Do you believe in a community driven future?
Tune in for an insightful discussion on community building, a look behind the scenes at Mac and Jacob’s road to Commsor, and why community is the new moat.
This episode is for the community builders, the community leaders, and everyone else who believes that community always comes first. Let’s go #tothemoon!
💡 The Big Ideas
- Why companies like Notion or Figma are unbeatable
- How community fits into the dark forest theory of the internet
- The biggest misconception companies have about community
- How to understand and pick the right channel for your community...
- …But also why community is more than the platform it exists on
- The difference between building an audience and building a community
Mac Reddin is a serial entrepreneur and maker with a passionate love for tea and community. With roots in the Lego and Minecraft communities, Mac also worked as a Product & Community Manager at Digital Tree Media and as a UI Designer at Concourse Global before diving into his latest venture, Commsor.
Jacob Peters is a veteran community organizer with experience as both an ‘intrapreneur’ and entrepreneur, including co-organizing Kaggle NYC — New York’s largest group of data scientists, data engineers, and machine learning enthusiasts. After three years at J.P. Morgan, Jacob now brings his love of technology, data, and community to Commsor.
- Listen to this episode on SyncUp with SwagUp
- Connect with Mac on LinkedIn
- Connect with Jacob on LinkedIn
- Explore Commsor for your company
🚀 Get Started With SwagUp
Keep reading for a sneak preview of everything discussed in this podcast episode!
A Throwback to the Lego Days
Most people bond over their favorite TV shows, sports teams, and latest hobbies.
Mac and Jacob bonded over running a profitable Lego business — as teenagers. The Commsor founders recall the Lego days as one of the earliest signs of their entrepreneurial talents.
“The funniest part of all of this is that this is something that I used to be super embarrassed to admit or tell my friends about,” Jacob says, “But now I'm out here [...] on the podcast circuit sharing the story.”
Jacob was 12 when he realized that there was a business opportunity before him. “I was the kid that never outgrew the hobby of Lego building,” Jacob says, “I would build these big creations and then one thing led to another.”
He began to find Lego bricks at garage sales, Craigslist, and secondhand collections where the owners were either completely discarding or selling the pieces very cheaply. And that meant Jacob could buy tens of thousands of bricks.
Useful for a Lego collector, but not profitable — unless you could figure out which Lego sets you actually had in those big unsorted lots. And with practice, that’s exactly what Jacob did. He rebuilt the original sets and then sold them on the internet for a 10-20x ROI.
“Why don't we leverage our community learnings from the Lego days — what [Mac’s] done building the Minecraft business, and my community experience running this community of analytics professionals in New York — to solve some of the biggest community management challenges and pain points that we see in the market? That was the birth of Commsor.”
— JACOB PETERS, CO-FOUNDER AT COMMSOR
While Jacob turned a mass of unsorted pieces into complete Lego sets, Mac took the opposite approach: “I realized that you could buy new Lego sets and park individual pieces out for more than the full set cost. [...] I actually had a whole algorithm where I’d track sets that came out and identify all the piece values and figure out which sets had the best ROI.”
Armed with that information, Mac would wait for a Lego set to go on sale at a store like Target or Walmart, then — knowing he had a good ROI — buy multiple of the same set. And the strategy worked.
“One of the best parts was that [you’d] get to keep the parts you want [...] Maybe you’ve reduced your ROI in some sense because you keep some of the parts, but you’re basically getting paid to keep the Lego you want,” Mac says. His parents, however, weren’t as pleased. “They’re like, why are you getting 30 of the same Lego set?”
Mac and Jacob’s past experiences with the Lego community wasn’t just something they bonded over — looking back, the co-founders see some parallels between their learnings from the Lego community and their current path as professional community builders.
“Community is not new,” Mac says. Pokemon, baseball cards, Lego, influencers - almost anything you can think of has the potential to gain a community. What’s changed is how people are finding community through technology. “Now we’re starting to see it become mainstream [where] big companies, Fortune 500 startups, adopt it as a growth channel.”
Building Community in the Modern Workplace
Commsor’s timing couldn’t have been better. “We're at an interesting time as a world and as a society,” Jacob says. As the world grows more digital, establishing real human connection becomes more valuable than ever before. And in some ways, the outlook so far hasn’t been good.
“People are just more and more feeling alone,” Jacob says, “There are studies out there that say 30% of millennials really don’t have any friends or they don't have a single person they could call their best friend. Which is interesting [...] because everyone has a smartphone. We’re all on Instagram, everyone’s on social media. So we’re technically more connected than ever, but there’s just this overall feeling of loneliness.”
Whether you think social media is part of the problem or simply long due an overhaul, it’s clear that social media isn’t enough. And for the co-founders of Commsor, there exists a difference between the value provided through social media and the value gained from a community platform.
“There is a need and a desire and a want and a lot of social factors that are leading to the finding and discovering and wanting to be a part of a niche in a more intimate community group,” Jacob says.
Mac agrees: “If someone follows you on Twitter, your existing Twitter followers don't get a benefit. In a proper community, members actually benefit when other members join and engage, which you don't see on traditional social media.” Moreover with social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, users are more likely to put on a persona. Whereas in smaller communities, Mac says, “You’re more likely to be yourself, more likely to be vulnerable and have real conversations.”
“If you have 500 Twitter followers, that's 500 connections. You'd have 500 people,” Mac says, “If you have 500 engaged people in a Slack community, a Meetup group, whatever it might be, that's [more than] 62,000 potential connections between those members. The magnitude of impact is drastically higher with community-driven models versus traditional social-driven models.”
“If you have 500 Twitter followers, that's 500 connections. You'd have 500 people. [But] if you have 500 engaged people in a Slack community, a Meetup group, whatever it might be, that's [more than] 62,000 potential connections between those members. The magnitude of impact is drastically higher with community-driven models versus traditional social-driven models.”
— MAC REDDIN, CO-FOUNDER AT COMMSOR
Commsor: The CRM for Your Community
Interested in launching your own community?
Be careful — it’s not the kind of decision that should be made on a whim. While the benefits of community may seem enticing, Jacob shares that one of the biggest misconceptions companies have is seeing community as a magic bullet. Build it and they will come, right? It’s an appealing thought. Unfortunately, it’s also a myth.
“I’ll tell you right now, not every company is a good candidate to start a community,” Jacob says. “It's the same concept in product building, right? If you build a software product or a product, people will come. [But] it doesn't necessarily work like that.”
In reality, cultivating a thriving community relies on setting a strong foundation. “There has to be a reason that's strong enough for people to gather in order for a community to exist and be successful,” Jacob says.
Because building a community can take up significant resources - time, money, energy - some organizations may hesitate. Is there a business case to be made for building community?
Good question. Getting the data behind a community is one of the reasons Commsor exists. “It's been very hard to prove the impact of community. A lot of the stories are very anecdotal,” Mac says.
“[A manager knows] this user didn't churn because they were able to interact with the community, that this user became a customer because of the community, but [not] being able to get the data behind that is actually one of the core reasons we're building what we're building.”
“It's been very hard to prove the impact of community. A lot of the stories are very anecdotal, right? [A manager knows] this user didn't churn because they were able to interact with the community, that this user became a customer because of the community, but [not] being able to get the data behind that is actually one of the core reasons we're building what we're building. It's less data driven than it should be right now.”
— MAC REDDIN, CO-FOUNDER AT COMMSOR
While the data may not yet be easily accessible, the results are clearly working for companies like Notion and Figma.
“What's really unique, interesting, what's really strong is this community of people who love Notion more than a product,” Mac says.
“It's this sense of belonging [as] a Notion user. They have all these volunteers who are contributing to translate the product, create templates, or connect with their users and help them. You can't beat Notion because you can't beat their community, not because you can't beat their product.”
🚀 Get more SyncUp with SwagUp
Catch the latest episode of this new live podcast series from the SwagUp leadership team! We invite some of the most innovative and creative minds we know in HR, Marketing, Sales, Leadership, and more to discuss topics from scaling smarter to building community. Want to be a guest? Get in touch!