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Ask a Community Manager: What Does It Take to Run a Successful Online Community?

Chris "Toper" Ravadilla is an expert at growing online communities. We ask him about what the best online communities have in common, and tips for community managers to super charge their strategies.

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by Phillip Russell, Content & Editorial Manager for Mighty Pro

May 9

Chris “Toper” Ravadilla is a high-performing marketing management expert, as well as a community manager and strategist with years of experience under his belt. From running his own successful online community to now guiding the community strategy for some of Mighty Pro’s top networks, Toper knows a lot about building thriving communities.


Chris "Toper" Ravadilla


As a Community Strategist for Mighty Pro, Toper helps equip community managers and others within the organization with the tools they need to succeed and reach their target goals. Some of the Mighty Pro networks that he works with include:


- Spirit Science’s Spirit Mysteries: (Youtube Channel w/ 1.21 M subscribers, and a Mighty Pro network with 3000+ members)
- Zach Bush’s Journey of Intrinsic Health: (A Mighty Pro network with 550+ members)
- Aaron Doughty’s HighViber Community: (Youtube Channel w/ 1.26 subscribers, and a Mighty Pro network with 18,000+ members)
- Mindbody’s MindBody One Community: (A Mighty Pro network with 15900+ members)


I sat down with Toper to talk about all things community, and how community managers can unlock new levels of member growth and retention, as well as create more sustainable work lives for themselves.


What do you think are the main pain points that community managers run into when they're trying to run communities?


Toper: From my perspective, there are two different kinds of Hosts. The solo entrepreneur, who's trying to do it all: marketing, sales, financials, product development sessions, community building, and community moderation. Typically with these Hosts, the biggest challenge obviously is resources, specifically time to manage the community and make sure it's super healthy and engaged.


On the other side of that, there's the second kind of Host, people like influencers with large audiences building the community out of a secondary and sustainable source of revenue. For these individuals, the biggest challenge is knowing where to start. They ask questions like, “How do you build a community?” “Where do you start?” “How do you keep people engaged?”


So not knowing the framework in which to build a community is the biggest challenge. But one of the biggest challenges for these Hosts is the mental shift from thought leader to community manager. Instead of producing one-directional content, it’s more about driving member-to-member relationships and peer-to-peer learning.


So it sounds like team sizes are pretty small for many communities, even the most successful ones. What do these teams look like normally?


Toper: It definitely depends, but let’s talk about professional networks that are extensions of a larger brand, like Mindbody’s MindBody One community, for example. They are a large, successful organization and they only have two people managing the community of over 16,000 members.
Regardless of resources I typically see two to four people managing a community. What I’ve seen recently, however, is many organizations realize the value that a community can ring regardless of whatever organization type that you have.


So do you think we’re going to continue seeing a shift toward organizations going all-in on community building?


Toper: For sure. Although we see very small team sizes today my prediction is that that will change as more and more organizations see the value of community and invest in the community. For example, I’m working with organizations that are realizing that their communities are generating serious revenue and pipeline, even if that wasn't the intent of the community. We're on the cusp of organizations realizing what it means to build a community, and how it can add value to anyone's business.


What kinds of tools and platform features do you think are essential for community managers?


Toper: Concrete ways to track metrics like what your daily active member rate is, how many members are actively coming back to the community, and what percentage of those active members are contributing are essential. I think that those metrics really speak to the health of a community.


Having an email service provider like MailChimp is another important tool because communities need multiple channels of notifications for contacting their members. Because we need multiple points of contact to drive traffic towards a certain post or a certain event that's happening within the community.


And finally, you need good design, aesthetics really matter when driving engagement in communities. There are a lot of easy-to-use solutions out there now too, programs like Canva, for instance.


What do you think sets apart very successful communities from those that are struggling? Are there any similar characteristics?


Toper: Two things come to mind immediately. The most successful communities are very specific about their Ideal Member. They’ve niched down to a point where they can talk specifically to their audiences. This is important because it immediately allows community managers to build a kinship between members and this all comes down to their Community Design.


I compare it to a party, if it's really bumping and if I’m meeting people that look and speak like me, with shared interests and values, then I'd want to stick around and meet everybody. The same is true of communities and that’s easier to accomplish if you are specific with your target niche.


Secondly, the most successful communities are clear about their strategy to build forward momentum. I see organizations struggle when they can simply build a community with no specific direction in mind or clear results they’re trying to hit. It’s hard to get people invested when your community is aimless.


The best communities understand that being deliberate, having content and experiences for members to look forward to, and creating an onboarding experience for members is essential because those first 30, 60, and 90 days have to be really robust.


Any tips for community managers to help with creating those experiences for members that make them want to stick around and contribute?


Toper: I think there are some simple things community managers can do to set themselves up for success. Have a great culture document for members to set expectations for interacting. Create a stellar welcome checklist to guide members as they onboard. And of course a well-made “Welcome” video.


But here’s something else, I’ve noticed that will really help community managers. Some of the most successful communities I’ve interacted with lean into using cohorts for onboarding. That way, those who have joined around the same time get to be in a specific group where they can bond and communicate with others like them.


It’s basically like creating a micro-community within the broader community and those bonds formed in the smaller groups leak out into the whole which grows engagement.


Last question, you’re a veteran community manager and creator, I'm curious where do you go to check the pulse for conversation around community management? Anywhere in particular that you frequent or check in on?


I've been watching a lot of the YouTubers, Colin and Samir. I think that they do a great job speaking about the algorithm, especially burnout because of the algorithm. I think content that acknowledges the realities of good mental health in community building and the importance of creating a sustainable business model is very important.

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