How (and why) to turn your community into a fully-fledged business

Written by Tom Gayner

Odds are, being a human, you recognise the importance of connection. In fact, if you’re a human content creator, you’ve probably already spent many hours pondering how to build the best possible connection with your viewers or listeners.

The truth is, connection is a spectrum - and your viewer or listenership probably spans it. At one end is your audience. There’s a lot of them, and they consume content in a fairly passive way.  Fans are more engaged but there are fewer of them. And finally, there’s your community. The smallest of these groups, these guys look for something deeper, valuing interaction extremely highly and bonding over a shared interest or purpose.

That’s the emotional side of a community. But if you’re going to invest your time in creating this space for people to bond, we need to talk business.

Finding your superfans

A community is crucial if you want to create a sustainable content business, because these are your ‘superfans’ - those willing to invest money in what you offer. To maximise your return on investment (the investment being your time), you need a direct relationship with this community, rather than receiving a cut from a platform or royalties from a publisher.

So if the aim is to avoid hosting this community on a platform that’s going to own the relationship, where can you hang out? You need somewhere that encourages easy communication but maintains community standards and safety.

What you need is a messaging group. These allow you to add people to a group, hosted on Telegram or Discord, and then use it for conversation, live video, sharing of files and any number of other things. With Levellr, not only is this easy to set up, it comes with important management safety features, such as a moderating chatbot and easy removal of those not following the community rules.

Levellr help you create new groups or channels in your community in a click, with the option to restrict them to gate specific spaces for specific members

Monetisation matters

While the ultimate goal of a messaging group is to have community members chat between themselves, there will always be a certain amount of time you need to spend growing and maintaining it. There’s no getting away from the fact that the monetisation of anything you put time into creating is going to be crucial to your business’s long-term success.

However, monetisation is not one size fits all. At Levellr, we’ve seen really exciting brands and creators using the platform to create revenue streams in totally diverse ways.

The House of FM messaging group was set up by the band Franc Moody. They offer a free messaging group for everyone, as well as a top tier £5-a-month subscription, with exclusive Spotify playlists, discounts on merch, and the chance to chat to members of the band. This direct monetisation gives superfans a way of feeling, quite literally, invested in their favourite artist. In the words of Franc Moody, “most importantly, you'll be supporting us — and that means more than you can imagine”.

The Velcro is a community set up for fans of the golf podcast, Chasing Scratch. They use their Levellr messaging group as an exclusive benefit for their Patreon subscribers. They realised Discord wasn’t going to be the best fit for their listeners, so decided to use Levellr to sync their Patreon members into Telegram. By offering it as a reward in their existing marketing efforts, they’re not asking fans to spend money in several places at once. Instead, they’re sweetening the Patreon deal, which, in turn, is driving up those subscriptions and have a huge benefit on retention. So much so that 25% of all Patreon users joined the chat in the first 30 days, a huge business result for the podcast.

In contrast, Everyday Runners has no content creator figurehead as such, but is instead an open community of runners. While it’s free to join and always will be, if the organisers do decide to monetise their efforts they have the perfect way of communicating these offerings to those most likely to spend money on them. Whether it’s a ticketed running event, brand partnership or affiliate deal on running equipment, there’s a ready made marketing list of “extremely warm prospects”, to get all sales-y about it.

What gets measured gets managed (and then maximised)

As any community moderator will tell you, a successful community is run like a business. And like any business, there needs to be a focus on retention and growth.

And that means data.

A Levellr data dashboard provides you with vital insights on what is happening in your community

At Levellr we’ve put a lot of hours into figuring out how to share this data in a meaningful way.  That means making sure you can easily view the metrics of your community - including things like the number of people in it, engagement levels and conversions from free trials to paid subscriptions. Whether you set monthly or quarterly targets, it’s by measuring these numbers that our users see real community growth. We’ve also shared our thoughts on which metrics to focus on the most here.

If all this business talk makes you feel a bit weird, we get it. It’s fair to say that being responsible for a community can require a mindset shift, from creator to business. But make that leap, and you’ll hopefully be paving the way for you to be able to live comfortably by making the content you’re passionate about.

Interested? Create your community for free now!