Convincing Companies Not to Invest in Community

Sarah Judd WelchNot every company is ready to invest in community, or what they think of as “community,” anyway. Half-hearted, impatient efforts can do more harm than good and leave both the company and it’s customers unhappy.

Sarah Judd Welch heads Loyal, a community agency that helps brands develop and leverage their communities online. But that doesn’t mean that every company she talks to gets pushed off the community cliff. Plus:

  • Why the ROI of community doesn’t actually matter
  • Metrics to measure community quality
  • The viability of Slack as a community platform

Big Quotes

“Imagine Etsy as a platform. Etsy has a very robust community of sellers, but the more and more that community develops, the more that community is not really dependent on Etsy and embodies it’s own self. It’s almost its own entity. In that capacity, it’s not Etsy’s community … the community is using Etsy. The more that these communities develop online, the more powerful they are going to be. The brands become smaller players in them.” -@sjw

“Brands need to play nice with community, and invest in it, because they’re going to have to play in that space in the next five years, in the future and going forward, whether they like it or not. If they are not a community-oriented company, if they are not empowering people, they’re not going to win.” -@sjw

“If you are building a community from scratch, it’s kind of pointless to benchmark yourself against other communities, because every community is so different.” -@sjw

“We worked with a brand last year that hired Loyal to write the brief on what it would be like for them to create a community to increase sales leads. They wanted that kind of plan, like, ‘What do we do when? How much should we invest? What should we expect?’ And it was such a challenging project because using community to increase your sales leads, as a goal in and of itself, is not a great reason. The metrics associated with that are just so nebulous. It’s like asking an existential question. And I think, through that project, we successfully convinced them that they were not ready to undertake that investment. I considered that to be a huge win.” -@sjw

“What value is your community to you, if you’re not leveraging them to learn and to better yourself?” -@sjw

“Slack is literally a large chat room with thousands of people in it. That is super, super hard for cultivating real relationships. I think it will be much more interesting to see ways to slow down that communication. Maybe Slack will end up doing that themselves. Just in its current form, I can’t imagine that communities larger than a couple hundred people will thrive on Slack long-term.” -@sjw

“[When I was growing up,] I remember chat rooms being a lot more intimate [than Slack]. At least if you’re hanging out in that chat room during that hour or even five hours, because what else were we doing when we were 10 years old, those same people are hanging out in the chat room for that period of time. That creates a condensed, segmented experience where you’re actually able to have real conversations with people. But the thing is, with Slack, the inherent nature of Slack is that you are at your desk working, so you’re not paying attention.” -@sjw

About Sarah Judd Welch

Sarah Judd Welch is the CEO and head of community design of Loyal, a community agency, and has worked with the likes of General Electric, National Geographic, NYU, AARP and more. Prior to Loyal, Sarah worked on community with TaskRabbit, Contently, Kik and Catchafire, and in former lives, for Hillary Clinton and Goldman Sachs. She believes that community is the future of society and economy on the internet.

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