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If You Build It, They Won’t Come

If You Build It, They Won’t Come

Everyone wants to create a community and invite their users and prospects to join, but few people understand that communities create themselves. The best communities exist because the users of a product or service banded together to make it happen, not because the company stood up a community site and invited people to start talking.


Amanda Folson

September 17, 2016


  1. If You Build It They Won’t Come Amanda Folson Developer

    Advocate @ GitLab @AmbassadorAwsum
  2. Who Am I? • Developer Advocate at GitLab • Have

    done community work professionally for several years now • Professional conference attendee and tinkerer
  3. What is a community? 1. a group of people living

    in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
  4. Why community?

  5. From a User Perspective • To receive support • To

    request features • To find like-minded people • To belong
  6. From a Company Perspective • Inform about products/projects • Give

    support • Receive feedback • Source additional contributors • Fostering goodwill
  7. Where it gets tricky... • People will make their own

    communities • You can’t control these ◦ BUT they can be guided • Growth is organic • Companies will set up a community and it won’t grow OR • It grows and they screw it up
  8. Mistakes • People create communities for the sake of creating

    communities • No defined goals • No plans to nurture growth • Community is only used as sales funnel
  9. Bridging the Gap • How can you find/create and nurture

    your community? • Community likely exists • Don’t clobber it
  10. Community Managers • More of a cheerleader than a manager

    • Lead by example • Needs to be trusted • Not always an official position • Facilitates communication between parties • Avoid bureaucracy
  11. Make Communication Easy

  12. Conflict • With enough people (i.e. more than one) conflict

    will happen • Response is crucial • We all know bad PR when we see it • Happens for a variety of reasons
  13. Conflict Resolution • Don’t take sides • Facilitate civil discourse

    • Negotiate! • Be open • DO NOT get aggressive
  14. Avoiding Conflict • Adopt clear communication practices • Solicit feedback

    frequently • Be visible • Be approachable • Be empathetic
  15. A Word About Codes of Conduct • One size doesn’t

    fit all • One might not be needed or wanted • Pitch one and allow for collaboration
  16. Never Stop Improving • Always solicit feedback ◦ Even if

    it’s hard to hear • Surveys ◦ Offer anonymity
  17. Metrics • Post counts aren’t a good metric ◦ Post

    frequency is better • Look to social media • Data is everywhere ◦ Time from PR to merge ◦ Current number of developers/rate of growth ◦ Number of downloads
  18. Surveys • Great for quick feedback • Low barrier to

    feedback • Note that scales of 1-10 can be interpreted differently
  19. Support • Be thinking about how to support the community

    • What resources are needed? • What is the commitment? • What are the goals?
  20. How will we bring people in? • People need to

    be incentivized • They seek out communities because they need/want something • They need to belong • They need to have purpose • They need to feel welcome/invited
  21. Thank you! Amanda Folson - Developer Advocate at GitLab amanda@gitlab.com