More and more people are starting to build communities, and with Skool’s Membership Challenge coming up, I wanted to share some things that we've done to build and maintain the "Disneyland for Dentists" ashas called it in some of his podcast appearances (linked in the comments below).
We run a large Facebook group (we started it before Skool was a thing) in the dental space and currently have 55,000+ US-based dentists in the community. Engagement in the group is constantly around 90% (meaning that ~50k of the 55k members have engaged in the past 60 days).
The community was grown 100% organically. Not a single dollar was spent on promotion.
Here are the things that we did (and continue to do) to grow the group organically:
2. We contacted "all-stars" in the group and asked if they'd post regularly. If they agreed, we assigned them a day of the week. We have had dozens of incredible group members posting once per week on their scheduled day for years. These people come and go, but we always have an excellent rotation of group members consistently posting in the group. This helps to have great content from other people rather than from admins. This also encourages other group members to post and engage as it's more of a community sharing ideas rather than top-down from the leaders.
3. We have a very clear set of rules and enforce them daily. When you apply to join the group, you're required to agree to the rules. We have interns who monitor every single post and comment daily to ensure the rules are followed. Posts/comments that break the rules are flagged and removed, and the poster is notified of which rule they broke. This keeps the group very high level and doesn't get off topic at all. This further improves the overall quality of the content that's being shared.
4. We only let in around 200-300 people per week. We often have 5,000+ people waiting to join the group. This means that some people wait 6+ months for their application to the community to be approved. We do this for a couple of reasons. The first was that when we let in more than 200-300 per week, the group would "get away from us" because there were too many new members who weren't familiar with the rules, the quality of content being shared, etc. We’ve found that an unintentional benefit of this waiting period is that the longer people wait, the less likely they are to break the rules and risk being removed from the group.
5. We don’t sell anything in the group. We turn down every request from people who want to advertise to the group, and we don’t even advertise our courses. The only thing we promote in the group is signing up for our email newsletter. We likely leave a lot of money on the table doing this, but we truly value the quality of the group over our bottom line.
6. We do a bunch of little things that don’t scale. For example, when someone tags someone in a post/comment that isn’t in the group, one of our interns replies to that comment letting them know that the person they tagged isn’t part of the group and suggesting that they invite them to join.
7. We encourage people to invite their entire dental school alumni to the group. Most dental school classes have their own groups on Facebook and group members will regularly invite their whole class to the group. This was rocket fuel for our organic growth (but don’t forget the incredible content part mentioned above - no one will share a crappy group with their entire peer group).
8. We painstakingly created and maintained an index of all the best posts categorized by topic. This was done initially because Facebook’s search tool was so bad that great posts were getting buried and we wanted to be able to direct people back to them when they were asking about specific topics. We discovered this index was an extremely valuable resource for someone looking to learn more about a particular topic or brush up on a procedure. For example, if someone wants to learn more about placing dental implants, they can go to the index and find links to 168 posts neatly organized in one place. The index is updated daily by an intern, and the document is now 116,138 words, covering 335 pages!
9. We made the group about one part of density rather than everything. This allows us to "give away the farm" and make the quality of the content incredible since it doesn't water down any of our course offerings. We didn't do this on purpose, but looking back I think this was a very lucky choice. If you have a community or plan to start one, think about one aspect of your niche that could limit your group discussion. That way you can give give give, making it more likely that you’re helping people in your community. There's no better way to show that you can help someone than by actually helping them (h/t).
9. Put the quality of the group above everything else. (This really should be #1 on the list.)
Starting a community can be life-changing in so many ways. If you’re thinking about starting a community, do it today!
Remember, always keep the quality of the community the most important thing, and have a long-term outlook for your group. Stay consistent with your content (commit to the community for 1 year), and you’ll give yourself a great chance of success.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them below.
Good luck with your new community and the upcoming Skool Membership Challenge. I’m rooting for you!