September 23, 2022

Everything You NEED to Know About Building an Online Community with Jephtah Abu from AhoyConnect

We can start with your introduction, Jephthah Abu. Then, we can talk about your journey in the community space and, yeah, so give a highlight on what we would talk about in the workshop.


Yeah, excellent. Thank you so much for that short intro. My name is Jephthah Abu, but everyone calls me Jeff, so I am the product Community manager for Ahoyconnect. Ahoyconnect is a community analytic tool, so to make it very short in layman's terms, we are a dashboard to say everything that's going on in your community. So my community journey was never straightforward. I think that's the same thing with every Community manager. I didn't wake up one day and say, I want to be a community manager today, or I woke up in the afternoon and said I wanted to be a community manager. So, I started my journey as a developer then from there, I went to social media, and from social media, I went to cyber security. From cyber security, I came to Community Management. There's a bit of, and I call it, connect the dots because there were too many dots by the end of the day.


From the start, I've been doing community unofficially for five years. I've worked with b2bs Brands, we have three fintech startups, Esports, and a lot of Industries, and I've been doing this unofficially. I didn't know the term was Community Management until recently; I'm, wait, I've been doing this for free, I've been volunteering my time, so, officially, five years. So yeah, it's just been a journey. As everyone will know, I'm very passionate about Dei in Community Management and creating an inclusive space for Community managers and communities.


1. What is need to build an online community?

While it might seem , growing a business is all about advertising, marketing, promoting products and making sales pitches, there are alternatives for establishing your brand. One of them is building a community.

In my journey, I feel many brands don't know why they are creating communities. It's the trend now to have a slack Community or a Discord Community. But the idea is, what's the goal of the Community? Every Community has a specific purpose which can be for knowledge, and it can be for career development, it can be for support, it can be for getting resources. But for Brands, when creating communities, they have to be specific on the goal. Do you want a Community for support?

Social Media is mono-directional, meaning that there's one flow of information, I just put it out, I can choose to respond to you or not, or I can leave it. But the Community is bi-directional, there's a flow, and you expect a response to a conversation, so you want your audience on social media to become your loyal followers, so that's why you bring them into your Community. That's one reason you get them a great conversation, so you have to be specific, and I always say in Consulting and everything. Just tell me what your Community does in one sentence. My Community helps people learn more about fintech. My Community helps people learn more about DevOps. My Community helps people learn more about software development. My Community helps people Network in Tech. So just one sentence we are Community, then you can have sub-goals. For example, a community that helps people learn more about software development can also act as a networking platform, and you can also act as a research center. 

These are sub-goals, but there should be just one goal in one sentence, so if you can't answer that question, you probably don't know the value of your Community. So look at what my Community does in one sentence, and you are good to go. I think that's a pretty straightforward reason we want to build a community, and I think it's super important to have a goal behind anything you make, especially a community, and what you want to get out of it. It can be built to support your product. It can be a community of a particular vertical, as you mentioned. 

It's more important to have more engaged users, so moving from one-to-one connections to many Connections in a way, so people are conversing in between themselves and are putting their ideas around a particular goal, that's super important, and with that. It can help you drive a lot of Engagement for your vision you're going after all or a part of your building. So one quick acronym I also learned recently is called the C, capital community. If your Community is impactful, capital in C stands for concrete. So every con Community has a concrete plan and a definite goal, and you work towards that goal. So most Community platforms enable people to interact with each other whether it's in a forum-based Community or a social Community, Discord, or slack, there's always a response.

Your platform choice is affected by the goal of your Community. Your Community is not healthy if it's not interactive. I can see communities that have 5000 members or 10000 members, but you have seen five comments that are not an interactive Community, which is not a healthy Community. Trackable means that you're tracking a particular Matrix in the Community, whether it's Community growth, whether it's Community engagement, whether it's user-generated content in the Community, it's trackable, and you're measuring it. How many members were active on Monday? What are my monthly activities, as well as my daily activities? How many people are talking in the Community? There are levels, meaning that you might have a gamification strategy to say, okay, these are my most active members. These are my quiet observers. These are my moderate members, so there are levels to Community so that Capital C is what you use to measure your activeness of a community. Yeah, that's super interesting how you are.

2. Tips to keep in mind as you develop your community?Make it all about the people.

Even if you have intentions to use your group to build awareness around your brand or sell your products, that cannot be your primary goal with building community. Being overly promotional or sales driven feels inauthentic and will ,ly push members away.

ou start with the people nearest to you, so you are a village. You want to build a town. You have people around you that you can help develop. So who are your most active members on social media?

The Villagers who helped you build. You have them who are your most active customers, who are your most active users. So you invite these specific people into your Community. Most Community managers make the mistake of saying they want to ask as many members as possible. I'll say the approach towards building a community is by starting small and then scaling large, so you start small with what you have, build, and have an engagement strategy. What are you doing weekly, what are you doing monthly, what are you doing yearly, and who's your target audience? Invite ten people, so you have what you call an MVC, so an MVC is a minimum viable community, so that's just a test Community for your brand. You can say, okay, let's invite ten people, and let's hear what they think about this Community. Let's ask 20 people. You work on your engagement strategy, what will be done in the community weekly, what will be done in the Community monthly, and what will be done in the Community yearly, and you tell them these ideas. You see what happens if it works out.

 I kid you not more members will join because these ten members become Advocates of your Community, they become your word of mouth, and it grows from there. So starting small and scaling large is an approach you take towards Community. You shouldn't scale large and say you want to grow bigger. You start small. Having those nearest to you regarding how we bring ten members depends on how we now get 50 or how you bring 100. That's the best advice I would give when you're attacking the Community

3. Encourage everyone to share. Don’t be the only voice sharing information, thoughts, and perspectives in your community. Invite your members to share their opinions, wins, projects and information about themselves and less , a one-way sounding board.

YYeah, so people should realize that a community is a group of people with different emotions and different feelings. As Community managers, we usually act as therapists, we act as event planners, we act as moderators, we act a lot of things, but the quickest way or the most genuine way, I'll say, is knowing your members one-on-one. So that's why it's good to start small, so when you start small, even in the onboarding process, you have to create a way for community members to reach out to you and talk to you. So, I always say one-on-one approach towards knowing your members.

Let's say your community is of five thousand Members. Always have a specific day where members can avoid a particular month and meet you and talk because it's this one-on-one interaction. From which you can understand your members, you get to know what's your member's favorite food, what's your member's favorite pets, the pets they have, and their hobbies, and it's with this information you're able to know and suggest members or encourage members to talk when you don't know them literally. You don't know who does what or who is doing that, but when you have a one-on-one approach towards million members genuinely, it sort of helps. So in terms of a small community, a community is just starting to know its members; create time to book a time in your calendar. Book a time when you can meet members, have a quick chat if it's 10 minutes or 20 minutes, and get to know them.

If you have a large community, you create a specific day, the particular month when members can book your calendar. Every day might be hectic because you might be talking to 50 people, so I suggest you do a month, where you spread it out. You do one member per day or one or two members per week, which goes a long way because you're starting to know your members. But if you just come in putting your content telling community members to post, they will not be interested. So that's one way you can create that Foster that engagement in your community. Getting personal with your initial set of power users is super important, and that establishes a foundation for you and your community.

I'll give you an example of how we initially started building out. So we started as a Facebook group where we talked about the problem and challenges around video streaming from users to understand the issues they were facing on the platform and then built a foundation for a community that led to building our product. So I think getting personal, asking the right questions, and getting to know them better would be the right sort of foundations for building out a community.

4. Set the tone of the culture. As the founder and leader of a group, you must accept the responsibility of setting the tone of the culture in your community. How you interact with the group will be how members of the group act as well.

I think your thoughts, from the onboarding process to your code of conduct, so Illustrated from the beginning, what are the Community members, or yeah, what are the Community members? First, see when they interrupt your community. Let's say you have a form that tells them okay, this is what you need your email address for. Then how do they now see the code of conduct? For example, most codes of conduct are very generic. Still, I'll say it specifically if you work on your code of conduct in your community and make it very personalized, it goes a long way because companies will help you guide the conversations that happen in the community, what is happening in the community and streamlining it. For example, if the community is all about software development, you can put no spamming and no self-promotion in your code of conduct. You can refer to that code of conduct if a Community member self-promotes. It is not allowed. So the code of conduct sort of sets the culture. Then, as I mentioned before, you have your community engagement strategy and your content, so I sit. 

This is your community content, plus So all of these things will summarize your culture, and they will also refer back to your code of conduct. If your code of conduct is not strong enough, Community members can talk about whatever they want, and your community is. I see it as you wish to create inclusivity in a gated way. So you want to protect your community members because you want to develop a sense of belonging, which is why you want to come. What do you do when a new member joins? Do you have a catchphrase you all use? In Ahoy we always say Ahoy but all of you members, so previous members use it as well because I've created the tone for that welcoming. Are there any hidden jokes in your community? These little things tend to garden or guide the conversations and culture in your community. 

5. Share regular content - Be consistent with your audience.

Building community is often shaped around the articles, social posts, videos and information you share. People join the community to meet people, but also to get content that helps, educates, and motives them.

Yeah, so I think every Community manager would face that your community strategy will have to be flexible if it's not. I said you are dealing with a group of people with different emotions, and if you keep doing the same thing every time, there will be a decrease.

For example, if you know there's going to be a community webinar every Thursday, you do that. When you first start, it might not have the same audience for three, four, or five weeks. So I'll say being flexible with your community strategy is the key. Also, how do you develop strategies to encourage user-generated content or, as we call it, Community generated content? Hence, do you want your members to post about what they do? You want your members to share articles about themselves, and you want your members to share things they do because an active community is a self-sufficient Community. 

The community manager moderates Channel and picks out what is going on. Still, when the community manager keeps posting content, it becomes very spammy, so you have to get community members to post about themselves, and that's when that one-on-one interaction comes in consistency.

I'll say think of Community as a garden. You have to water it for it to grow consistently, but it'll reach a stage where it becomes significant. Let's say you're planting a tree and watching it every day. If it becomes big and has fruits, those fruits are the resources and the people. A community manager is to plant the seed and watch it grow, but you can't be watching it when it's already a tree. If not, it will have so much water. You can't keep on pouring water and Point water the same way, you have to know that your goal is to get your Community to be self-sufficient by posting themselves, and it doesn't have to be so consistent every day.

I said we're all humans, and we have different emotions so you can post on Monday, or you can post on Fridays because when you keep posting every day, people get bored of it. It becomes spamming. Do you know different reasons why people join the Community? To interact, for career development, to learn more about a particular topic, to get resources, so if your Community is not doing one of these, it's probably for entertainment, let's say talking about games, talking about anime, and so I'll say it is very flexible with your community strategy is key.

6. Challenge your community. They are fun because your entire community can participate in the same activity even if they aren’t in the same place. You can even assign accountability partners to encourage your group to interact with each other.

Yeah, definitely. I think one that comes to mind is gamification. So a lot of community managers use gamification in their community for sort of driving engagements. So gamification can be in front in the form of leveling up. I think Discord does that. The more interactive you are, the more you level up and the more you have access to, let's say, special merch or unique nails or, that's one way. Still, the way I would go is to show your commitment to an event that entertains and is informative, but it's not complete because people get bored. You can have a committed vendor that is entertaining and educative. 

Yes, that's a perfect angle. Suppose you can have a community event that is informative and entertaining. In that case, that works perfectly, but if you can have a Community event that educates people, informs them about your product, and entertains them, you are good to go. So, once you've got the entertainment, you can come up with quick ideas like a community game night where everyone plays online games, and someone wins. Then, you can have your Community move right. You can also have a Halloween party for your community members. You can also have an end-of-year Christmas party. I think last year the Community I belong to sent me.

And there was a live bartender, and we created this Christmas drink, and that was one of my best memories of any community event I've gone to because it's interactive. Some people also bring grace to their circumstances. A community game night also works if you don't have the budget. You can create fun events, and your Community members can be a part of them.

7. Have rules and policies.A community is usually designed to be a safe place where members can comfortably and respectfully share ideas, experiences, opinions, thoughts, and inspirations. It also has the potential to be broken if there are disruptive members creating unwanted noise and spam.

So, two words are actually accountability and transparency, so in your code of conduct, you should actually mention what will happen if a rule is broken. For example, if there's a racial slur or if there's sexual harassment, that's an ultimate band or a strike, or, depending on how you see it, you can get suspended. So in your code of conduct, you should actually mention what will happen if a user breaks one of these rules. 


 So it's up to you as a Community manager to say, okay, this person has broken the rule, and based on the code of conduct, you're going to be suspended, and your Community members can see this accountability. If your community members see that there is no accountability and no transparency, everyone will say, why should I follow the rules because Jeff isn't going to do anything, and your Community becomes chaotic. 




8. Get help. If your community grows and becomes too difficult or time-consuming to manage on your own, seek help. Choose a member of your group or hire a community manager. You can still be a leader and closely involved with your group while outsourcing some of the management & moderation.


Yeah, I'll say for most laptops, you usually have one community manager and a community manager access, the events manager, it's in moderator, in some cases, the program manager, and much more, but once a community grows, you realize that one person can't handle it, 10,000 people, and that's when you have specific programs so you can have a supervisor program where you get a bunch of people. It can be an application process when you're doing that at Ahoy right now. People are applying. You see that it fits the program, but you also give them value.


For example, in Ahoy, if the super users write an article for us, they'll be paid for it, but they can also help us moderate the community and come up with ideas just for the supervisor program. Then you can have the ambassador program where they are committed to that sort of thing, planning events to invite people into the community, or much more. You can have moderators, people that volunteer to moderate a community. You'll be surprised that because I love community time, I'm always dedicating my time, so this is for free, and I'll encourage people to talk, depending on how your company sees it. 


Okay, I need more community managers in this company or I need this with more moderators. State your reason why by providing data. Because data is power, so if you provide, see I have 80 hours in a week, which is a lot to work and I can't or I have 80 hours in a month and I can't dedicate my time fully to the community and voice to flourish, we need more help. 


So I'll say defending your reason for higher with data, but in terms of creating more help, it depends on what the company sees because a super user program can work, an ambassador program can work, and also a moderated program can work.


Where can I build an online community? 

1.Start with an email newsletter.

2.Have a membership site.

3.Create a forum.

4.Start a blog.

5.The Slack community.

6.Meet in real life.

7.Consider building barriers of entry.


Yeah, I think where to build a community can be via email, it can be on any branded platform like UUKI, or it can be on any blog, so I think I'll start with this. It's not important where you build a community but how you build it and whether it has a great foundation for the long term. There are communities that are very active just shown as an email newsletter, so a lot of them in tech, even web3, is very active as an email newsletter.


So yeah, it can be as a forum, so if you're doing this support and a forum is a great interface for you to have async communication with users, so you don't have to be active every time, so users can come in, get access to a knowledge base, ask questions and give answers as well, so create that much interaction. It can be a slack community. So if you are making a blog, is there a way for community members to reply and wait for the conversations to happen? Regarding threads, when you think about Reddit and Quora in their tracks, these are forums. Still, they are all communities because there is a conversation happening, so if your platform doesn't solve or cross-check all these things, it's most definitely not a community. It's just a social media platform; your social media is your audience.



Your audience is people that see your posts. They might not interact with them, but you're community members, ideally, are good. So, if you're creating a community from a blog, whether it's on Discord, Discourse, or Reddit, consider what the goal of my community is. For example, you might have a community to post pictures, which I can do and comment on, so do you think I didn't consider it? Platforms are also affected by region and target audience. For example, in Nigeria, one of the most used platforms for social networking or social messaging is WhatsApp, so people create communities on WhatsApp. People develop communities on WhatsApp. People also create communities on Discord. Because it's not just famous, the learning curve might be higher than that of WhatsApp. If you create a Discord channel, people will join, but the number of people that would join your WhatsApp channel will be broader than that of Discord. So platform choice is also affected by region, your target audience, and the goal.


You can go for it. People are active in real-time, and you get to create a lot of interaction on the platform, so I think WhatsApp similarity is very popular among users in India. Even telegram, so many groups are created on that. The groups tend to become communities in the long term. As you mentioned in a particular sentence, you have an audience, so what is the point when an audience sort of translates into a community or converts into a community? Is there a way to quantify or gain insight into the fact that this has begun? Yeah, so I'll say it this way: your audience is people who interact with you but don't engage with you; they interact in the sense that they might like your posts or leave a comment every three months, but the point at which your audience becomes your loyal followers or community members is the level of engagement and the platform. 


I mentioned there's communication, so there's bi-directional communication in two ways. I say hey, and you say hi, and I'm, how are you, and I'm, you're okay, but there's a two-way conversation, but with social media, it's your a then I might choose to reply, maybe, four weeks, six weeks, seven weeks. So the intersection is when your community members become, sorry, the meeting between when your audience becomes your community members when there's consistent bi-directional communication and where there's a sense of advocacy, word of mouth without any benefits.


Yes, you have people in Figma communities, people in Adobe in the sketch in notion, and this book creates meetups on its own because they love the product. It's possible that these people were the audience before, but now they've translated into loyal users and lower community members. So I'll say the intersect is when there's consistent bi-directional communication and when your audience becomes your loyal advocates.


I guess that makes sense when I think you have advocacy on the platform and by the directional communication board between the leaders of the forum or sort of community managers, as well as the interaction between members of the forum. Hence, there is a sort of bi-direction agriculture communication happening and many to many kinds of interaction happening on the forum. Yeah, so how do you choose a platform? As a community manager, you have a medium dependent on the kind of community you want to create. Is this relevant because gaming might need a specific type of platform, so if you're building a gaming community but support might not need a charging platform, you might go for a forum? Platforms are essential for choice when you start building a community. Yeah, definitely,


I mentioned that your community's goal depends on your platform, which depends on your community's purpose. It's also dependent on your target audience, and it's also reliant on the region you want. So if your goal is to support, you have support-based communities. I think Zendek does one just for support. My customers have a ticket. They come, talk about it, and help each other with support. So yeah, you have some tools I've used before. The notion has one, an Apple support community that is strictly just for Apple, so you know. If you're joining that community, you're asking questions. Software developers also have communities for help. They will just come on board, ask questions, answer the questions, and go. That's a commitment in itself. So if you're using that and want to create that kind of community, are you going towards the forum-based aspect, or are you going towards slack because slack provides so many features? You can post memes. You can post images, and you can post emojis.


You have to ask yourself that. What is the purpose of my community? So I want to create a social community book and network and get resources. You have slack. You have Discord. Then also, who is my target audience? Are they in web 3? Are they gamers? They sell to developers. Are they technical people? Are they children? Are they families? Your target audience also determines platform choice. Some community platforms are more prevalent in the US and India than in Nigeria. I mentioned WhatsApp and Discord. This code is popular in the US, especially for gamers and people interested in NFTs. But in Nigeria, what's up when what's up, even as a social messaging platform, is more popular than Discord. WhatsApp is the number one used. I think about two or three of the most used platforms in Africa, so you can see how big it is. If you bring this code and have an African mentality, it might not work as well as getting WhatsApp to communicate or telegram, so I think this determines a platform choice. We've handled the question of why the platform is essential for building our community. I guess it depends, as you mentioned, on your community's goal. Yeah, so we are at the end of the session. Thank you.