Real estate and investment banking during a financial crisis with the hopes of bringing the community together was once a longshot. Now, Jordan Thibodeau has grown the Silicon Valley Investors Club to over 5000+ members. In this episode, Joe sits down with Jordan to discuss how a focus on community led to a strong customer experience. He takes us through how developing a community breeds trust between members and how that can be an integral aspect of scaling your business.
Falling Into Community Management
“There was no grand, overarching narrative of how I got here.”
Jordan’s family had been investing in real estate for multiple generations. After the big financial crisis, Jordan bought a property in Sacramento. He didn’t think much of it, but he started having lots of his friends and colleagues asking questions about investing in real estate and his decision-making process, so he started a real estate investment club.
Having no real idea what he was doing and in no way a “real estate guru,” Jordan was pleasantly surprised when the group hit 5,000 members.
With the size of the club he was expecting lots of great conversation and insights to just begin organically flowing but in actuality, it was *cricket noises.* To encourage discourse he began asking general questions in the group and encouraging members to publicly ask the club the questions that they were asking him in private. Then, the magic started to happen.
Audience vs. Community
When people in a group are just seeing a moderator or community manager posting and engaging all the time, that’s not really a community, it’s more of an audience.
The best brands are the ones who are able to foster a sense of community with their customers. This only organically occurs when people feel comfortable and passionate enough about your product to engage with each other laterally as well as directly with your brand. As Jordan quickly learned, this isn’t necessarily easy and requires consistent active encouragement of people to share. But it can be done, and when done well, creates some of the most loyal consumers out there.
Knowing Your Niche
For Jordan, this meant focusing his group around tech employees and Silicon-Valley types. He knew he wanted to foster an environment that did not feel like an annoying marketing page or where people were pitching unrelated things all the time. People are more likely to share and engage with your business and each other when there is a commonality between them.
Ask yourself, “what kind of value can I bring to the people here?”
This might mean not always focusing exclusively on your specific product, but by offering a space that allows your customers to own some of the conversation and insights that are taking place. Then, they won’t see your group or page as just a sales thing, but as a place where they can learn information about the industry, receive updates from authorities on the product, and engage with other individuals of whom they share the common bond of being in this community.
This trust is how you gain long-term credibility, brand salience, and serious customer loyalty.
A Part of Something Bigger
It’s human nature to want to be a part of something greater than ourselves, to self-categorize and have core identifiers, sometimes over things that seem as silly as a B2B software that we love or a brand of shoe that we wear.
Businesses can absolutely capitalize on this.
As a business attempting to build out and grow a true community online, there are a couple of things that need to be considered.
One, once your group reaches a certain size you will likely need a content monitor and some form of administrator(s). This ensures user safety and having a fun and comfortable space for everyone. Jordan delegated his account by region, appointing “captains” who were just ultra-passionate group members in different geographical areas.
Two, if you’re the manager of the account, don’t be discouraged if your initial engagement isn’t where you initially expected it to be. Community management is playing the long game, for many companies taking years to achieve the results they might want; but with consistent management and follow-through, can provide a big return.
The major benefit of building a community is “being able to tap into a network of multiple brains with different ideas.”
A few particularly passionate users might provide feedback about a product or naturally give an insight that would have cost hours and thousands of dollars to achieve through R&D. Basically, companies could (and should) use their community as a soundboard or for beta tests.
Due to low costs, community management is a very scalable pursuit, it just takes time to develop. You also don’t need to have an ultra-massive following to start building a community. A thousand passionate users are every bit as valuable as ten thousand passive followers. Finding people who organically evangelize your product should be the goal.
It doesn’t require much to begin the process of building your community, and if done well, can prove to be the ultimate customer experience.
Listen to the episode here.