3 Traits of a Successful Community

Deb Schell, CEO and Founder
4 min readOct 13, 2023

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered three traits that I see thriving communities have that keep them going year after year.

  • They don’t overwhelm their members with content and instead focus on intentionally connecting members.
  • They offer different ways for members to participate, including live calls, pairing programs, accountability groups, book clubs, self-study programs, and more.
  • They model what they want members to do and ask how they want to interact, including members in developing a community at each stage.

It takes about three years to see an online community thrive. When thinking about growth, most community professionals rely on data to measure what’s working so they can adjust their strategy for continued growth. While data is a practical resource, it’s important to remember that people are why a community exists.

Intentional community design focuses on less, not more.

When I work with clients to launch a community, I always recommend a phased approach. The same goes for growing the community. It takes intentional action to connect members over time.

The best growth strategy is to have a fantastic onboarding process, provide excellent resources, and offer a unique member experience that keeps them returning. If you serve more than one type of member, I recommend focusing on one group at a time.

When starting small, you need to consider members entering your community as if they were exploring a website. What are the features you need?

It would be best to have an events area to host your meetups, a space for members to interact, and a place to organize resources and information.

Think about the following questions:

  • What’s the purpose of this space?
  • What is included?
  • Who will watch over or maintain it?
  • What is your strategy for this space?

Communicate in a variety of ways to boost engagement.

Thanks to ever-changing technology, knowing the best way to communicate with new members can take time and effort. The methods will differ depending on your community’s structure, the devices involved, and your team’s familiarity with technology. This is why it’s good to ask your existing members about their experience and make changes based on their feedback.

My experience, and that of my clients, reveals that your chosen platform significantly affects the onboarding experience. Remember, you must also factor in the devices your audience uses. If your members are primarily downloading an app on their mobile devices to access the platform, it will be a different experience than using a desktop or tablet.

If you know most members are desktop users, then your onboarding should match this experience. Note: If it would suit most of your members, you may choose to recommend one device over another, but make sure you communicate this clearly at every stage.

Consider offering a combination of these communication methods:

  • A video recording of walking members through the community.
  • An orientation packet with screenshots and step-by-step directions.
  • Send out emails weekly to remind the members of the community events.
  • Encourage members to sign up and attend social activities virtually and in person.
  • Connect your members with a pairing program or cultivate a space for networking.

Leaders who model actions encourage
members to participate.

One of the most valuable tasks of a community host is effectively communicating with members. Many new community builders assume members will connect organically, but this doesn’t typically happen. On the contrary, it’s your responsibility to tell people how you want them to show up and model it for them within the space. Members need a guide to help them know who’s there and why they should connect.

Of course, every member is a human being. Remember that everyone has a life with various responsibilities, including family, kids, work, commutes, conferences, health challenges, doctor appointments, and travel plans. Each person has come to your community for a reason. The more you know why they decided to join and what their lives are like, the better you’ll understand their participation. Whether they show up constantly or sporadically, they have a reason.

Most times, a personal event has changed their daily life; they may need time to get back to their normal activities. Could you think about members when they are gone and check in on them? Community members can come together and send a card if they’ve had health concerns. They matter! The more you show you care, the more valued they will feel. This is the best way to encourage them to show up again and share their experiences with their network.

Updates and News

  • The Creator to Community Builder book club has started, but it’s not too late for you to join. Sign up here. This week, we are meeting at 11 a.m.
  • From our last meetup, Kathy shared some great ideas on cultivating engagement and participation by being vulnerable. If you are honest with members to learn more about them and their challenges, you could start by sharing a challenge you’ve overcome.
  • Join me on October 17th for Starting Small — Building a close-knit community that encourages connection. In partnership with Led by Community, join us for this upcoming talk on Tuesday, October 17th at 1 PM EST for Starting Small — Building a Close-knit Community that Encourages Connection. Discover the essential ingredients for launching a thriving small community: a shared passion, a committed core group, and a welcoming gathering place.
  • The Community Strategy Podcast has two more episodes, and I will take a break until I have a few interviews ready to share. There is no audiobook option for Creator to Community Builder except that there are excerpts from the book on this podcast season. Send an email to Deb@FindCalmHere.com for questions or comments.

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Deb Schell, CEO and Founder

Community Strategist, Author, Podcaster, Designer. Find Calm Here, where community strategy meets intentionality.