June 5, 2017

The Beginner's Guide to Community Building

A roundup of links and guides for thinking about and building communities online.

This morning, fresh off a call with a client who’s building a new online community from scratch I wanted to find a good “beginner’s guide to community” or similar. I tweeted out this:

The responses were frankly amazing. I think I struck a vein somehow? Below is a roundup of all the amazing and fascinating links I received:

The community canvas

What is the Community Canvas? It is a framework that will help you build a community, analyze a community or improve an existing community.

With guides, worksheets, a visual summary and a full 61-page guidebook this looks about as close to the “ultimate guide” that I’ve seen.


Rich Millington of Feverbee has been writing and thinking about communities for a looong time and he’s got some gems.

The ultimate guide to building an online community from 2013 looks like a comprehensive resource:

And, his strategic community management piece looks very exec friendly too:

Tired of chasing elusive higher engagement metrics? Struggling to prioritize your work? Not sure what to measure or what will have the biggest impact? This comprehensive guide to community strategy will help you understand and approach your community strategically.

CMXhub Community Canvas

Another canvas (what’s with all the community canvases? just alliteration?). This is pretty high level but again, another useful exec friendly one page format:

The Community Strategy Canvas is laid out in three levels: Alignment is where you think high-level about why your community exists, what the goals are, who members are, and the culture you’ll create. Development is where you plan out how you will actually build and measure your community. Management is the infrastructure that creates an environment for your community team to succeed within your organization.

And, if that’s too entry level for you, the founder of CMXhub, David Spinks, stopped by to share this on the psychological sense of community:

In 1974, psychologist Seymour Sarason’s seminal book introduced the concept of “psychological sense of community,” and proposed that it become the conceptual center for the psychology of community, asserting that psychological sense of community “is one of the major bases for self-definition”

147 PDF from Genuinely

Wow. If you’re really looking to sink your teeth into something the completely comprehensive and detailed guide from Mack at Genuinely is 147 pages and appears to be super useful:

The Truly Monumental Guide to Building Online Communities is for companies who want to build an engaged audience around their brand. It’s for companies who are just starting out and want to build that community of lifelong customers, and it’s also for companies who already have communities but are looking to serve them better and improve their own business in the process.

As you work through this guide, know that there’s more than one way of doing this community building stuff. We’ve provided our suggestion for a process that has been incredibly powerful for us and our clients. Our hope is that you’ll add your wisdom and your experiences and make the process your own. In the end, our intention is to teach you how to effectively build community and also to move your company forward.

Edouard’s sprawling notes on Learning Garden

Ed was kind enough to share three sprawling deep webs of links he’s curated around online learning and communities. If you’re looking to get nerdy and deep I think there’s tons here (disclaimer I’ve not read half of this yet!)


How could we talk about online communities without referencing stackoverflow and Joel Spolsky? Here, a video linked to by @firstconversion which is perhaps more story driven than “how-to”. And, I’m sure I could link to hundreds of more links from Joel….

Joel Spolsky - Cultural Anthropology of Stack Exchange (video)

Hopefully this sparks some interesting discussions and thinking. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who stopped by to help share resources! If you have more interesting links to share please leave them in the comments below:

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: