Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

Lesson 23/32 - Develop Your Community Policies

 

Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business

 

Lesson Info

Develop Your Community Policies

We've been kinda talking around this a lot. We've talked about procedures and documentation in terms of helping people use your community. We also wanna make sure that there is a certain amount of codification of the culture of our community and that's what policies are all about because common sense isn't good enough. Now, again, that's not to say that members have now suddenly become the enemy, I don't mean that at all. I don't think your members are stupid, my members certainly aren't stupid, but at the same time, we don't all have the same sense of what is common sense. We don't all come from the same culture or the same background, we don't all come from the same online communities. What I think is normal in an online community might be very abnormal in another online community, so we wanna make sure these things are as set and clear and easy to access as absolutely possible. So, some of the policies you might wanna consider are a harassment policy. What happens if one of your mem...

bers starts harassing another member? What if a member starts harassing you? What if a member starts harassing one of your team members? Do you have a policy for that? You do have a policy for that because you bought this class and my policy for that is in your resources and you can swipe mine and use it for yours. There's also a lot of really great kind of open-source or Creative Commons harassment policies out there that you can also borrow from, so if you didn't buy the class, you can check those out or maybe you want some different inspiration. This is a really important topic, especially right now, but it's an important topic in all community building, whether it's in person or online and so there's lots of resources for harassment policies out there, and I would absolutely encourage you to have one. Just because it's never happened before doesn't mean it won't happen in the future and just because you don't want it to happen doesn't mean you shouldn't have a policy for it. And also have a privacy policy. A lot of these things can be kind of included. This doesn't have to be all separate things, but you wanna address all of this stuff. You wanna have a privacy policy. Is this a sacred space? Is everything that's contained in here private? Is there some permeability here? What kind of concent do you need to share something outside of the community? So, work on that. What is the definition of privacy for you and what does the definition of privacy need to be to make your members feel comfortable? Not all communities need to be super-duper private, even paid communities. Some people don't have that need, like for me, I mean, there are certainly some things that I say in confidence or in private, but largely, I want you to repeat the things that I say. I want you to repeat the stories that I tell, I want you to repeat the advice that I've given or the framework that I've shared or how I've approached something 'cause my whole livelihood depends on it and that's how I've always engaged with online communities. Lots of other people have very different expectations for very, very good reasons, so you wanna make sure your community is all on the same page when it comes to privacy. Solicitation, and this kind of goes along with self-promotion as well, but solicitation, you wanna have a policy for that. And what I mean by solicitation is, is it okay for someone in your network to message or email or even tag in a post someone else in the community and offer their services or offer their product or recommend their product? Or do so shadily by saying, hey, I'll hop on the phone with you and talk about that problem that you have. That's a no-no in our community. There is absolutely no tolerance for solicitation in our private messages because I don't wanna be afraid of my private messages and I don't wanna be afraid of my members getting pissed off about their private messages. So, solicitation is a no. Self-promotion, on the other hand, as we've talked about, is a yes. Just give first, that's our self-promotion policy and we have that all laid out. Again, that's in that bonus resource guide. Posting guidelines, what do you want people to be posting? What do you not want people to be posting? That's a policy. And then billing, if you have a paid community. How do people get billing support? What does their billing procedure look like? Do you offer refunds, do you not offer refunds? What happens with your free trial if you have a free trial? All of those kind of idiosyncrasies need to be in a billing policy as well. Just like procedures and documentation and member support plan is an ongoing process, your policies are gonna be an ongoing process as well. A policy that we don't have that we have pinned on my Asana to develop, that I still, after months, have not developed is a catastrophe plan. What happens if there is a natural disaster and you have a paid community and you have members in the paid, or paid members in the area where there's a natural disaster? How many months of payments are you gonna forgive? Are you going to send them something? What is the community going to do for them? So, that's another policy to consider. This is an ongoing process, you are not gonna get this right. You're gonna realize you need policies later that you did not start with, I certainly have, but it's good to get a head start on the things that you know you're gonna need. You're gonna need all of these, unless you have a free community and then you don't need a billing policy. And remember, members aren't the enemy. Lack of information is the enemy. So, here's how a bunch of our different policies are posted. I mentioned in a previous lesson, the policy about me not being a guru. I'm not there to be an expert. I'm the CEO, I'm the founder, and I'm a super user. So, this is written as a post, it's fun, it's kind of inspirational, but I also consider it a policy. You don't join CoCommercial to get advice from me and here's why. And here's why getting experience and perspective and stories from other people is more valuable, and here's also why your experiences and stories and perspective is valuable to everyone else as well. And we have our member agreement, which includes our posting guidelines, our solicitation policy, and our inclusion and harassment policy. Then we have a post with our give first self-promotion policy, and I call out right in this post the reason we have this policy is not just for this community, but to help you learn how to better self-promote in other areas as well. So, we're kinda turning those policies into learning moments and teaching people how to better use all of the online communities that they are a part of. And then, our billing support and billing policy. Questions, good timing, Angie. So, how do you get people to actually read those posts? Yes, well, you can't. I just put them everywhere. So, we have a welcome kit that people get, policies are in there. We have the community compass where policies get talked about there. They are pinned to the top of our features area, so people can read them there. And then, if there is ever a violation, I can imagine a scenario in which we have a absolute zero tolerance policy, where it's like that is not okay and you're out. Everything else, there's at least one strike on. We're gonna course correct first. So, if you do something, like, you put up a really self-promotional post, we're gonna contact that member privately and say, hey, we are totally cool with you sharing that webinar, but here's how we'd like you to do it. This is how we do things here are CoCommercial, please edit your post. And so, at that point, then they would read that policy, so we actively manage people's use of those policies and how they interact with those policies because actually, most of the time, common sense is enough and that's how we do it. I'd love to have the ability to walk people through policies, we've asked Mighty Networks to create an area where we can pin all of our policies together so that we can reference that area, but that's not something that we have available now, so we use all of the other resources that we have to put those policies in front of people. And we kind of celebrate it, too, when we put up a new policy, and our members kind of celebrate it when we put up a new policy 'cause they appreciate it. It's not like Tara's mean and she's telling us all the things we can't do, there's a lot of permission giving in the policy formation and posting, and so, that kind of help, I think, get policies read more frequently as well. Other questions? Denise. Have you had to oust a member and how do you do that? Oh, well, we're gonna talk about that in the next lesson. No, I personally have not had to oust a member in my knowledge, but I'll get into why that is in our final lesson here. Any other questions about policies? I see we've got two online questions, let's go to those. Jennyann says, I have a question around engagement. How do I start to engage a group that has had no contact or interaction because I don't know where, because I didn't know where to start? I'd go back to those ice breaker questions that Gina was talking about, and actually, on Mighty Networks' social channels, definitely on Instagram and I think on Facebook as well right now, they've got a list of their favorite, all their posts or their ice breaker questions. Even if your ice breakers aren't about your particular interest or identity in your community, it's still a really great way to get the conversation started. You can just have a lot of fun. When people have fun together, when people share things that other people might not guess about them or might not know about them, it creates a sense of community regardless of the larger topic that you're there to discuss, so ice breaker questions are a phenomenal way to do that. And when I say that, I mean like one sentence and then, one sentence question and then get people to respond. I was hosting, when we kick off Mastermind sessions, one of the things I've asked people in the past to share is, what's something we wouldn't expect to find out about you? And I've found all the coolest things about people. Melissa, what was your, something I wouldn't think about you. I think I might have shared that I was a really serious dancer and I went to Julliard. Was that what I shared? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so I didn't know that. I mean, that's awesome and that creates those instant ties with people, even if, like me, you can't remember what the person said, it still creates that sense of connection and that's absolutely how I would reengage a community that just hasn't engaged before. Next question. Caybay says, do you give your existing customers, i.e. people who have bought programs, some sort of discount, bonus, or elevated status in your community? You absolutely can. We have some charter members at CoCommercial who have had free memberships for four to five years now and we love them. We don't have, kind of, a recognition of their elevated status, but people know who they are. They might not know that they're there as free charter members who bought a program years ago, but they know them by reputation. So, we don't have a specific plan for this, but it's absolutely something that you can do and something that you can play around with as well. So, just think, any time you're doing a discount, a bonus, a free membership, a free lifetime membership, elevated status, what's the end game with this? What does that look like a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now? Had I been thinking about that at the time, I might've done some things differently as we were getting started with our community. So, if you're starting out now, just be thinking about what this is gonna look like five years from now. I think, so often as online business owners, we do not think about the future, even 12 months out, and we make decisions based on what we know right now instead of what might be happening a year or two or five years from now, and I want us to start building more legacy businesses. Businesses that are going to be around and look somewhat similar five years from now as we do from right now, as they do right now, and the only way you can do that is if you start thinking about those things. So, yes, absolutely, give it a whirl and also think about the long game.

Class Description

When you have a small business, you’re always on the lookout for your next customer. They might pop up at a networking event, they could subscribe to your email list, they might fill out the contact form on your website.

Too often, knowing where your next customer is going to come from seems unpredictable at best and, at worst, like a huge gamble.

Luckily, there’s a way to ensure you always know where your next customer is coming from—and that your existing customers purchase from you more often—and that’s by building a community.

All sorts of businesses can benefit from making community-building part of their growth strategy and many can benefit from making it part of their business model, too. Whether it’s an informal community (like an email list or Instagram hashtag), a brand-driven community (like a free Facebook group that brings together people in love with the same brand and values), or a dedicated community (like a local group, interest-based social network, or a support group, your business can cultivate deeper connections with existing and potential customers.

Of course, an engaged community doesn’t just happen. If you want to reap the benefits of community-building for your business, you need a plan.

In Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business, Tara Gentile, the founder of the small business support & social network CoCommercial, will share the must-dos, nice-to-haves, and compelling extras you need to make the most of the community you build around your business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a plan for making community-building an integral part of your marketing strategy—and always knowing where your next customer will come from.

Tara will cover:

  • Simple ways to generate community without a group or forum
  • Why and how to level up into a dedicated space for your business’s community
  • How to create a clear reason Why for joining or participating in your community
  • The systems and procedures you’ll need to manage the workload
  • How to avoid community management burnout
  • How to plan to earn more through your community—whether that’s through charging for membership, selling add-on offers, or generating more word of mouth marketing

Stop waiting for your next customer to come to you and start building a community that brings new business your way every day. 

Reviews

Ayelet Marinovich
 

This class was exactly what I needed. It clarified, confirmed, and connected SO MANY more of the remaining dots for me. Tara, as always, is brilliant, energetic and a general joy to watch as she shares her immense knowledge and helps others get to "the nitty gritty" - thank you Tara, and thank you Creative Live!!

a Creativelive Student
 

Like I said on air... "Wow!" I've been building an online community for about 4 years now, based on what I thought I wanted to my business to be. Now I realize the value of creating a community around my VISION, then building the business based around the community needs and values. What I thought: 1) What people needed from me was my expertise. 2) Members will naturally bond with and engage with one another based on their shared interests and needs. What I learned from Tara: 1) Members rely on me to FACILITATE conversation and sharing. 2) It's my role to be the a connector and mediator. Tara has an amazing presence on stage and is super skilled at drawing out your vision as a business owner/entrepreneur. She makes community building easy to understand. I'll definitely be watching more of her courses. This one alone has changed the way I think about my business and my plan for building in monetization and community building.

user-381fc4
 

I went from a vague idea of wanting to build a community to having a clear path to take to start building it. I appreciated the focus on the member vs the business model. Tara presented a clear path for creating the plan first, from vision and purpose to creating the experience for community members, to helping members take the journey to how to monetize in many different ways. My brain is full and I'm excited to take action and launch a community that consolidates my current varied business offers. The presentation was thoughtful and well presented. Excellent and highly recommended.