Building Community for Exponential Organizations

A thriving community of engaged members and evangelists is critical for the long-term health and success of any ExO. Are you ready to build and nurture your exponential community?

Lars Lin
Lars Lin

Community & Crowd is one of the core attributes described by the book (and movement) Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail, which helps organizations achieve an abundance of contributors, users, supporters, and followers.

One example featured in the book focuses on the DIY Drones community, which currently stands at 86,000+ members and counting. Thanks to the combined efforts of this community, a Predator military drone worth around $4 million got a DIY cousin that achieved 98% similarity to the military version (only the weapon systems were missing)—but at a $300 cost.

As Chris Anderson, one of the founders of the DIY Drones community, says:

"If you build communities and you do things in public, you don't have to find people. They find you... People join communities for the ideas—but they stay for the emotions."

Every organization that wants to reach an audience of any type, for any purpose, should consider searching for—or founding—their own community.

9 Steps for Building a Community Around Your ExO

The following is a nine-step, high-level plan for building a community, but it can only work through experimentation. Every segment and member type has their own intentions, needs, vision, and purpose. Think of this as a general guideline for finding what really works for your community members (instead of a completed recipe).

1. Establish the identity of your community by creating a 'Massive Transformative Purpose.'

Every exponential community, like the exponential organization that nurtures it, must have a Massive Transformative Purpose, or MTP. You can learn more about MTPs from ExO Ecosystem member Peter Diamandis here.

Essentially, this will be the 'magnet' that attracts the 'right' community members who share your passion in the topic of your community.

2. Get started designing a community portal/platform/channel.

This can be any type of online/digital channel where your community members can meet. In the early stages, it can be as simple as a WhatsApp or Facebook group. Later, you can make it more advanced and customize it based on what your community really wants and needs.

Running experiments and engaging with your community can be a simple way to grow your platform and ensure that the functions and tools you've chosen to introduce are the right ones.

Regardless, the first and most important step is to start. And don't forget that authenticity matters!

3. Resources. Resources. Resources.

Plan for the resources you'll need when building your community. While it can be difficult to predetermine all of the resources your community will need, some of the initial questions you should be asking yourself include:

  • What do we need get started immediately?
  • What do we need to create content?
  • What do we need to communicate with each other?
  • What will we need to grow engagement and drive membership?

Asking—and answering—these questions, as well as others like them, will be critical.

4. Community engagement will vary—and that's okay.

The bigger the community gets, the less people typically contribute actively. Expect 1% to 10% (max) of your community members to be active contributors. The rest will usually remain passive, but ideally they'll be among the top consumers of your community's content—they might even be among the top 'sharers' and 'likers' on social media!

With your community (especially those core, active users) in mind, you should be focused on providing these growing relationships and conversations with a comfortable, resource-rich environment where they can thrive. If users feel at home in your community, they'll keep coming back to the conversations. Listen to them, always.

5. Create good content.

While passionate community members will likely help you create your content, it's up to you to get the ball rolling, and keep it rolling.

When it comes to what that content should be—the possibilities are endless! Written content of all sorts, activities, news, interviews, advice, guest blogging, future events, and so much more, are all fair game.

What would your community love to access? Ask them, or experiment in other ways to find out. A quiet, empty community channel or platform is as interesting to visit as an empty corridor in a hospital.

6. Engagement is key.

People join communities for the ideas (the Massive Transformative Purpose that we mentioned earlier), but they stay for the connections. Connecting others to the interesting work of individual community members via something as simple as a retweet or other forms of social sharing are some examples of ways to engage and create long-lasting connections with your community.

Going beyond these simpler, surface-level engagements requires more experimentation, and a willingness to discover what works best for your community.

7. Lead your community.

Be the leader your community needs. Communities can contribute, can co-ideate and collaborate, but group decision-making is notoriously difficult, and easily gets messy. A firm, guiding hand will make all the difference in helping a community thrive and grow!

8. Drive growth.

People want to talk to each other and learn from each other—it's human nature. So as long as your community provides the means for its members to communicate, connect, and learn under a common rallying cry (your MTP), the community will grow.

9. Monetize responsibly and transparently.

While seeking a means to monetize your community isn't required, it's not uncommon. If considering monetization, be transparent about your methods, and keep your community members informed. Be sure to provide answers to questions like:

  • What aspects will be monetized? How?
  • How will this benefit the community as a whole?
  • Will individual members be afforded an opportunity to earn?

Like every other point on this list, the decisions you make should have the best interests of the community and its members in mind.

For additional resources, visit

This article was originally featured on ExO Works on 8/21/2018.

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Lars Lin

Builds & Transforms #Humanized Organizations, Programs & Services For Positive Exponential Impact