“Get Together” is a book authored by the community builders who had built communities at Instagram, Creative Mornings, eBay… (all impressive communities in their own right!) – from zero to global.
Luckily for the rest of us, they made the decision to write a book about how they (and other community builders) have approached building community.
The book walks you through three main phases of community building:
- Starting a fire
- Stoking the fire
- Passing the torch
The best part is there are SO many case studies throughout this book, that even the most experienced community managers will enjoy reading this. I certainly did – I binged it in one sitting!
One of the main concepts in this book is to build WITH your community.
If you can include your community members in every step that you take, you’re actually going to build a community that serves the people in the community better.
Three main stages of building a Community
As I’ve mentioned, the book covers 3 key principles to building a community.
With starting the fire it recommends answering two questions:
WHO is part of your community, and;
WHY should the community exist.
Then with this kindling you’ve gathered, you actually have to start by doing something to get your community off the ground, whether that’s recruiting your people in person or online.
The emphasis this book placed on the very first time you collect your people was what I found to be its greatest strength. FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER!
In order to ensure that your community members can participate in this first activity, the book stresses the necessity of making sure it has a purpose.
It also stresses the importance of making sure the activity can be repeated so that people may participate in it again.
Case study: Cloud Appreciation Society
An inspiring example mentioned in the book is the Cloud Appreciation Society. I must admit I’d never heard of this community before – how niche! This makes a great point that you can truly build a community around ANYTHING and by being super niche it doesn’t make that a bad thing.
This group is a good illustration of how being in a narrow niche doesn’t mean you will struggle with numbers. The founder, Gavin, was able to grow this community to over 40,000 people!
Gavin’s first speech – which he referred to as the inaugural lecture of the cloud appreciation organization – was delivered at a festival. In this speech, he discussed the beauty of clouds, how under appreciated they are by most people, and how passionate he was about their beauty.
This community was literally focused on appreciating the beauty of clouds, something that was frequently disregarded by others. Even though he didn’t actually have an established group, at the end of the talk Gavin offered audience members to claim an “official” society pin. This is made even more hilarious by the fact that there wasn’t really an “official” group at the time.
But the response to Gavin’s talk was incredibly positive, and he ran out of pins very quickly! The audience wanted to know how they could get involved.
Gavin quickly mocked up a website that allowed people to submit their own cloud photos online. He had achieved the goals of explaining the purpose of the community, who should join (people who appreciate beauty that others easily overlook) and quickly worked on a way to empower people to participate.
Another case study: Going global with Creative Mornings
The passing the torch section of the book was most interesting to me, especially recommended for more experienced community builders/ those building large global communities that require scale.
The book dedicated an entire section on how to “pass the torch” from community manager to members.
The idea of empowering members is a crucial concept covered in being able to pass on the torch.
The Creative Mornings case study mentioned in the book was incredibly inspiring. Kevin grew CreativeMornings from four chapters to over 100. The number of chapters has surpassed 200 now, with over 1500 volunteers and 20K people attending events worldwide! Clearly this is a solid and scaleable model to build community.
This case study was even more special to me, because I’ve visited a number of different chapters around the world (and am a huge fan of their community). The events run by the local chapters are consistent yet also exude local character – it’s definitely a “gold star” in my book.
So how did Kevin at Creative Mornings do it?
First they started small, launching only a few chapters in different parts of the world by members of the community who had bravely put their hands up, but was super passionate about bringing Creative Mornings to their own city.
Then the team took a pause to collect feedback, and asked really clever questions so that those chapter leaders could provide actionable feedback.
One of the most common pieces of feedback was the need for templates, standardized assets, best practices, and other resources that were identified as the most important to ease the journey for chapter leaders. So this is what the community team focused on.
By doing so, Creative Mornings was able to create a scalable model that future chapter leaders could succeed in opening up their own chapters all over the world.
This is a concept that is being discussed a LOT in web3 as well. We talk a lot about decentralization. It’s key that you really need to empower your community members.
Think through the goals that you’ve set for your community, what is the purpose, and work on ways that you can help these community members, replicate whatever success you’ve had on a local level, do it in a global way.
Interesting to read the “failures” mentioned in the case studies too, such as building communities that relied too much on the community manager. The book discusses a variety of strategies that communities have employed to maintain members who have already joined the group while also enticing newcomers to join. This involves making certain that members have a forum where they may communicate with one another directly without requiring a founder or leader to act as a mediator.
The book was lacking in answering “real, practical questions” that new community builders would have. For example, although the book does make a passing mention of the various community platforms you may employ to promote community engagement online, I could see SO many questions arise from new community builders – they would have to find other places to look for those answers. But there are plenty of other resources/books/blogs/ youtube channels (hint hint, check out mine as I cover a LOT of community platforms and tools!).
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, especially for the practical examples that were included. If you’re looking for some really inspiring stories, especially of how “everyday” people built communities from scratch without any experience, It’s incredibly inspiring to read their stories.
I also cover a few more of the case studies in my video below.
And if you’re interested in more book reviews, I highly recommend checking out The Power of Moments post I wrote.
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