Should we build, buy or sponsor a community?

It’s truly great that I don’t have to convince most of the Czech companies that they need a community. On LinkedIn and other job portals, there is at least one new open position for a community manager each week. And because there are only very few suitable applicants for such a position in Czechia, it is a great conversation opener when dealing with fusion and acquisition of existing communities. I love that moment when a decision makers tells me: “Jakub, I’ve never thought of buying a community straight away, but it makes great sense to me.”

In this article I by no means want to exclude the option of a company building their own community from nothing. On the contrary, some of them have the misfortune, or blessing, that there are not that many communities around their business topic. Such companies are left with no other option than to work it out from the very beginning. Nevertheless, most companies can simply approach a finished thing and outright skip the community building. The biggest win here is the saved time, sometimes whole years, which benefits startups in the Seed and Series A investment phases.

However, if you want to build a community from the ground up, I recommend inviting someone experienced to help you. You can’t build a community overnight and so each advice, tip or help would accelerate your journey. You can ask Tereza from Fanl, who is currently in the business of community building.

Community Development is the most expensive and the riskiest way.

To build a new community you need at least one Community Developer, who will ideally also need to have a Networker at hand. A Medior Community Developer would cost on average 50 000 CZK to 3 000 € a month. A full-time Networker would then cost between 800 € to 1 200 € gross. An average Community Developer would build a solid ground for a good community (that would be useful to you) within a year from creating a Minimum Viable Community (MVC). It greatly depends on the main topic of the community and a proper determining of a so-called sphere of influence.

To bring you further into the topic of community development, I’ll explain it using an example from my former practice. To build a C2C community Ve jménu Twista and then use it to qualify people into Twisto laboratoř proved to be more difficult than to just build a community of enthusiasts Cestujeme udržitelně s Campiri, who love traveling with campers and caravans. Logically, traveling is a way more pleasant topic than fintech. And even though it took me 6 months to build a community for Campiri, it took 2 years for Twisto.

Both aforementioned communities were still a cakewalk compared to building our Wuwej community. The first notable change with Wuwej was the environment. To bring in people and make them talk in Slack was a far more complex process than bringing them to a Facebook group. This is especially true for Czechia. The community has a stricter onboarding system. Take notice how there is no sign up form on the website because you need to be invited by an existing member. Our sphere of influence is community market development. So we bring the community market elites into the group and connect them with the commercial world. Therefore the membership is made of leaders of existing communities, startup founders, SME owners and global corporations’ decision makers. That is also the reason why building a community takes longer than connecting pet owners, for example. The community currently generates 2-3 discussions a month, most of which are of a business character. Currently we have 200 members (50% community leaders, 50% from business world) for whom we create an environment enabling connection between offer and demand of the community market. We don’t tell you how to build a community, that is something you can find, for example, in CMX Community, friends of Talkbase, or Czech Community of Community Builders. In Wuwej community we tell you how to buy a community and implement it into your business activities. Or you can find a community willing to commercially cooperate in exchange for long-term support - financial or other. As a preview, you can take a look at the Teaser of Wuwej Community Offer. In case of interest in cooperation, you can contact me on LinkedIn.

Benefits of buying an existing community

The biggest value of existing communities is the community’s impact, collective know-how and already mentioned saved time on community development. A long time ago (while still being a Community Developer) I have been tasked with building a 20 000+ members community made of enthusiasts in the task giver’s business topics, all in one year. Looking at it as a Community Developer I saw it as an impossible task, because a quick onboarding process doesn’t create connections between members and the community will be fairly anonymous. But, being quite fond of challenges, I didn’t give up. So I started looking around, to see if someone maybe hadn’t already accomplished that and that was the time when I started to think as a Community M&A person. I did community market research and found about 30 communities which fit into some of my criteria. I joined these communities and watched them for some time. Subsequently I started communicating with the leaders of three of the communities that took my interest until I managed to buy one that had existed for 8 years already.

A community as an asset which rises and sinks in value

At the time when I negotiated the sale with the leader, the community had about 70 000 members. The leader was resentful towards selling the community. He even put forth such a price tag which I knew the task giver wouldn’t pay. But thanks to the fact I have had a good relationship with the leader for about half a year by then, we finally came to an agreement and settled on a price suitable for both parties. In the meantime the community grew by another 20 000 members. Currently the community has around 110 000 members and the buyer had to do virtually nothing to achieve that. The community generates around 40 posts daily with about 10 comments for each post. It is a source of data the company can observe. This was a case of pure acquisition because the leader didn’t want to manage the community afterwards and had no desire to cooperate with the company. The disadvantage of such a transaction is that you know beforehand that you will need a capable Senior Community Manager which will increase the community’s value while implementing it into your company’s business activities.

The leader wouldn’t sell the community or you have no Community Developer who would implement the acquired community into your business


There is a third, cheapest and the least risky option to benefit from an existing community without buying it. It is the option to annually finance or otherwise support a chosen community. Imagine that instead of sending your money into common marketing channels (print, TV, radio or social media ads) you will decide to finance a community which gathers people and collective know-how that you need for your further development. A good example of this is Czechitas, a community which got financial support by Google to develop its community activities. Google didn’t need to buy or own the community. It was enough to support Dita Formankova who decided to requalify as many women as possible into the IT field and the best of those candidates were then offered to Google to fill in new positions. What a clever and simple business model with an overlap into CSR! As proof that this cooperation model definitely works is the fact that today it’s not just Google who supports Czechitas, but also a fairly large network of financial partners and supporters. Very admirable.

Conclusion

Building a community from the beginning using an internal team is the most expensive and the more risky option you can choose. It also takes the most time. If you decide to skip the community development phase by buying an existing community, you need to keep in mind that you will also need a capable Community Manager which will be able to implement the community into your business. The fastest, cheapest and also the least risky option is a long-term cooperation with a capable leader (like Dita Formankova from Czechitas) to whom you could provide funds for further development and scaling of their community. In most cases the leader gets the new wind into their sails and starts realizing projects so far only living inside their head.

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