Why (and How) I Created an Online Community

This week, I launched an online community - or, said another way, I created a LinkedIn Group and Slack Workspace, and a few interested folks joined.

Launching this community was something I ruminated on for the last 2-3 months, though it only took about 2 hours to setup.

Initially, the idea to create a community came from an exercise where I attempted to map out the top 100 thought leaders in my industries, aka CoLo Consulting’s competition. 

I realized that I occupied a strange cross-section of the business world between strategy & process consulting, health technology, and customer success. 

After seeing myself within that Venn Diagram, I tried to find the industry leader. Who was the most well-known healthtech customer success consultant?

Even Google had a hard time coming up with answers. Go ahead and google “healthtech customer success consultant” - you’ll find a Canadian consulting company and loads of job openings. 

Though I wasn’t able to find someone who was the obvious industry leader, through my search, I was exposed to a number of online communities, specifically within Customer Success. 

It was after seeing how engaged the members of these Customer Success communities were, I saw an opportunity to create my own. The twist? All of the Customer Success communities I saw were industry-agnostic, so mine would be specific to healthcare technology (or “HealthTech”).

So, at the end of 2020, I set out to create the first HealthTech specific Customer Success Community. But how do you create a community?

I did a bit of market research on what communities existed. I started reading a few books on community building. I created a Notion document outlining the vision and purpose behind my imagined community. 

Then I “got out of the building” to see if anyone wanted to join.

Gauging Interest (Jan 2021)

While the seed of creating the “HealthTech Customer Success” community was planted in late 2020, it wasn’t until the end of January 2021 when I started making any tangible steps towards making the idea a reality.

I knew my first order of business was finding people interested in joining the community. Because, you know, to have a community you need other people. But, how?

I decided to post in the existing Customer Success communities I was now a member of (I had joined after finding them in my mapping exercise) to see if there was anyone else in healthcare.

This is the actual post that I sent off in the r/CustomerSuccess subreddit in January 2021:

The response wasn’t overwhelming (half of the 12 comments were mine), but I met a few folks that seemed interested in chatting further - so, I took that as a good sign.

I posted a similar message in the other general Customer Success groups and by the end of the week, I had connected with ~10 potential members.

It was with this early show of interest I decided to move forward with creating the group.

Tactical Setup of the Community (Feb 2021)

With the bare minimum of market validation, I set out to turn my Notion outline into a real-life community.

Being someone with a perfectionist complex and often hesitant to release something that isn’t “ready,” I decided that I just needed to launch something. It didn’t need to be perfect right away.

So I gave myself a limit of posting something online within 24 hours from when I decided to pull the trigger. I effectively tried to put constraints on my perfectionist complex.

Selecting the Platform(s) - LinkedIn Groups and Slack

With my self-imposed 24-hour timer operating in the background, I reviewed the available platform options. Ultimately, I decided to create the community as a LinkedIn Group with an accompanying Slack Workspace. Creating the Slack space was a suggestion from an early adopter of the group.

While I don’t love the thought of maintaining two platforms, I think it’s important for the group to have a LinkedIn presence. In my experience, most healthcare people’s go-to social media platform is LinkedIn (as opposed to Twitter, Instagram, Clubhouse, etc.). 

The problem with LinkedIn Groups is that while member numbers can be quite high, engagement is typically quite low and posts feel spammy. The most engaged communities I’ve seen are built on Facebook Groups or Slack Communities.

So while I know healthcare people are on LinkedIn, I’m hopeful that I can get them to join Slack for actual conversation.

We’ll see how it goes, but I could imagine the community taking the following form: 

  • The LinkedIn Group being the “Welcome Sign” that initially helps people find the community (leveraging LinkedIn’s SEO) 
  • Slack being where most of the actual conversation takes place
  • The website being the long-term home of the community - where the content lives

Startup Costs - $9.00

Creating LinkedIn Groups and Slack Workspaces are free. So where does the $9 startup cost come from?

I bought the domain www.healthtechcs.com through NameCheap for $9/year. While I didn’t develop anything for the website pre-launch, I plan on developing it over the coming weeks/months.

I’m pretty comfortable with a $9 initial investment - though I do plan to leverage some tools I already pay for as part of CoLo (Gsuite, Zoom, etc.), so the $9 may not be entirely accurate.

My Goals for the Community

There are a few reasons why I created the community and none of them have to do with making money.

Meet Interesting People

First, I’m hopeful that the community will be a great excuse to reach out to people I want to talk to.

Sometimes when I reach out to people under my CoLo title, I feel like my outbound could be misconstrued as a sales conversation or have a transactional undercurrent. 

There are a number of people I’d love to learn from across the industry and I’m hopeful the community will facilitate those connections.

Build Something New

While I have most definitely not mastered building an independent consultancy, I think figuring out how to build a community will be a nice, new challenge. 

I’m hopeful the lessons learned from attempting to add value to a group of people will add to my builder skillset. 

Industry Expertise

I’m hopeful that being responsible for building a community in healthcare will keep me accountable for continually learning more about the industry. 

In pursuit of consistency and bringing something new to the group, I envision being forced to learn quickly and needing to distill that information into something consumable.

I may not become the go-to person for HealthTech Customer Success overnight, but I’m hopeful the group will help me move in that direction.

So What Comes Next?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t have a growth plan or KPIs that I’m trying to hit over the next month or year.

Generally, I hope more people join (as I write this our LinkedIn Group member count is at 9) - but I don’t think tracking membership numbers will be an accurate way to judge the usefulness of the community. 

My personal North Star of the group will be how many people the group positively impacts in some way.

I know that sounds corny, but it’s the truth. 

If someone is able to find a new job through a connection in the group, that’s a win.

If someone is able to use something they learned from an invited speaker to impress their boss at their job, that’s a win.

If the group can make those things happen, then it’s successful.

That being said, there are a few tactical things that I’d like to experiment with early on:

  • Highlight community members: I’d like to speak with people who join and create posts about who they are and their contributions to the HealthTech CS community
  • Speak with industry leaders: I’d like to connect with leaders in the healthtech CS industry and speak with as many as I can - hopefully turning those conversations into content (blog posts, podcasts, videos, etc.)
  • Build a website and start developing content: I’m still in the early stages of figuring out what content would be most valuable to the community, but I’m hopeful I can start creating useful guides/blogs/etc. for the healthtech CS community (both members and non-members)

I think this will be an interesting experiment and I look forward to publishing updates here on the site as things unfold. Be sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss any future articles!