We all know that community is important, in person and online - but how do you keep yours engaged? In this episode of our Purposeful Weekender, our CEO and host Bejay Mulenga is joined by Tom Ross, CEO at Design Cuts, Mathilde Leo, Head of Community at Circle and

Shara Tochia, Co-Founder of Dose!

From reading this run-down of the session, you will learn about:

🔥 Building a community

🔥 Values within a community

🔥 Understanding where your community is going and growing

🔥 How to make sure your purpose is clear from the start

Tom Ross is the founder and CEO of Design Cuts, the highest-rated marketplace for designers in the world!

Tom points out however, it’s “more than that, it's a community, not just an e-commerce platform.”

“It's been predicated on this really warm vibrant engaged community of over 750, 000 creatives and I'm so obsessed with a community that outside my busy day job I actually try and act as the community guy and I mentor fellow creatives and entrepreneurs on how to build engaged, awesome communities online,” he says.

Tom’s section will teach you:

💡 Why what marketers say isn't always right

💡 Why recognising when you need further support is key

💡 His own definition of community and how it’s changing

Quality over quantity

Tom reflected on his experience so far and said he could “boil it down to three key learning lessons over my career” and “the first one has to be quality over quantity”.

“When I was growing up I was more of a young naive entrepreneur. I think I'd bought into a lot of what marketers at the time were shouting about which was essentially vanity metrics,” he says.

So, as Tom points out here, getting more followers or traffic isn't always helpful if those followers are not even engaged with your content.

“I think it's quite a poor approach where you're too focused on the numbers not focused on the people and it's these kinds of bloated metrics that actually don't have that much bearing on your business or community,” he says.

“As soon as you focus on quality and attracting and working with really really good people, everything changes, ” Tom concludes.

People are the way forward

“People are everything in business,” says Tom, “and of course they're everything in community and this stems from the network of people that you might know within the business. It stems from the people in your community and of course it extends to your team”.

Tom spoke about the importance of your own team and why it’s key to recognise when going solo is not worth the stress.

“For too many years I tried going it alone to the point I burnt out,” he confessed. He even opened up about being admitted to the hospital due to the impact of overworking.

Pleasing everyone doesn’t capture a strong audience

When you are trying to cater to everyone, it means that you have to broaden your ideas so it suits everyone, and even then people will have different opinions and disagree.

By having a niche, setting a clear intention of what you do and not spreading yourself too thinly, you will be more successful and lock in your target market. If you try to please everyone, your product or service could get too general and lose its true purpose.

When you do “plant your flag” and own what your business does and what your mission is, “that's when you start really building your tribe and attracting the right people to you,” says Tom. “It's also great for word of mouth because we don't tend to refer to people that are lukewarm on something, we refer to people that have real conviction”.

Tom’s definition of community

“To be honest I have a lot of thoughts about community. I think people are really craving connection at the minute,” says Tom.

Some people have very specific checklists when considering space as a community, but Tom says he tends to go a “little bit simpler than that”.

“A community is many to many, where you engineer or build out a platform or a space where members can participate and interact with each other, even when you're not there, which is a really powerful thing,” he says.

Reflecting on the past 18 months, Tom outlines the shift in behaviour towards communities and connections, and how for some they have been a lifeline in such uncertain times.

“I actually think we're kind of getting back to our roots of connection rather than passive consumption, particularly after we've seen this loneliness epidemic during COVID-19. I think people are craving getting together whether it's digitally or in real life”.

Our next speaker, Mathilde Leo is Head of Community at Circle.

At the moment she lives in Lisbon, but actually started her career in London as a product manager helping multiple startups, and then ended up creating a community for product managers which she ran for 6 years before joining Circle.

Mathilde gave us her top tips on building an engaged community, including these topics:

🤯 Knowing why your community should exist

🤯 The drive behind your community message

🤯 How you can keep your community buzzing

Your purpose should be clear

Know what your community aims to provide and the force behind it.

“It sounds obvious, but I do see a lot of people skipping this step and launching something without a clear idea about who they want to serve and how,” Mathilde says.

‘Articulate the purpose statement for your community” to show individuals that join the message you want to spread or the support you want to provide.

Be clear and lead with your passion.

Make sure people understand the why

Ask yourself, ‘why do I care?’ and tell people the reason.

You could be setting up this community because you spotted a gap where a community is needed or you could’ve been inspired by your own personal experiences.

Where push comes to shove, you need to have a reason backed by drive and motivation to lead this community. Your commitment to this will determine the success or failure of your platform.

“You're going to spend time with your members leading conversations, they will not happen by magic. you're going to have to be there taking an active role. So ultimately, you need to actually care about not just the problem but also the people that you're serving,” says Mathilde.

Set goals and guidelines

You should have a clear vision for your community. Do you know where you want it to be in the next 5 years?

Think about what you want from it, what you are good at and set goals to work towards. A community that stands still will not be engaging, so plan ahead towards a target so everyone involved keeps on that high note of excitement.

You can base your goals on the values of your group.

Our final guest speaker Shara Tochia gives us some final pointers on how to lead an engaged community.

She is the co-founder of a multimedia business called Dose, a health and wellness platform for all things health and wellness.

Shara tells us about the meaning behind the name, “the brand name itself is actually an acronym for how you feel good hormones: dopamine, oxytocin serotonin, endorphins and every bit of our content is meant to inspire them”.

From her advice, you will learn:

💡How she found the love for community

💡How Shara’s newsletters led to success

💡The power of purpose

Where Shara’s community spirit came from

“I've had a very yoyo career,” Shara explains, “but in my early 20s I became a spin instructor whilst I was at university studying something completely different to health and wellness, and I fell in love with the community that exercise and wellness gave you and the socializing around it the way it made you feel euphoric, the way it released endorphins”, labelling it “the best experiences of community” in her professional career.

From this, Shara had found her love for the community which was the driving passion behind her business. Where did you get your community spirit from?

Building business around personal purpose

As mentioned by our other speakers, the purpose is important when creating a community and you really have to know who you are serving and why. Shara explains where her ‘why’ came from and how her target audience reflected herself and her business partner.

“The business was built around our own frustrations. We were two women that absolutely loved exercise and the health and wellness scene but we also loved a glass of wine and going for a pizza in the evening and we wanted to create a platform for people that were like us,” she says.

So, here is an example of a founder identifying a problem, wanting to find an answer and creating something that brings people together.

“We started writing a newsletter talking about the journey around the lifestyle we like to live, which was we love to work out - so where's the coolest new fitness place to work out in, we like to eat - so where can you eat nearby that's you know healthy-ish and where can you have something to drink or something non-alcoholic,” Shara continues.

“It just expanded and expanded and expanded and honestly gave us the kick to quit our jobs. We then launched the website and drove all the traffic from the newsletter to the website. We ran really small tiny events and we started to meet people at those events and then it's obviously grown into a larger scale event podcast and social media channels".

Shara’s journey shows with true purpose, you can build a relatable and successful community by gathering like minded individuals together with a common interest, which can lead to a profitable and enjoyable business venture. It highlights the vitality of purpose and why making your purpose the foundations is so key from the get-go.

Define what you are not

Another way to be clear on what your purpose as a community is to define clearly what you are not. By making sure everyone knows what you do not cover, what you disagree with and topics that just aren't you or your brand, it will make your actual purpose stand out.

It also means there won't be any confusion when someone wants to join.

Shara explains that she did this with Dose, “we decided to never ever carry or create content that was around weight loss or celebrity trash”, despite it being hugely successful for other brands.

Final words of wisdom

Our speakers rounded off the session with their top tips on building communities:

💬 Mathilde advises others to listen to your community - “You cannot build a community without actually talking engaging with your members or prospective members, so I would say going out there and having conversations whether those are structured calls where you're aiming to discover what people need the most in the community or just informal gatherings where you're actually like testing the waters for what you're trying to build.”

💬 Tom suggests similarly, insisting feedback is essential. He says his growth “hasn't been guesswork, it's been directly coming from feedback from the members, demand from the members, stuff that we've validated with the members”.

“We're literally building the community and the product with them and that is the best way to do it,” he says.

💬 Shara shares her viewpoint on being adaptable when your business grows and changes.

“Be flexible,” she says. “It's one of the hardest things I think about any business”.

Thank you for reading our run-down of our Purposeful Weekender. If you want to watch the full episode, it’s available on our YouTube Channel.

Book your free space for our next event via our website! We would love to see you there to join a brand new set of entrepreneurs!