March 1, 2021

Building And Leveraging Communities For Growth

In this discussion, we talk about what great communities look like from the outside and how to think about building them for your company.

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The host

Nima Gardideh

President of Pearmill, ex-Head of Product at Taplytics, ex-Head of Mobile at Frank & Oak. YC fellow.

Our guest(s)

Patrick Woods

Founder, CEO of Orbit

Mike Schmidt

Founder, CEO of Dovetale

About this episode

Plenty of companies, both consumer and B2B have been built on top of communities.

From Glossier to Github, these communities can be the force behind the growth of a company.In this discussion, we talk about what great communities look like from the outside and how to think about building them for your company.

Mike and Patrick are both incredibly thoughtful about this topic in general and bring a lot of expertise both individually, as well as from their experience working with many companies through their tooling for community building.

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Nima Gardideh: Welcome to The Hypergrowth Experience. I'm Nima Gardideh, I'm the co-founder and CTO of Pearmill, and your host. Plenty of companies, both consumer and B2B have been built on top of communities from Glossier to get up. These communities can be the force behind the growth of a company 

In this episode, I chat with Mike Schmidt, co-founder CEO of Dovetail and Patrick Woods, co-founder and CEO of Orbit. We discuss what great communities look like from the outside and how to think about building them for your company. Mike and Patrick are both incredibly thoughtful about this topic in general, and bring a lot of expertise, both individually, as well as from their experience, working with many companies through their tooling for community building.

If you're currently building or need a framework for building a community, then this episode is for you. Let's get into it.

Before we get started, I'm gonna have Mike and Patrick maybe introduce themselves Mike, when we can get started.

Mike Schmidt: Yeah, I know. It's, it's fun to be here. I think the it's hard to like introduce myself on this stuff cause I, I want. I just want to give like a brief history of time, but I also want to give some relevancy to, you know, the, the product that I'm also building, but I just love building kind of internet products.

I've been billing. Internet products for several years now. So right out of college, I started a company called listen, which was kind of like Instagram for music. So if you loved music, you wanted to share and listen to your friend's music, then you can use listen to follow them. So it was like early follow model, kind of, kind of stuff on iPhone iPhone three GS kinda came out iPhone four.

So we were like, not like early in app store, but like early enough compared to today where it's like the social model. We're kind of just being constructed and the foundations were being laid for like modern followed models that we see today and in the modern social apps. But we basically had a similar model.

My, my whole thing was like, if Steve Jobs could put a thousand songs in your pocket, I could put the world's music in your pocket. So like, that was the whole, you know, kind of like cheeky pitch to, to my VC pitch. But Throughout that journey was just like an incredible experience, got sort of the startup bug.

And then we were, we were going to market half a million dollars, trying to think of like a clever way to get to product market fit, getting our early customers, that type of thing. And we were one of the first companies to do influencer marketing on vine. So like getting an influencer to talk about us, getting them to, drive the customers for the followers that they had to basically download our app.

Essentially, you know, that sort of kicked off like the journey that I'm on now, which between that period sold that company listen and started Dovetail, which is the current company I'm working on today. So a lot of like the underlying foundations that we built in listen, sort of like scraping models, trying to find out like trends on the internet, trying to find like the opportunistic influencers.

I out there, but no one really knew about, like, we paid Sean Mendez under a hundred bucks when he had like 4,000 followers on vine to like, do a shout out for us. And he was doing concerts in like high, in like elementary schools. Right. So it's like the, it made sense for him and like to make a couple bucks on the internet to do a shout out.

Right. So it's like, I've been sort of working on this stuff for quite a bit of time. And, and the evolution throughout that period has been, has been wild, but just like. Now I really loved sort of just like helping e-commerce merchants, helping them grow programs, obsessed with the internet, of course, obsessed with like community building.

And then, I'm interested in a bunch of different things, but read a ton and yeah, that's, that's kinda the quick intro. 

Nima Gardideh: I love it. I have so many questions about the Vine stuff. [laughing]

Mike Schmidt: But God, it was crazy. It was crazy, Patrick. 

Patrick Woods: Cool. Thanks for the invite extended to have this conversation. So I'm Patrick I'm co-founder and CEO of a company called Orbit. It find a set of orbits.love. It's a very fun to TLD but orbit is a community experience platform. And what that means is for, for most of our customers community is distributed for them across lots of different platforms. So they may have a forum plus a community Slack plus Twitter plus event platforms plus the terminal tools and the questions questions many of our customers have is, you know, who is the community? What are they doing? And how does the community impact things like revenue, growth margin, things like that. And so what orbit does is make it really easy to ingest members that activities from across those platforms and provide a single sort of timeline view of who's out there.

What are they doing across platform in India? And then on top of that, there's a number of the report, reporting tools, automation, tools, things like that, that sit on top of it. But for us, it's basically helping people like community managers and developer relations leads, and VPs of marketing and folks like that really understand the comprehensive relationship between who's the community who's, who's using your product and what the overlap looks like, such that they can on the sort of frontline to make better decisions about how to be better acuity builders, and then kind of zooming up have better data to make decisions about how.

More resources, more capital to grow the community in different ways. We've been working on it for about a year and a half, I would say. So we're still pretty early. But we've onboarded around 200 companies so far, so kind of learning a lot trying to figure out what's going to really help them with that, you know, for folks.

along the way, we actually created a mental model or a framework called the orbit model that all of this stuff is based on. And th the thought we had their baby, we're gonna talk about that some today. The, the, the sales and marketing funnel as a metaphor is useful, useful for many, many contexts of a business, especially in the context of growth.

But the, the linear nature of it doesn't often work so well when you're trying to measure a global community because communities grow in a non linear fashion, it's hard to optimize steps because there aren't always. So the orbit model is sort of a compliment to the funnel that helps you model the way the community is growing and how it relates to the, to the funnel, the second order effects.

So that, that, that idea sort of was born as a blog post back when we were running a consulting business, it was essentially lead gen for the, for the business, but kind of led to orbit the company today. So that's, that's kind of where I'm coming from. Yeah. And if you haven't read it Patrick, if you could throw in the link to your model in there is probably one of the better pieces of writing and community I've written in the past couple of years.

Transcript of the episode

Nima Gardideh: So yeah. Thanks for the intro guys. You know, I want to address something, which is, I think the first time, if you've been a repeat listener this is the first time having to folks that are running, I'd say vendors or like platform companies, instead of talking directly to them about the growth of the companies that they're currently working on.

And the reason I I've done this one this way is because community is just a big black hole to me. And it's something that I haven't dealt with as a growth person in the past. And when you're running a, a vendor in this space, You just understand that intellectualize, that space incredibly deeply.

And I know this because when I was at Taplytics and we were an AB testing platform, I was so into experimentation and understanding the processes behind it and how to think about it [00:09:00] that I became an expert at that. So I'm very excited to have Mike and Patrick get into it with me, even the pre-interview we've just gotten already really into it.

And I've learned a lot from them. Why don't we start with know, I think this is what I started with last time, which is what is community, you know, I think there's a lot of different ways that we will have thought about it. People talk about community, life growth a lot, but what does community mean to you guys?

Mike Schmidt: So I think, I think in general, like when you think about community, maybe I'll split up into two ways. One is like how we think about community with Dovetail. Cause like I know we have a very big focus on e-commerce and, and I think the caveat with community is foundationally the same. Slightly different and execution and then just in general community.

Cause I think the definition can kind of like, a little bit misled, especially with like so many Twitter think boys on the internet kind of telling everyone what community is. I think like, you know, there's a more like philosophical approach to this, which I know, you know, Patrick, you, you have an, I think it's actually like the single one of the single greatest pieces on [00:10:00] community and like the gravitational network that you've built or the gravitational model that you've built is.

Is amazing. Like, I think it's, it can go from developer communities to e-commerce as well, but in general, like community is a group of two or more people with a common sense of identity and loyalty service, commitment, like and active participation. So I'd say that there's like kind of foundational elements to community, so you can take.

Like a network as a, as a contrasting example, networks are about utility and interoperability and flexibility and people with like common interests, but not necessarily common values or history or memory. Right. So if you look at the, the complexity of community and, and I, and we were even talking about this before, Three misconceptions or like three categories of misconceptions, three buckets, community networks, and audiences like audiences, for example, are and, and pat, I'd love your thoughts on this one too, but like community compared to audiences like audiences, just one to many, [00:11:00] and then there's in, in community, there's, there's more nodal connections between members, right?

So it's like, And then also in the case for community, there's like some set of values and value that's generated. So it's like, you're, you have some sort of common mission or interest that sort of aggregates you, that's like sort of the values. And then the value is sort of like there's some like core problem or core utility that everyone is sort of marching around.

So for that sort of like a theoretical approach, like I know I kind of just spit off a bunch of different words. There's there's kind of like main concepts in there. And then I would say for Dovetail, like the way that we look at community uh, specifically related to, e-commerce and there are certain like utility functions built into e-commerce that are sort of just like native to participation.

So like one example of this for us is like, we focus and I really didn't give you guys like an overview of like what we do with LTL. Dovetail helps people or helps, like specifically in this case, Shopify [00:12:00] merchants recruit, manage, grow, and grow sales with people who love their products. So we actually use that word love as well in the way we pitch it's like right on our homepage.

Like how you like, have it directly in your, in your domain. Like, I think there is like a love component to all of this, but like we have built out like a very strong utility function within Dovetail and Dovetail. We have incredibly beautiful recruiting pages to like find those people so that people can come to you because there's a sort of gravitational pole that pulls people into certain brands.

So like, you know, I just talked to this amazing brand Immi there, they sell like a protein ramen this morning. And they need to be able to like find the people that they're working with. Right. So, or they want to work with, so they, they sort of put out on their home. If you go to like Emmy Amy's website, I am M I you'll see that they have like a community embedded on their page, all powered by Dovetail.

So it's like that recruiting element is a huge utility function for them. Because once they come in, they're accepted into their program. Yeah. You [00:13:00] know, we run all the back office for, for those, for those merchants. So we say, cool. How do you give them like a unique coupon code for their friends and family, so they can give them discounts and sort of attract new members into this community.

Cause that utility function is huge for us and it, and it also is mutually aligned with, with merchants because they want to increase their sales. Right? So there's, there's all these like really special things you can do in commerce that open up opportunities for. Companies like us running sort of like this back office of community for a Shopify store, as simple as that.

But hopefully, hopefully that makes sense. As far as like the difference between like communities, we have a long way to go with, like where we're going to go with community. Cause like, technically there's no member to member interaction on Dovetail today. A network and then like an audience Tell me if this sounds correct. Audience is sort of a super set to your network and your network is a super set to your community. Does that, does that follow, like, it feels like your community would be part of your larger audience, right? There's like a handful of people within your [00:14:00] larger audience that could be part of your sort of core community.

And then there's like the larger network of people that are. Part of the part of the audiences. Is that all, does that make sense? Or I think it's that, I think it doesn't actually, pat, I think it aligns with your model. You have like observers on the outfit, outer edge, right? Like on your model. So there's like, there's sort of like this, this like funnel that sort of goes into the middle and it's sort of like the gravitational pull seems like it's the highest in the center.

And like specifically, here's like, here's a good example. Like when a founder of a Shopify. Comes in. And they're like we want to create a community, for example. Right. I tell them here's like one of the best ways. And one of the worst ways you can build community on Shopify plus Dovetail. If you want your community to be successful, you as a founder, have to like be in the like day to day of building your community.

And it's super important because like they can, they can yell as far and wide as they want. Tech crunch or be on a podcast [00:15:00] or whatever else it is, but it's so important for them to like accept each individual member into their community and send them like the digital handwritten note to, to each one of their community members.

Cause like the love component or like that strength of the relationship becomes 10 times more. When you reach out to like someone that's on the outer rim that like audience that's like just the audience member floating around doesn't have any really I don't know how do I say it's like, there's no, there's no real connection to the brand yet, but when the founder reaches out and says you're special, and here's why you're special, they become like super fans of the brand.

And then they're like selling for them. They're like doing different things. They're advocating or posting on Instagram about it. They're telling everyone on Twitter about the brand and they just become like super powered. So like, there's a, there's a way to sort of take your. Concentric rings and like pull people in closer using some very simple like technical solutions.

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. That, that resonates a lot, I think. And also visually I put the, this up so [00:16:00] everyone can see it the little bit model. Cause I think what you're talking about basically matches this illustration super well. And maybe Patrick, you can start with your, what company means to you. And this is the background you can speak to.

Patrick Woods: Yeah, I think that's a, that's a great a great, a great start from, from Mike. I, I said it to, to drill it a bit to the audience, acute community to community distinction. What we see often is that there's, there is a progression in terms of your maturity curve from community, from audience to community.

So it's, it's hard, you know, Start a community really? It's kind of like a zero to one kind of a question where, there's no one in the Slack channel, who are we going to talk to? So how do you get people to come and hang out and chat? And so what we see many times is. The, the, the foundation of the community actually is, is starting with an audience.

So it could be curious to have a newsletter. That's, that's a pretty common one, a blog, a great, a great Twitter feed or something like that. And so the, the audience just begins as people with a [00:17:00] common identity or sort of set of open questions that then evolves over time from the one to many, as Mike was saying there's many, many, many, too many connections, and that's, you know, once you have people talking to people and making connections and helping each other out is when you really start to see.

The flywheel starts to spin. Mike mentioned this, this idea of, of reaching out and having the founders reach out to, to folks that are, that are somewhere out in the orbit. And I think that's a great example of in an orbital world, we would say that's one tactic for increasing the love of a community member.

And so in the, in the model that the two things we think about measuring our love and reach reach, reaches it easy, but it's sort of like a proxy for the influence. A person has a, it could be as simple as number of Twitter. You can layer in newsletter, subscribers, blog, readers, and things like that.

If you've got that data, but you know, basically reach reaches, you know, how influential was the person, how, how likely are they to attract others into your bed? And then the love component is really it's, it's kind of what it sounds like. It's, it's how much they love the community, the brand, but it's measured by [00:18:00] a few things, essentially the recency frequency and quality of, of the activity they're doing in the committee.

And so the theory is that one mark of a healthy community is an active one. So we've probably all showed up to a Slack community, quote unquote. And there hasn't been a conversation in like three weeks, and everything's got a dad has kind of tumbleweeds and terrible community tool. It's terrorist got opinions about that, too.

And so we think activity is a huge measure of someone's, it's a good proxy for their engagement, essentially. And so if someone's answering all the questions or tweeting a lot that that contributes to the love score. So the question you were about model is it's less about, you know, how to, how to drive everyone towards the middle, because maybe that's not the reality for every single person, but the question is how do you increase the love and reach of each member of the community?

And so one way to drive up love is as those manual reach outs to people to build those connections into, to, you know, get them into. So I think it's a great example is kind of the early stage of bootstrapping that has to happen when you're building a community [00:19:00] from the ground up. 

Mike Schmidt: Yeah. It's, it's actually, so like talking about Slack for a quick second, like everyone's like, oh Mike, like, why don't I just use Slack for managing my community?

The amount of times I jump on the phone with like a Shopify merchant, that's like, oh, I saw that you were building a community tool. And like, we have our community. I'm like, okay, cool. What do you use? And they're like, And I think, you know, Patrick, you have this literally on your homepage. And so do we, it's although very different products, by the way, for the audience is like, you know, you could use them side by side and literally would be no overlap between our two companies.

the amazing thing about the answer to this question is it's like, pretty much the same. So it's like I use a spreadsheet or I use Slack. This is what I use to like manage my community output and One of the things that's like very interesting about Slack is like how it's just so baked in.

Like people think is this is where I build my community. However, it never works. Like we work with this company it's called Bravo Sierra. They're kind of like a military CPG brand. And they have like an incredible community of, of ex military [00:20:00] folks. And they, they it's like, you know, a thousand to 5,000 in that range.

And, I've seen. The activity in this, in this Slack group. And I've seen the activity in Dovetail and it's like night and day, because like there. Here's the metric. I think that we haven't talked about for community is like, if a community member doesn't know how to participate, your community is DOA.

Like if they don't, if they don't know what the participation Or like, what is valued in that organization then they have literally no idea. So there's a, there's a mechanic they were just talking about in Clubhouse. That kind of makes this very clear, like, you know how to participate. The second you get into Clubhouse.

I actually don't spend that much time on Clubhouse. I don't really have time to like, listen, I really wish I could listen to more of these things. Cause it sounds like everyone's talking about it all the time. But like when I jumped into Clubhouse the very first time, it was like, Someone, it gave me a notification that someone was going to welcome me into Clubhouse.

And I was like, holy shit. This is like, this is like the most amazing, simple product that I've ever seen. And I'm in like one [00:21:00] second, I feel like this, this engagement in Clubhouse. And I feel like my friends are greeting me into this new, this new destination on the internet. And like there's elements of dovetail that we've sort of just like taken away.

So it's like, oh, you know, when you're accepted into a new brand committee, Because they're all very distributed. And on top, like we just enable distributed communities. instantly, those members know how to participate there. Like if you post on Instagram and if, you know, if you post your, like your code, you're going to make money.

Like here's a, here's how much money I've made, So it's like, there's a very simple way of participating in, in commerce. And the incentive structures are aligned with the. You know, member of the community influencer, capacitor partner, whatever you want to call them and the merchant and for dovetail.

Right? So it's like everyone is aligned with like the, the success metrics. And there are like, There are probably like four or five other ones that we're going to do that. You know, probably won't go into this college just cause I want to keep it a little bit more, a little more secret, but like the, there are like inherent commerce metrics [00:22:00] or inherent commerce functions that align with participation in, you know, community building for specifically, like let's call them Shopify merchants. 

Nima Gardideh: That's an interesting one because what's, what's cool about clubhouse and it makes a lot of sense in, in, in this context, is, is that the community is the product, right? Like the, the people being on that platform is what drives the value of that platform.

Like they have like the most classical network effects sort of approach cause they're a social network. Right. And, and I think that the difference between a lot of that. Products that other people deal with is that is not the case. Right? I think commerce is a good example. That is not the case. You could, the community is very rarely to the lifeblood of the product.

And, and then some, you know, some companies have done a better job at tapping into community. And maybe Patrick can talk about this in the context of open source where that, you know, that's not the product necessarily. Community's not the product, but the committee is a big lever or reasoning for why the thing [00:23:00] exists to begin with.

And I think community led growth is discussed a lot, but I want to maybe talk a little bit about what is community led growth really in all these contexts. Yeah. So, so I think one, one distinction that I think about a lot is, is you know, our, our customers are all where they're mostly commercial communities in some capacity.

Patrick Woods: So I think your distinction is to go with a Clubhouse it's like community as products. Sort of one type of, of one type of community, and this is zooming out even more like the term community can be very difficult to reason about because it has a million meetings. Kubernetes, a larger opensource project is a community, my running club as a community.

And they've got very little in common. So one of the things we work on a lot at orbit is just like helping sort through the, what we're actually talking about. So what is. Distinction, we draw it as like communities of practice and communities of product. And so, you know, you might have a community practice that's for example, like Lenny Ratitsky newsletter community, it's a bunch of [00:24:00] product people.

It's founders, as people talking about upping their game around the around the craft. The community of product might be something like the air table forums where there's just tons and tons of activity of people talking about the way they're hacking things, room research, like the cult around that is another one that sort of products.

The, the open source world is, is more akin to the products the sort of community of product, but it's, it's the specific nuances. It's less about talking shop and more about co-creation. And so, so that's sort of another thing you see, as a, as a, as a key distinct distinguisher of the type of community you're talking about is are people building something.

Or are they, are they talking about a thing and how they use it? And so the open source world has, it's been very community centered since, since the very beginnings, the spirit of open-source software is, is, is very much for the people by the people. And so there's an interesting, I would say I'm not a prior art from that world, as it relates to thinking about [00:25:00] how, how community can drive business outcomes we see a lot of that orbit. A lot of our customers are coming from that, from that context. Yeah. So, so that's, yeah, there's lots to umpack there. I would say. [laughing]

Nima Gardideh: Yeah, what's interestingly hard to imagine is Open source. It's, it's essentially a way to build things together in a distributed fashion. But in order to do that, you have to have some form of connection with the other people. You're building things like a national community arises we're in the context of sort of air table is very interesting because I would imagine most of the posts in there are negative. I'm like, I can't figure something out.

So I'm going to the forum to discuss, Hey, how do you do this thing? You know, or like stack overflow is another example of that's. Less product. That's, that's a lot closer to open source in a way where people are really co-creating together and things like that. But how do you, how do you get people to go from, Hey, I'm here to like, get the utility.

I think Mike, you were mentioning this too. I want to be now part of this community. Like [00:26:00] one of them things like, Hey yeah, I get an email from the CEO, but a lot of it is probably you get pulled in from other people. Right. I I'm just saying that based on heuristics. But I'd love to hear.

Patrick Woods: Yeah, it's it's, there's, there's I think a lot of ways to slice and dice this and it's, it kind of gets down to the nuts and bolts of, of the early stages of the community, you know, th the end state that the examples people point to a lot of communities that were already working.

And so, so what are the, what are the things that people do early on? There's, there's a number of things. So onboarding is a big part of that. This is sort of a Microsoft thing about when someone shows up, whether it's the forum or the Slack or whatever tool you're. What's the on-ramp for them.

And what are the expectations that are set be clear about that can be great. And that's everything from code of conduct, you know, here's how we behave to invitations to participate. So one common one that, that, that we do in a lot of other places do is encourage people to go to like the intros channel, for example, and say, who are you?

What are you working on? And bring some visibility to who's who's of the channel. We didn't do this early on [00:27:00]in our, in our own community. And all of a sudden we count hundreds of people. No one really knew who. And if it was a lost opportunity. So when we moved from Slack to Discord about a month ago, we're kind of like pretty adamant about people saying hello and sharing where their base was working on all that sort of stuff.

Like I will bug people at DM to get them to do that. And it's a great way to, to, to bootstrap the interaction because people feel like, well, everyone else is doing it in this channel. I'm not going to be the first weirdo, ask you a question, the vacant channels. So like I've got to do it cause everyone else is.

And I found that out. Like my, my direct pride to go do the intro posts is like, I'm hardly having to do it at all. Now that everyone's doing it. And so the social norms that we've established are such that people just go in and they do it. And then it's, it's a reason or excuse for other people to interact.

It's like, oh, Hey, you're basically Televiv I lived there for three years. It's amazing. And so you start to see those interactions because the onboarding sets the table, you know? So like as these like little achievements you can get along with. The, the other thing that, that [00:28:00] you see work well is we have we have a show with tell channel in our Discord where people share the stuff that we're building with our API.

So you can do a lot of stuff with the API to build Zapier things. You can build serverless functions to do stuff with the orbit. And there's a lot of people that are doing that. those people like to share what they're working on. They're sort of intrinsic, I think, motivation with builders to share that, but at the same time, there's enough conversation around.

Community building problems that it's it's, it's not unlikely that someone's like, oh, Hey, I really would like to get this data from this inner table into orbit. Like, how would I do that? And if somebody else is like, oh, well actually we built this script is the air table script that we'll do that for you.

Here's the get hub link. And so it's sort of common, common problems. 

What stood up to 

Nima Gardideh: me a lot. When you just said there is this there's this like social norm that is created eventually. Like there's like this etiquette thing of like, oh, So there's community. And as, as part of the ritual of this community, I introduce myself or like I share [00:29:00] things that I'm working on, or I just recently joined a company called sandbox.

Very similarly. Like as you enter, you have to send them a project. You know, showcases who you are, it's like your introduction to the community, and there's all these sort of ritualistic ways that connect together. And I would expect afterwards after you're a community sort of established for these to become parts of how it continues to sort of exist.

But it sounds like you have to be sort of the initiator in the beginning.

Patrick Woods: You have to do it yourself at the beginning. At least we did, at least we did. 

Mike Schmidt: So you can, like, you definitely need to do it at your, at the start by yourself. Like the founder needs to get involved, whatever, but like, that's obviously not scalable.

And I'm not saying that all communities should be scaled by the way. Like, I think that there are some communities that should just always be small, especially for like our, our category. there's kind of like two things I'd like to know know from maybe Patrick you can answer is like, why do you think so I see the same thing just to reconfirm before I go into the question, not putting you on the spot here.

Why do you think that Discord is so much better as a community [00:30:00] tool than Slack? 

Patrick Woods: Yeah. On one level, I don't know. Our, our engagement is five X. What we were seeing in this. And it's mostly the same people which is kinda crazy. But I, so, so there's, there's a tactical answer to this question. So like, or structural questions, I would say, like in Discord, the roles and moderation is super, super granular, so you can create a role.

Like I, I created one recently we have a ton of founders in our community, so I created a role called founder, applied that to the people who I knew. And then I created a channel private channel and then the private channels access is associated to that role. And each role has very granular cascading permissions associated with it.

So they can, other people can, other people, I have the role or not. Can they boot people? Like there's a ton of a ton of granularity that comes with that. And at our stage, we've got a couple hundred people in the server, so it's not a huge deal, but as you grow and there's, it's [00:31:00] harder and harder to moderate, like having that granularity is, is really.

There's also a voice channels. So that removes the friction of like getting into a chat with someone. So like we'll do games like somebody from the orbit teams I ever had to like play this, this game called scribbling it out. Like who wants to jump in 30 minutes? The voice channels there. And so it's, it's a lot less, there's a lot less friction.

But overall, I don't know, there's a structural stuff that like the vibe is just really different and it's hard to articulate specifically.

Mike Schmidt: Yeah, I'll give you maybe my like observations just cause like we use it for internal company chat engagement is way better. It feels less invasive. Yeah.

There's a couple of, there's a couple of like systemic things, but there's also kind of like the whole brand behind Slack. So Slack like is a work product. Right. And then the second people come into a work-related product, they feel like they're doing work. Whereas like the best communities, like stack overflow, you just mentioned Nima is like, that's a lot of work.

A lot of people put work there and that's all free, but. People know how to participate and they know what the reward is. Right? [00:32:00] That's, that's the difference between stack overflow. Like people want the cloud, people want to jump up in that, in that list. And people also want to be known and they want to get identity.

Right. So it's like something you mentioned there, Patrick, I think that native to, or at least like optimized in Discord is like, you can create identity very quickly and Discord and you can label people very quickly. And that's like harder to do in Slack and not even promoted it as much in Slack. And I think that's actually a really possible really it's like texting.

It's like a, you have to hack it. Yeah, exactly. It's not as like it's, but like here, like the constructs of like successful communities. Cause I think like we should maybe talk about that too. Again, I always just like applying with the lens of, of e-commerce, because I think it's just like very folk we're trying to like, just nail community development for, for e-commerce.

But like first things first, like they meet regularly. Like the best communities on dovetail are, are meeting on zoom once a month or more. Right. How do I sell product? How do I advocate for this? [00:33:00] How do I meet the FA like these types of things? I don't care where you meet Slack. I assume doesn't matter.

Like as long as you're meeting together more regularly, I think that's a big thing. The thing about Discord compared to Slack, is it, it, it promotes people to jump in the water cooler and just like be present, right? Like I'm just in a room. And if people join me in a room, I can just be there similar to clubhouse in effect.

But like it's more, you know, desktop and gaming oriented, but like try to like use 10 them for that. And it's just. Well, you use tandem on top of no, no, no. We use tandem before we use discord and then we jumped at discord and I've stuck with this cord ever since, because of probably what you're about to say.

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Cause it's just the sort of context switching is too much. We've not been able to get people to use a water cool thing, even though like, I think that'd be awesome. 

Mike Schmidt: We use it, we use it for a lot of pair programming. We use it for a lot of like like Q and A's like just jumping in having a good time.

Like, we've done games like Patrick just mentioned, like, that's a great one. Like for like [00:34:00] the amount of time, like we've, I've tried to spend more with team. I know this goes outside of just like the e-commerce community, but just like, I've tried to spend more time with team. In quarantine, just because like, we don't get the office interactions anymore.

And Discord is the closest thing to office interaction that we have as a digital product right now. Like bar none is the, is the, is the closest thing. So like breaking down the structure, kind of coming back to the elements here is like meeting regularly. Think that's a big piece. Distributing ownership, I think is a huge one.

Once your community starts to get like different labels and different members in your, in your community. You can associate those labels and two different responsibilities that I think accentuate the nodes in your community and the nodes would just be the people in your community. So that's also contributes to like creating more identity structures in community.

And then also like if you give here's like a hack for any community, if you give early, early memory in our case, like status. So if you give them like, you're an ambassador, [00:35:00] right. Rather than just like a regular community member, it's a huge thing for, for these, for these individuals. Cause like they are now.

Like, I'll give you an example, Therese, this amazing company in New York they sell like leggings mostly, like, and they promote joy and happiness and all this great stuff. They make, they call their ambassador program, their joy fam and it's just like a completely different name that they associated to it.

And each different person has like their own role in it. It's not just like everyone has like the same. it's not the same hierarchy inside of this community. And I think that really helps. And especially like on places, like in, in burdening, you're doing it on discord, but you just don't know it because it's so baked into the product.

So. I would say like the last thing too, is just like the more public people are about building community. Like the better your community is going to be, because status is accentuated through, through being more public. So it's like, if I know if I'm built, if I'm a new e-commerce merchant selling on Shopify, I'm, I'm coming out and [00:36:00] saying like, I have this new community it's kind of exclusive.

You have to apply to it. And all the new members that get into. They can tell the world that they just got into it. So there's, there's an interesting, like psychological dynamic between good community foundations that comes from like guiding them through product, which we are actively trying to do, but also like how those nodes can like be self-sufficient, which I think you see on Reddit, you see in stack overflow, you see on.

On Slack specifically their wall of love. I don't know if you ever guessed, you guys ever saw that back in the day, but like, That was like a very good buyer community hack that they put together. But there, there are some, there are some like best practices, but I think that discord has like nailed that the sucky part for discord is that they're very gaming oriented.

So they'd only attract like gaming people and they, people don't know how good it is for other applications. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Their UI honestly needs, need some help. Because the, the affordances are. Two game [00:37:00]centric. Like I, I remember I actually, I'm in a couple of communities in there and I constantly think of blizzard and like battle.net.

That is like, that's, it's just, that's the, that's the aesthetic. Sorry, Mike, just talk about what, what you mentioned again, can you just like, do bullet point the three things that you just said. Yeah. 

Mike Schmidt: So it's like giving early user status, I think is one of them distributed the ownership across your community. So like giving them roles and giving them responsibilities. And then meeting regularly, I think it's like the three top ones that I would pick out of just those. 

Nima Gardideh: Love it. Patrick, what would you say you're like sort of a health check on a community if you were to like judge even Laney's committee on Slack. Right. How, w how would you like try to, to judge it? I'm sure that's kind of in your product, but 

Patrick Woods: Yeah. And it's, it's a good, it's a good question. I like box answer a lot. We would say in the product yet. I think I mentioned this earlier, recency frequency and quality of the contribution. Whether that's, whatever the [00:38:00]contribution is in this case and open-source world that can be a pull request into the code base.

And every other context could just be agreeing answer on, in the forum to someone else's question. So if you understand that there's, there's the frequency, recency and, and quality that you can, you can model out a lot of what's going on to community. Frequency is pretty, or excuse me, a recency is pretty important.

Getting back to that sort of goes down Slack example. I was mentioning earlier someone, if someone answered a hundred questions in your forum, for example, but that was two years ago. It doesn't really tell you much at all, if anything, about where they are today. And so we try to fill time and basically in the end, the Oregon model world, we say love decays over time, which is.

Sort of poetic. But it's, it's sort of more than just like a count of what's going on. It's actually a weighted count with, with regard to time and quality. So, so that's, that's how we would, we would measure it programmatically. one thing I look for a lot is, is, you know, there's not really a metric for this.

What's the rate of other community members answering other [00:39:00] community members questions. I think this is like a, for early stage communities. It's like often somebody in the forum or the shad ask a question and then like one of the founders or organizers is the person to answer. That's like, it's like that for awhile.

But then something happens where other people start to jump in and say, oh, like it's, here's the link to the docs or here's I had the same question. It's it's hard to, it's hard to measure that, but that's, that's a key, that's pretty key. 

Nima Gardideh: It's almost how far away from self-sufficiency the community is. So if I like walked away as a founder, it's just going to continue going on.

Patrick Woods: That's exactly right. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Yeah. And that's a hard one to measure. It makes a lot of sense because a lot of these communities are like first and foremost, sexually support, you know, and then. Support forums into this community I think.

Patrick Woods: Yeah. They often start there around product centric communities. I mean, ours are certainly did. I mean, a year ago. I think it was when we first kind of opened up a Slack group for our, I don't know, 10 or 15, very early kind of like design partners from the product. You know, those folks are still pretty active today. I'm actually going to go, [00:40:00] go, go give them a role at this quarter that, that demonstrates that cause I haven't done, I guess a great idea of like, it's like, yeah, it's it's it started as like what, what should we build together to make your job easier or make you more effective, whatever.

And then that sort of, we went up the ladder up ladder of abstraction there for like a very functional, what should we build? What's the product do what's broken to like, oh, like what's the future of community building and. Let's talk about that because everyone in the group today is like, forward-thinkers about how to measure a build community.

So yeah, you go up the ladder of abstraction, I would say from very functional support related questions to more self-actualization around learning, sharing, things like that.

Mike Schmidt: For like your orbit model. The one thing that I didn't see in your orbit model is like, and maybe I just skimmed over it, but I didn't see. Well, I don't know how to say this other than like the parasites, right? Like the people that come in, they think you're a part of your community. They're like anti love. They're like, hate. Like they're like, and I feel like these are very like volatile people. Like they, they [00:41:00] come in, they love you. They hate you.

They love you. They hate you. and I, it could be very like parasitic in the ecosystem, but do you, I think you probably factor in this, but curious what you think about it just in general. 

Patrick Woods: Cause we see. It's an astute observation. It's kind of an unknown, unknown, I would say in the model. The model today is pretty, pretty quantitative.

It's, it's kind of dumb in the sense that it doesn't know. All of the content of someone's message. So yeah, like somebody could be tweeting a lot. And the orbit model is a concept. Wouldn't know if it's bad or good necessarily on an automated fashion. Part of what's coming in the updates is, is affordances for what you're describing now.

Because basically the, the, the, what market would help the community has a lot of activity. Another is like lack of toxicity. And so some of the updates for sure, shifting soon, or if anybody in the audience wants to contribute to the docs are all the ways to building in the ways to account for like toxicity and bullying and all this sort of bad stuff.

And to [00:42:00] build that in the model too. So today it doesn't mean it's not there. Product wise, that's going to probably look like an LP and sentiment analysis and things like that built in to flag what's going on. Yeah. But yeah, there, there should, you should certainly like, love should be deducted from, from someone's school, if they're exactly negative, but we didn't need a space metaphor for it.

We don't have one yet. I know, but it's a great, it's a great question. It's kind of like, I would say that was still a work process for progress. 

Nima Gardideh: Would you consider someone like that still part of your community? Because a lot of things that in my head community is like, It shows in convenient for you, right.

You opt in to be a part of it, and then they accept you. And now you're part of the community, right? Would you say someone that's, that's sort of in the periphery of the community or was in the community and then they started becoming very negative or toxic. Do you kick them out of the community? Do you consider them still part of your community of someone you need to like listen to? How do you think about that? 

Mike Schmidt: You know, our exiles, they're not joking. [laughing]

Patrick Woods: Yeah, I think we [00:43:00] see less of us tolerance for that sort of behavior and boasting the most, the communities we work with. It's like the opportunity costs is often very, is too high to try to rehabilitate someone maybe. So you see people just sort of like correcting, in the old, in the old, early days of internet communities, like trolls were sort of a part of the landscape and it sort of is what it is, but I think people are less and less willing to, to entertain toxic behavior. And so when we see these people just, just banning and, and sort of moving on with their lives. So I think it's a question for the community itself. I'm like, what are the values and what are the norms that are established? 

Mike Schmidt: Yeah. I have a, maybe like a polarizing view to this. So this is like, the thing is like any presses get pressed. And like, if people are talking about you, it's like, they care enough to talk about you. And I, I would say that like, even I was, you know, kind of just joking about the whole exile, but like, sometimes it's just like so frustrating to like, even just, you know, kind of re like, I like this rehabilitation.

Cause it's literally what it is. It's sort of like, Hey, let me help you understand the [00:44:00] perspective and if I'm wrong, like I'm willing to change my mind on whatever vantage point this is. Or if you just don't allow it align with the values of our organization or the, you know, how this community started in the first place, then unfortunately you'll just never be in this community.

Hating on the community. Doesn't really make sense. And here's why like, kind of walking them through it. But like, let's say for example, there is a chance for rebuilt rehabilitation. I actually think that like, there is, I always take this like more opportunistic approach for this type of thing. Cause like it happened, it probably happens with you in customer development for people that are buying orbit to like people that buy dovetail.

Like we don't check all the boxes for some customers and we just like are pretty upfront about it. But it's like, if we tell them the why, like we just give them the. Here's why we can't do this, or here's why it doesn't support what you, what you ideally need. They'll they'll probably just like walk away and they'll just be like this isn't for me.

But the problem is, is like when people, when people feel like hate or minus love in this [00:45:00] scenario, They can be very parasitic and they can tell people that you suck or like other, like you shouldn't buy this thing or whatever else it is. And we're like very cognizant toward that within the merchants that use dovetail, because they rely on us.

They trust Dovetail as their back office for community building. Right. So it's like, if we're not aware of, of the, of the, like the negativity or if we're not aware of like, Hey, you should probably like reach out to this person as soon as possible. And that's a key piece to it, right? Yeah. we have talks with our support team all the time.

And it's like, there, there are certain questions you have to answer so quickly. Otherwise they just turn on you. They turn on you very quickly because every, every hour that passes is like the hate compounds, the minus love compounds. And it's like, and that's when they turn into like the parasite. We'll tell people that, you know, there's, you shouldn't buy that thing or you shouldn't do whatever with them.

So I think there's like a rehabilitation stage, but there is a [00:46:00] timeframe and that timeframe is exponential basically. That's a great point. I do want to draw a distinction between hate for their company and product, and like hate for others in the community. So I think that's, that's, that's a, that's a big one.

Patrick Woods: If somebody is crapping on orbit. Well, you know, that happens enough. [laughing] but you know, like when somebody is like, you know, bullying or things like that, that I think that's, that's that's. Cause for booting, actually we have this weird experience where someone, someone joined our discord server and. They like in part of their shadow, the general channel, they used a Pepe, the frog emoji, and it's kind of innocuous and, and but you know, probably the frog is like associated with alt-right and the Nazi stuff. Maybe not everyone notices this, but like the cartoon frog that was once just a fun little illustration is now like on flags that Neo Nazi rallies and stuff like that. And so I just had the idea of that person. I was like, Hey, welcome to the orbit. Glad you're here. What do you [00:47:00] want to, by the way I noticed there was this Pepe, the frog thing in your, in your, in your message.

And I don't know if you know this or not, but like weird thing happened. Like the frog is like a Nazi thing now. Yeah. It was just a lot of like, like emotional baggage or make that emoji. So like, would you consider just kind of like editing that it was complete is complete non-sequitur to his post and he freaked out.

He was like, well, you know, I like Pepe the frog, so I'm just going to use it. And like, I don't think there'd be on Nazis, get to win this one. And like, they're not going to like that. So we actually had, this is interesting to rehabilitation conversation. So I unpacked like why I was having this perspective.

And I was like, symbols matter. Language matters. What did you end up doing with that person? Did you boot them or no, I didn't. I actually didn't. So he actually went back and he removed, he edited the post and then like 30 minutes later, he was like, you know what, you're right about this. You know, I understand that you're, you know, you're the founder, like you've got to maintain the culture and the vibe.

And like, he's like he did a total of Mia culpa, surprisingly, so I love it. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. [00:48:00] You rarely hear those stories, the successful ones. It's like, how, how well you pitched the why basically. Yeah, it was, it went sideways really quick. So that was. I want to just switch a little bit too. I think we've, we've done a decent job, like defining community, and let's not switch to using it as, as a way to grow a company, because I think there's sort of phrase of community led growth is becoming more and more popular.

And I think both of you have very strong opinions about how much you dislike that. But let's, let's get into like, sort of what that means in the context that I think there's three different types of product. Patrick. You maybe put together as a, as maybe community as. You know, community inside of your product, then maybe co-creation communities.

What, you know, and I would say the more common scenarios, community attached to a product, right. That's kind of what happens to most of. What'd she you think about, oh yeah, I'm going to have communion as part of my growth strategy. Should you even think about it? Is there like some subset of companies that should think about it and how would you approach it if you were [00:49:00] running, running different companies?

Patrick Woods: Yeah, I think one question is you know, is, is there a reason for your users to talk to each other? You know, there's some cases we're probably not like we have we've, we've talked to some folks that are building security software, essentially. It's. Not likely that the users of that very specific software are going to want to chat about things.

But in many cases there are, there are reasons and it could be to share product feedback, to share ideas, to share best practices, to network with each other because they're all in a similar field. And so if there's a reason to, to, to have people talking to each other, there's probably probably a good case to build a community there.

And, you know, one thing we tell people, it doesn't have 10,000 people in the Slack group to start just having centers. When the people in the early stages getting to know each other is, is incredibly powerful and very sticky. And I think really, I think a lot about almost like a community. Having to wise, if you will, like a product community.

And so there's like the, the why of the community itself. So why, [00:50:00] why are we here? Like in the case of orbits community, it's, it's, it's something like you know, we're here to, to become better community builders, to be more thoughtful and more strategic, and to learn from each other about how to be better, to be builders into, to robots to do that.

And so, like, that's, that's the why for the community, but then there's like the, the commercial, why that's associated with that. And so like orbit. We're not doing the community thing for just like the self-actualization of ourselves. It's like associated with our, with our, our business. So the, the, the questions we have for the community are what are the, what are the second, third in order effects of that community on the business itself?

And that the sort of second order effects, impact areas like awareness and adoption and advocacy is are those traditional business measures. But one thing we've learned a lot is that Like more awareness or better adoption of the tool itself. They have to have to be like outcomes of the community and not like the goal of the community itself.

Because as soon as you start looking to the community to like looking for like sales leads in the community, you [00:51:00] violate sort of the implicit agreement for the folks there. And, you know, it turns into something that's, that's not a community, it's more of a Legion pool. 

Nima Gardideh: That's, that's such a huge distinction because those are the ones that I flee from essentially. the moment I joined a community, Couple of days later, I get a message from the founder saying, Hey, welcome to our community, but here's what we do. And let's get on a call so I can talk to you about what we do.

I know it's just like, how is this a community? This is a sales channel for you. And I just like completely, immediately hop out. Right. And that's so resonates with me. It just feels wrong to, to be pushy and salesy or organically comes out cause you're giving value. And then they look at you and like, Look at orbit, all the value they're giving us, what are they doing?

Oh, I need that product. You know. 

Patrick Woods: Yeah that exactly right. It's the idea that like revenue and margins and business metrics are this, like the second order effect of a community is what we think it talk about a lot, because that's the most common failure [00:52:00]case over stitching is what you're talking about. But over Schilling, the product is that it's great to see what sort of, one thing we talk about a lot is the distinction between value capture versus value creation.

And there's, there's parts of a business that are focused on capturing value cause you've got to make money. And so that might look like the demand gen team, you know, the A's STRs that are like trying to optimize and capture that value. There's a whole other team. And it's usually a combination of content and community and advocacy and things like that that are thinking about or asking questions, like how do we create as much value as possible through really good educational content or facilitating discussions between users?

You know, if those teams understand the role they're playing, you'll, you'll see a much more effective sort of symbiosis between those two organizations. And, and what comes with that I think is, is expectations around the measurement of success in those organizations. So in the, in the value capture teams, you are looking at like philosophy and coverage ratios and my close [00:53:00] rates.

And like, what, what was the ROI of that performance campaign? That's those of you appropriately? For the, for the teams thinking about value creation creation. If you start to ask them about what the efficiency of their close rates are or something like that, it just, it does, it does, it breaks down. And so being explicit about defining which parts of the team and company you're working on, where things can be a very helpful exercise.

Mike Schmidt: So like for, I think for Nima's case here, like the reason why that feels gross and like for all situations where you jump into like a community and those, cause that's not a community like. That's a sales channel for them. Like they, they, they're not building it out correctly. And the thing that, the difference between like, communities that are successful is they outline the values and the value right.

At the start right at the start. So if, if you came into that community, knowing that you're going to be sold something, that's fine. Right? You're not, it doesn't feel gross. It doesn't feel icky. And you know, you wouldn't abandon ship because like, you know, you're coming into something. Being sold, being sold, like an [00:54:00] opportunity.

And I think like that's a, that's a big difference. Like the, my perspective. I totally agree with your like construct Patrick. Cause it's like the way, the way that we would apply this is like four and I'll share one, I'll share like an example page to, to the audience here so they can kind of see what it looks like.

But just right after I, I finished up here. When merchants create their community like recruitment page, they outline the four principles of their community. So they say like, you're going to make 10% commission. If you're accepted, you're going to get featured in posts on Instagram, you're going to blah, blah, blah.

You're going to meet the founder. Like whatever the things are. But like they know there is a monetary upside for them and they know they're going to be doing something for this community. The, the system is built so that people can. Be accepted and there's, there's some exclusivity, but the second they get in here, it doesn't seem like it's this like misnomer that they've been sold or anything else.

And that's, I think there's like, there's some transparency there just on, upon the [00:55:00] application, but also there's continuity in the product when they actually get there. The expectations are aligned with the the product as well. So there's. Two ways of looking at that whole issue, but there's correct.

Practice in the way that you execute a community program. 

Nima Gardideh: Yeah. Well, what's interesting about what you just mentioned in there is that basically there was like you're setting expectations both on what you're going to receive, but also what is expected of you as a member and, you know, I've always felt. I I'm sorry, I can't afford it.

I can't find a better word. I've always felt achy about this sort of, Hey, you're one of our users. Can you get people to invite other people or posts for us or all these sort of like more old school? Push to create fake fire alley sort of approaches that e-commerce companies have had where please come in and, you know, get $25.

As, as you bring someone else where if you're creating this like intrinsic value of being part of a community. Now I have an [00:56:00] incentive to be part of, part of that sort of journey and, and. That just resonates a lot more with me versus before I always like wouldn't have counted people, sharing products of an e-commerce company, as some folks in the community where if it's structured in this way that you maybe you just see just put out, even I would share things more because you feel, yeah.

Mike Schmidt: You feel more aligned with the opportunity. And also like I think Patrick, you were talking about this before, but. Around product specifically, like one of the, one of the coolest things about the communities on dovetail like that we've seen is just like the value of community members is aligned to the product.

Right? So it's like the product that the merchant sell. So say in this example, I just started. The chat is just like, this is a really, this is that Therese company that I just mentioned, but like, you're not going to apply to this company to be in their joy team or to be in their ambassador program if [00:57:00] you don't like their stuff.

Right. And I think like, that's, that's like the cool thing about these, these application pages, but you can see like the four main tenants here, it's like opportunity to be featured in social content or in commission. You're aligning people with those, with those objectives, like right off the start. I think again, one of the coolest things about this, just like you can accept members into the Therese community and welcome them with a gift already.

You're getting like you're already getting off to the right start and people feel strongly connected to this community because there's a product and there's a story that aligns them with the the goals of the community. That makes sense. basically all these community members.

They just like post for free. It's a new way of doing like, you know, quote unquote influencer marketing, because people just feel such strong advocacy toward the brands. I mean, obviously there are paid partnerships in different things for influencer marketing, but like, this is the tonality for the last like three, four years.

And influencer marketing has [00:58:00] just been so shit and like, I want to like completely change the whole industry at large. And it's just like, we need to start it off on the right foot. Right. Recategorize rename and then just like build a new process for all this stuff. Cause like everything you just mentioned can be directly translated back to like, and I know you're, you're like basically in this industry, so it's like, you've seen like how bad it's been done.

Nima Gardideh: [MUSIC FADES IN] Oh yeah. Influencer marketing specifically is this disaster. Yeah, great guys. Well, is there anything else you want to cover? I think this has been super helpful for me. Thanks for spending a time. We can go deeper into any of the topics, but we can also just call it now. What do you guys think

Patrick Woods: I could talk forever on this stuff. [laughing] Yeah. 

Nima Gardideh: Well, thanks. Thanks everyone for showing up and sticking out with us. You should receive a copy of a recording of this in the next few days and yeah, stay in [00:59:00] touch and we're going to probably have another one of these next month. So thanks a lot, everyone going.

Patrick Woods: Thanks everyone. 

Mike Schmidt: Thanks everyone. 

Nima Gardideh: Thanks for listening to our show. Get our episodes. As soon as they're released, just tap that follow or subscribe button, wherever you get your podcasts.

Plus if you want to join our live discussions where you can ask us questions, as we record, sign up at pearmill.com/hypergrowth-podcast, We'll see you on the next episode, on The Hypergrowth Experience. [MUSIC FADES OUT]