The Growth of Online Communities

Andy Tran
3 min readMar 23, 2021


Originally published at

The best definition of community I believe is from Holly Firestone, who is the VP of Community at Venafi:

“A group of individuals connected through a network of platforms, programs, and resources. These platforms, programs, and resources give customers the power to build together, support one another, contribute to business goals, and find their paths to success alongside other customers.”

Today, we will dive into the online community landscape, the process to build a community and the people that you should follow!

Perhaps it is to solve problems that exist in their lives. Or to seek a transformation and a sense of identity. Maybe it’s to achieve change through accountability and knowledge-sharing? Whatever the reason, here are a few examples of great online communities:

  • Anne-Laure Le Cunff, the founder of Ness Labs, has a community for entrepreneurship.
  • Maxim Zavadskiy, the founder of Growth Club, has a community for peer-to-peer coaching for founders.
Source: Nick deWilde

Most online communities have a 90–9–1 participation ratio. Of all the members, 90% are passive consumers, 9% are active contributors, and 1% are super-contributors. Of every 10 communities you’re a part of, you may be actively contributing to just 1. What makes you contribute to that community?

The path to building a community starts with a self-assessment to determine whether or not this is for you:

  • Do you have an audience and do you know what goal or outcome is desired by them?
  • Do you want to build a memorable experience for your content — a place for your followers to join and to learn alongside you?
  • Do you have the time? Once you build momentum, will your audience be enabled to provide value to each other?

If you are determined to start, here is a short 5-step process that I’m following to build a community. For those not looking to build a community, I hope you can reflect on the communities you’re a part of and see how you can become a super-contributor for the ones that most aligns with your interests.

1. Narrow down the Value Proposition

Instead of talking about the exact product or service you are offering, it’s helpful to provide the job-to-be-done that you are working towards. For example, a VC might say that they help entrepreneurs fund their dreams.

2. Validate your Value Proposition

Building a community is hard work. You must be passionate and determined, as community building takes time. Interview your audience. Ensure that your community objectives align with their goals:

  • What activities are they interested in?
  • What communities do they already participate in and why?
  • What can you do to be their go-to community?

3. Identify the type of community that you want to build.

Is it going to be a private, paid community? Public? A mix of both? Here are some reasons to consider having a private community:

  • Free communities talk, but paid communities accomplish tasks and reach targets.
  • You can focus on offering engaging activities for smaller groups such as courses, coaching calls, and live events.

4. Build the community

Start small. Start off with 1 on 1 relationships with your core audience members. Then work towards establishing and enabling personal discussions and relationships between community members.

5. Launch and scale!

  • Develop a content strategy to bring in traffic.
  • Develop metrics to track on a weekly or monthly cadence. Consider having metrics to track revenue, engagement, growth, and the health of the community.

I recommend taking a look at these five individuals to learn more about online communities:

  1. Rosie Sherry — Founder of RosieLand, former community lead at IndieHackers.
  2. John @ YEN — Building a platform where anyone can launch, manage, and monetize a growing audience & community on their own website.
  3. Lolita Taub — VC in community-driven companies.
  4. David Spinks — Founder of CMX, Author of The Business of Belonging.
  5. Carrie Melissa Jones — Author of Building Brand Communities.

Interested in learning more about the community I want to build? Reach out!

Thank you to Shwetha and Emily for their feedback and suggestions.

Originally published at



Andy Tran

PM @GoSenso | Co-Founder @TOHacks | I write about the Passion Economy, Community, and Productivity | views = own