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The CEO asked, "Do we need a community?"

I was deep in a conversation about go-to-market strategies when the CEO interjected, "Look, we've visited your website, and we've delved into your blogs. The pressing question for us is, 'Do we need a community?'"

Leading an early-stage software start-up geared towards the IT sector, this CEO hadn't made significant strides into community-centric endeavors. But now, with growth and scalability in focus, the allure of community-led marketing was hard to ignore.

His inquiry wasn't one to be glossed over with a mere "yes" or "no". It hinged upon expectations—both for the company's advancement and for enriching the community. At that juncture, I couldn’t discern if he was gunning for quick, tactical results or a more sustained, strategic impact. Additionally, I lacked a grasp of their prior commitments to community-led efforts.

In such scenarios, I usually steer the conversation with foundational questions:


  • How soon are you expecting tangible outcomes?
  • Is the envisaged community centered around your product or the larger industry?
  • Is there someone on your team poised to dedicate a minimum of 1,000 hours over the next year to actively engage with the community?
  • Can you articulate the objectives behind nurturing this community?
  • Who, in your estimation, would be the ideal participants for this community?
  • How would you quantify success arising from community-driven endeavors?


For those dipping their toes into community-led waters, these questions serve as invaluable anchors. While tactical community initiatives can yield immediate yet limited outcomes, strategic ones may demand patience but promise substantial dividends.

Consider a conversation I had with a CMO of another software firm. Their attempt at community engagement was a monthly 30-minute video interview with an industry personality, which they dispersed across social media channels. While they garnered a few hundred impressions momentarily, the initial enthusiasm would quickly dissipate amidst the vast sea of digital content. Their yearly investment? A mere six hours. No surprise there wasn't a notable return.

If you haven't explored my piece on The 1,000-Hour Community Rule, I'd recommend diving in next. Nurturing communities is akin to nurturing relationships—it demands time and sincerity. A 6-hour annual investment pales against others devoting thousands of hours, cultivating relationships, and fostering value. To put it in perspective, imagine dedicating just six hours a year to partnership development or product enhancement. The impact? Virtually non-existent.

Committing to community-led ventures should be a deliberated strategic choice for business leaders. It deserves the same scrutiny as any other business decision:


  • What is the envisioned outcome?
  • How much commitment is needed to drive results?
  • Why prioritize this over other potential investments?
  • Whom do we intend to serve through this?
  • How will we measure our success?


Once these questions are addressed, the path becomes clearer.

However, another enlightening approach involves envisioning an optimally thriving community—picture 10,000 or even 100,000 fervent weekly participants. What activities bind them? What drives their regular participation? What's the perceived value, both for them and for your business? What role does your organization play in this ecosystem?

In our rapidly evolving digital landscape, genuine commitment to our communities distinguishes the fleeting from the impactful. It's not just about metrics or strategies but the depth of connection and the cultivation of an environment where every participant feels seen and valued. As leaders and innovators, our time, passion, and authenticity become our most potent tools. In the grand tapestry of community-led endeavors, it's this authentic engagement that sets the stage for enduring success and resonance.