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A Brick-by-Brick Guide for Growth Leaders
“Understand that it is going to take time to build a community. Often, growth leaders are used to short feedback loops - ‘We are going to launch a massive acquisition campaign, and expect to see X sign-ups over the next few days.’ Community building is different - it is not just about acquisition, but creating a belonging to the mission,” says Thomas Delamb, co-founder of web3 marketing agency Eterstain.
Even though he is only 23, Thomas has already accrued more than 5 years of experience and started out his career as a freelance marketer. From email to SMS campaigns for brands such as LVMH and Renault, he has firsthand experiences running acquisition campaigns - and is used to the short term orientation of the space. Ever since taking the plunge into the world of web3 growth, Thomas has shifted his focus to help clients design communities.
Paid acquisition, especially in web3, is a lot more challenging than before. In particular, projects are likely to face 3 challenges:
Channel restrictions - many web3 projects desire to grow traffic quickly, and the most efficient channels of distribution still remain to be web2-native ones such as Meta, TikTok, Google and Netflix. With massive captive audiences and rich customer data, web2-native advertising has progressively clamped down on web3-related advertising, especially those that directly relate to cryptocurrencies. While some are starting to be more flexible, web3 projects that rely on paid acquisition on web2 channels will always face channel risk - a sudden unexpected change in policy could rapidly shutdown an engine of growth
Higher CAC and reduced budgets - as the “supply” of acquisition channels remains relatively concentrated (as discussed previously by one of the co-authors, where 86% of ad revenue goes to 3 players) and the number of web3 projects grow, the law of demand and supply kicks in, driving up customer acquisition costs. Compounded by the current bearish market sentiment with reduced venture funding to subsidize user acquisition, a growing swathe of projects face the dual pressure of having to reduce marketing spend, yet the efficiency of each dollar was not what it used to be.
Complex onboarding - while there has been a surge of projects and tools designed to make onboarding to web3 easier, the process flow still remains inefficient today. When the founder of Ethereum struggles to accomplish a Metamask transaction, one can only conclude that we are a far cry from a seamless user experience. This has dire implications on paid acquisition - the complex onboarding results in a ‘leaky bucket problem’, where users who take the first step after interacting with a paid ad is far likelier to drop off.
This is where community comes in. Although this topic has been extensively discussed by many (perhaps to the point of fatigue and platitudes), we believe it is still valuable to recap the advantages that come with designing a community - increased customer lifetime value, lower customer acquisition costs, shorter feedback cycles, creating products that users want, etc.
The real question then is - how does one design a community to realize these benefits? Thomas shares his 4 ‘C’s framework for designing a community - Cause, Culture, Communication & Connection.
Cause - What is your community about?
The first rule for building a great community is to define what success and value for members look like. This is the vision that will give you, the growth leader, a clear idea on how to design a genuinely valuable and engaged community, and will be the driving force to shape expectations for members. Underlying this success and value is often the notion of progress. While many growth leaders focus on engagement metrics, the real goal for most members is progress - the desire to improve from their current state.
Progress can take place in many forms, and here are some examples of what a community ‘cause’ looks like:
I want community members to be able to inquire about any concerns they may have and receive accurate and dependable responses within a 24-hour timeframe
I want community members to generate and distribute advice, tips and learnings, and receive recognition for their contributions from fellow members
I want community members to build applications and tools that enable the success of other members
I want community members to contribute features to our product and see their features incorporated in
I want community members to acquire new knowledge and master new skills so they can advance in their career
I want community members to have fun and enjoy the companionship with others
Culture - What do you want to see?
As people gather together, culture forms. This is the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and practices that shape the character and personality of the community - and are often unspoken. As a result, growth leaders are responsible for setting the culture across 3 dimensions: beliefs, boundaries and behavior.
Every community is centered around one or more beliefs - these are shared across community members who have gathered together for a purpose. Take Safary, the first web3 growth leader community (which this article, along with others, is published under). The community is united by a belief that the best way to learn growth is by engaging fellow growth leaders.
These beliefs are then put in practice through behavior and boundaries. Continuing the example of Safary, the behavior that exemplifies these beliefs include weekly participation in calls with other members who are experts on web3 distribution strategy, community building and growth loops.
Boundaries also define what is permitted and what is not. While some communities make it implicit (aka ‘if I see it, I will raise it’), others can opt for more explicit outlining of boundaries. Potential examples of boundaries include:
We criticize ideas, not people
We do not discriminate based on gender, sexuality, political orientation or otherwise
We do not stigmatize mistakes or setbacks, but view them as opportunities for learning and advancement
Communication & Connection - How do you want to engage?
Once growth leaders have outlined the drivers behind why people want to join and setting the culture, they then need to get practical and start thinking about how they want to engage with their members. This brings us into the conversation of establishing communication and building connections through personas. Personas enable growth leaders to formalize an understanding of the different categories of involvement within a community. How will members participate? What incentives do they want? What motivates them? What are they concerned about? Where will they consume information?
To bring this to life, we will introduce several common personas in a community. If you are a growth leader with a community, think about which of these personas exist in your community.
The Consumer - this is the most common persona in a community, and often acts as the entry point for other personas. The consumer utilizes your product, service or application, and their focus is on realizing the value. What they want is simple - up to date information on the product, troubleshoot any issues they face, and occasionally provide feedback
The Cheerleader - this member goes the extra mile, because they are happy to be in the community. They often want to meet other cheerleaders, have spirited discussions on various topics (which are often unrelated to the core product / service). These members also often actively provide unsolicited feedback. What they want is to feel connected with others - relationships and conversations keep them going
The Librarian - the librarian produces content. Whether it is documentation and guidance about the product, or humorous memes to keep conversations light-hearted, these members produce content that is valuable for other members. Importantly, content is powerful because it accumulates over time, and increases affinity for both the creator and the consumer. While it often lacks the polish and professionalism a marketing team might be able to execute, the authenticity is what inspires other members and builds confidence that “this is a community worth staying for”. What these Librarians want is amplification - for their works to be seen and recognized by other members as well as the company itself, so they establish higher social credibility
The Promoter - these are advocates who go above and beyond to share about the community with non-members. They actively create tweets, talk on podcasts, and even organize events to get others interested and involved. For them, growth leaders should ensure they have the flexibility, support and permission to advocate, without being held back for fear of going “off brand”
Across these personas, growth leaders will be well-served to remember that their roles is to provide the stewardship and guidance for members to achieve their goals. In particular, community leadership calls for listening, learning and guidance - instead of dominating or over-exerting control. Sometimes, this means a growth leader being the community leader - but not always. There might be situations where another individual who is not leading growth and marketing is more suited for community leadership, or it could be multiple individuals who represent and lead different parts of the community. What is important is the ability to help the different personas in the community take decisive actions, manage conflicts, and provide a composed and stable hand to lead.
To conclude, designing a community is not difficult - but it takes effort and thoughtful consideration. The well-designed, close-knit communities can seem deceptively simple and “accidental”, but it often involves growth leaders who have engaged themselves in a never-ending flow of content, techniques, and narratives. Growth leaders are only as good as the ideas, approaches and experiences they have been exposed to. Thus, the parting advice we have is - persist in the study of community and seek new experiences, because action leads to progress, which keeps people engaged.