been a fascinating rollercoaster for early adopters to follow, as well as an incredible legacy for future generations to enjoy.
These days, tons of entrepreneurs are publicly documenting their journey, like my friend Dan Murray-Serter, who is building his company Heights in public:
There are several benefits to building in public:
People are attracted to others who are open and honest. Therefore, building in public is one of the most effective ways to build trust with your audience. It’s imperative that you share the good, the bad and the ugly moments in your journey, not just the highlight reel. Dan’s company (mentioned above) recently had a logistical issue with packaging. They took this opportunity to publicly document the whole team pulling together to package up their product in rudimentary cardboard containers. When I received a slightly shoddy looking package the following week, not only was I not disappointed, but I smiled, remembering story of team-work and tenacity behind it.
Building publicly allows you to be more agile. As your followers engage and comment on your public sharing, you can quickly see what resonates and what doesn’t. This is one of the best ways to find product market fit.
Get emotional buy in
Over the years I’ve been bombarded by friends, family and even loose acquaintances to donate to their charitable causes. We’ve all seen the ‘I’m running 2km, please donate!’ requests on Facebook over the years. Whilst I donate where I can, the people who really get my buy in are the ones who publicly document their mission. When a person openly shares the story/motives behind their cause and documents their training regime publicly, they will get infinitely better results than the person who shares nothing.
Nobody is going to know about what you’re building if you keep it held back, behind the scenes. Regularly and consistently showing up in public is imperative to raise awareness. Building in private is a sure-fire way to ensure nobody knows about what you’re building at all.
Content on tap
Building in public often leads to some pretty fascinating content. Content can be a struggle – we’re always trying to engineer that perfect, super valuable post right? Gary Vee said it best, when you build in public, you ‘document, don’t create’. Essentially, it takes considerably less planning, time and resource to just capture/share what’s happening in the moment, rather than trying to conceive of the ‘perfect post’ (which doesn’t exist btw!). Plus it’s interesting. You may think nobody will care about your project, but I promise, if you consistently share the journey of building it, people will join you on that journey. I’ve loved feeling part of some amazing projects and businesses, despite not being an actual stakeholder. The simple fact that they built in public was enough to make me feel invested in their mission. Now that’s good content!
So how can you build community in public?
The good news is, all of the principles above apply to building your community publicly. In fact, building in public seems particularly effective when it comes to communities.
Here’s an example of Jay Clouse building his new membership community publicly:
Notice how many benefits this ticked for him as a creator?
He’s simultaneously building trust, raising awareness, creating a piece of content and getting more emotional buy in from his wider audience into this community project.
Here are 10 ways to build community in public:
1. Share mile-stones (e.g.: “we just hit 100 members!”).
2. Share wins from your members (this also builds social proof and publicly showcases the value of your community).
3. Share tougher experiences, and the lessons learned from them (this builds trust and shows humility).
4. Share fun/funny moments happening inside your community.
5. Screengrab/take a selfie during a live call/workshop/hangout with your members (this creates FOMO for others who see it, and want to join the fun).
6. Share developments in your community (for example, I’ve been publicly sharing as I build out an extensive knowledge base inside Learn.Community).
7. Share periodic updates. You could treat it like a public ‘daily diary’ or perhaps be less frequent, doing a longer-form monthly or quarterly public update on progress.
8. Share the emotional side. How did today make you feel? Were you pumped about the progress in your community, or perhaps burnt out, or sluggish? Share it all. Passion is contagious, struggles are human – both work as content.
9. Share the mundane. You’d be amazed how much benefit is in sharing something as simple as ‘Working late replying to questions in the forum’.
10. Share appreciation for your members publicly.
Building community in public works!
This is not some fluffy tactic, it really does work.
Every time I share what I’m working on in my community publicly, I typically get a few interested potential members reach out.
Obviously the interest this content can generate is predicated heavily on your audience size, but even if each every post isn’t opening the floodgates to new members, it will be ticking many of the benefits outlined earlier.
This week in Learn.Community, the weekly challenge for our members was to build in public, sharing something happening within their community with their wider audience. One of our members Reggie Ballesteros (a super talented Photographer, building a community around that passion), shared this milestone in his Instagram stories:
In Reggie’s own words: “I posted this story to my Instagram and got 5 more applicants for my waitlist!”
Reggie’s example is incredibly inspiring. Following his post, he attracted 5 potential new members, versus 0 if he had shared nothing. Reggie isn’t the only member seeing amazing results, you can learn from Learn.Community member Jennifer who recently had a $2000 community launch.
I experienced similar benefit myself. After sharing a screenshot from this week’s live community workshop call in my Instagram stories, I had 3 members enquire about membership:
This is the power of building community in public – and it only compounds. Doing one post is good, but sharing regularly and consistently is game-changing.
Want to learn more about marketing your online community?
Learn.Community is our thriving community for community builders. So whether you’re planning a community launch, or looking to improve your current community, this is the place for you.
We take concepts like ‘building community in public’ and help you work through these strategies, directly mapping them to your specific community.
Add to that the support of your fellow members, weekly workshops, challenges and an active forum, and it’s the best place for community builders to get the help they need.