MetaBUILD Mentorship Series, Episode 6: Building Community

Maria Yarotska
Hackathon Coordinator, NEAR.

November 8, 2022

Heads up builders, we’re 2 weeks away from the submission deadline! MetaBUILD is the largest online hackathon for those who build on NEAR and Aurora, and we are proud to say that over 6 weeks almost 2000 people joined the community and submitted over 600 drafts for their future projects. We’ve been hosting weekly mentorship series on Twitter followed by a quick recap for those who prefer reading to listening – here are the links to our previous sessions:

This week we invited Rim from Ref Finance and Proximity along with Lorny from Pagoda to talk about their main expertise – community building. Here’s what we learned.


Why is Community Important to Web3 Projects?

Rim: Community matters because if you take decentralization seriously you’re blurring the hierarchy on the human level. You blur the separation between the creator, the user, the fan, the token holder and whatnot. Within Web3 there are no major differences between producers, consumers, creators or fans.

In Web3 you have this very unique privilege where your users partake in governance, they hold your tokens, they're almost acting like stockholders. You have to listen to their decisions, and there's a lot of mobility where you can start, for instance, as a telegram mod or like a discord mod, and then you start working as a core member of the protocol. So there's a lot of democratization that comes with the Web3 space.

For Web3 projects, especially in this stage, the community is different from, say, professional Youtubers or content creators from whom this is their fans and audience. For us, that's the people using your protocol, holding your tokens, people who are affected by the decisions you make, and the feedback they give affects your protocol in return. Community matters in our space because Web3 blurred the line between the projects and their users as they essentially fuel your protocol to be sustainable and sticky.


Lorny: For developers and technical products, the community is what gives you feedback and insights. In the earlier stages, it takes a lot more time when you're building out your community to have those one-on-one conversations to onboard your core contributors. And I think taking that time is actually very much required to build that trust between the folks that are going to be your champions for the years to come.

The goal is to scale the entire process to include more developers with different backgrounds and programming languages. It is important to build out your community team or developer relations team to have those advocates or champions to be able to provide the support and to fill in your community. It's definitely smart to have talent on your team that can then serve the needs of the community. 


In Terms of Metrics, How do we Know When Community Management is Successful?

Rim: Community is an immaterial thing, which means that a successful community is often measured in qualitative terms rather than quantitative terms. I would definitely say you have to put a number on these things and report on them to share it with the whole team.

Sometimes they're not going to be satisfied just because we have great jokes and great memes in the community. That's often not enough to convince the team about the success of your community. If you had to give a number, you’ll have to adjust the expectations and KPI’s to the time and ecosystem you belong to. For a DeFi project in NEAR ecosystem during the bear market, 1000-2000 community members on Telegram or Discord would be considered a successful launch.

Usually you would look at which class of projects you belong to in your field, and then try to see their metrics and try to be at least up to par with where they are. And then obviously to exceed it because community is something that you can grow endlessly, so you can definitely shoot for the stars there.

Lorny: I think one of the key metrics for success from the business side of things is what value do you add to your community. Constant support means things like how long a person has to wait to have their question answered. Some metrics exist for vanity: let's say you have 20,000 people in your discord, but 18,000 of them could be inactive. But then if you really dive to take a closer look, you might see that people are only reacting to event announcements and promo codes. It is really important to ask your community what they need and want as opposed to having a top-down Web2 approach without any feedback.

One of the core components for driving your success is the intent for what you're building. Will people actually need this, or do people actually want what you're building right now is another key question that you can validate by just asking your community members.


What is a Go-to Toolset for Someone Who is Starting Working on Their Community? Social Media and Beyond.

Lorny: I think it really depends on what the needs are for your communication. If it's a technical product and you need multiple channels, I think discord is the go to for promotion and being in the know on crypto. Twitter, albeit maybe soon Mastodon, who knows. Add Telegram, and it seems to be the trifecta of core tools if you want to dig into a data-driven community.

For intelligence, I’d try using Discord analytics or a tool like Orbit that gives you insights. It would be great to start there with the core tools for comms, for promo, user support, and feedback.

Rim: Practically speaking I would say definitely have a Twitter. At this point having a Twitter is quintessential, and that's going to be your announcement platform. That's where all of your users are going to get official news from the team. In addition to that, you can choose any medium that you want. It can be Telegram or Discord – usually it will be either one of these or both. If you're fancy, you can do Reddit. If you're very savvy, you can do YouTube and TikTok, but probably you’ll be using Telegram or Discord or both in addition to Twitter.

Sometimes teams don't have the bandwidth because the team itself is small, or because they're not necessarily proficient in community and they don't have the right person to do both Telegram and Discord. I would say, choose the form that fits the function that you need. 

Depending on the kind of protocol that you are, you might need more events or community activations like office hours. If you have to make a choice because of bandwidth or limited resources, choose the one that fits your requirements and then stick with it for the long run, as long as your project survives. Stick with the one that you can confidently manage, consistently deliver and be obsessive over. Because with community, the key things are presence, consistency and the creation of culture. 


Meetups: How, When and Why we do it?

Lorny: I hate the answer being like “well it depends”, but it does depend on what you're looking for. You’ve got to get in the founder mindset if you really want to scale and make your project a company, so what would a founder do? You know you've got to go hit the pavement for talent or spread the word about your company wherever you go, whether online or in person. People are going to meetups to see someone working on something similar to what they’re building, chat and hopefully find a co-founder or a teammate. 

Rim: My advice is to do it with intent. During this time people feel scattered. It's a time to boost morale and you just want people to come together, get to know each other and have a sense of community. That reflects the specific intent that you're putting into the meet up or something more specific like a hackathon or an ideathon. 

During the bear market most projects don't have unlimited resources. Hosting a bunch of meetups requires a lot of money, time and energy but it doesn’t actually contribute to your own protocol and project. So definitely pick and choose meetups, don't do them too frequently unless you have a reason to, and don't wear yourself too thin. I believe in the great value of in person meetups, but it's always about balance.


Airdrops and Giveaways – When, How and Why?

Rim: Simple Airdrops and giveaways are great marketing tactics, tried and true, which can do a great job of initial exposure and bootstrapping an influx of new community members. But this is something you use only once or twice to bootstrap, and ideally more so to reward existing and active users rather than new. Often you'll do giveaways and simply end up with a few hundred bots in your discord or have them all gradually leave after several weeks. Retaining users matters more than getting them.

And in general, just like how DeFi business models move away from simply burning the treasury to attract rotators to creating opportunities like "real yield" or a PMF that attracts real users and actually generates revenue, I think we can and should move towards the same in community attraction/acquisition. Less burning money to get bots or non committal drifters. More focus on community culture, community brand recognition, rewarding activity in the community channels , superfans/enthusiasts, and more importantly, powerusers. 

And fundamentally, if the product sucks or doesn't have PMF none of this will really work in the long run. Unless you're Dogecoin and have iconic cultural status! :)


Stay tuned for the next episode on MetaBUILD's mentorships, focused on community building. Thanks everyone participating in these sessions, keep on building as we get to the last weeks left to prepare submissions for MetaBUILD

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