How to create a community with April MacLean

Building a community around your brand can provide a significant strategic advantage. April MacLean, founder of Wondry, shares valuable insights into why and how to create a thriving community.

Why Create a Community?

Communities offer a unique form of defensibility for your business. Unlike products or business models, which can be easily replicated, a strong community built around your brand fosters deep, lasting connections that competitors cannot easily duplicate. This makes your business more resilient and provides a loyal customer base that stays engaged with your brand.

Benefits of Owning Your Community

Owning your community means you are not dependent on external platforms, which can sometimes change their rules or algorithms. By hosting your community on a platform where you can own the data, you maintain control and can directly engage with your members without losing access. 

Critical Strategies for Building a Community

  1. Choose the Right Platform: Select a platform that allows you to own your community data. This ensures you can maintain direct contact with your members and have control over your engagement strategies.
  2. Align with Business Outcomes: Only start a community if it can be directly tied to a specific business outcome, such as retention or acquisition. A community that serves a clear business purpose will be prioritized and maintained effectively.
  3. Retention vs. Acquisition:
    • Retention Communities: These communities help existing customers get the most out of your product, providing support and fostering more profound usage. Examples include support forums or user groups that enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.
    • Acquisition Communities: These communities attract potential customers and nurture them until they are ready to convert. Examples include interest-based groups or forums where potential customers can learn more about your product and become engaged with your brand.
  4. Be Strategic: Avoid creating a community without a clear strategy. A poorly managed or inactive community can harm your brand more than having no community. Ensure you have the resources and a plan to keep the community vibrant and engaged.

Leveraging Communities for Customer Acquisition and R&D

Communities can be powerful tools for customer acquisition, serving as interactive spaces where potential customers can engage directly with a brand and its offerings. April explains that some brands create communities that aren’t immediately tied to their products. 

For example, a company offering marketing tools might run a marketing-focused community. This approach attracts a broader audience, generates interest, and positions the brand as a thought leader.

Direct Engagement and Feedback:

Collin shares his experience with Divinate (which he learned about through a Slack community), where engagement led to discovering valuable tools and influencing product enhancements through user feedback. This interaction highlights how communities can serve as R&D spaces and acquisition channels, fostering direct connections with potential users and turning engaged members into customers.

Broader Network Appeal:

April notes that companies often build communities under a more general theme related to their industry, like “marketing hacks,” to attract a broader network. HubSpot’s use of the term “inbound” instead of directly branding their events or communities underscores this strategy. By associating themselves with a widely recognized concept, they broaden their appeal and attract more participants.

Building Trust and Authority:

Building a community around a general interest rather than a specific product also helps establish the brand as an authority in the field. Patrick Campbell’s company, formerly Price Intelligently, successfully leveraged this approach by focusing on broader pricing strategies rather than directly pushing its software solutions.

Strategic Community Outcomes:

While communities can serve multiple purposes, such as customer support or retention, they are also effective for acquisition when aligned with strategic goals. For instance, by creating a community that provides valuable insights and networking opportunities, companies can naturally attract potential customers who are already engaged and interested in the field.

Developing Community Content and Engagement

Once you’ve identified your niche and gathered your assets, the next step is figuring out what your community will discuss. April highlights the importance of structuring content around the journey of the community members. 

For instance, if the community is for amateur photographers aiming to become professionals, identify the key knowledge areas they need to master, such as artistic trends, equipment, contracts, digital portfolios, pricing, and specializations.

April suggests assigning one concept per month creating a loose annual programming plan. This could include monthly guest speakers, themed discussions, and relevant activities. 

However, avoid being overly prescriptive. Instead, introduce themes subtly and allow them to evolve naturally within the community.

Sustaining Community Engagement

Creating and maintaining an engaging community involves more than just setting it up; it requires ongoing, meaningful interactions. April discusses the significance of consistent engagement and the role of rituals in fostering a lively community.

Consistent Interaction

Beyond having one or two weekly rituals, maintaining daily interactions is crucial. Share insights, industry news, and personal experiences to spark discussions. These interactions keep the community active and engaged, allowing members to connect over shared interests.

April highlights that the daily content doesn’t need to be overly planned or forced. Instead, it should be organic, stemming from the community manager’s thoughts and observations. The idea is to share what’s happening in your world and turn those thoughts into discussions. 

High-Value Proposition

The success of a community hinges on attracting the right members. A clear value proposition, such as a respectful and engaging environment, helps in this regard. For instance, a horror movie community emphasizing no tolerance for trolls can attract passionate members who value meaningful discussions. 

Ensuring that the community’s focus aligns with its members’ needs creates a strong, engaged group that thrives on interaction.

April shared a case study of a legacy publishing company that successfully built a community for horror and gore fans. They attracted highly engaged members by offering a troll-free environment where fans could discuss their favorite movies without fear of hostile interactions. 

Engaging Posts

Anatomy of a good post: background context, a touch of vulnerability and humanity, and an open-ended question beyond a simple yes or no answers.

April emphasized that bad posts lack context and depth, often resulting in minimal engagement. Effective posts, on the other hand, provide enough background to inform the discussion, incorporate a personal touch to make them relatable, and end with a question that prompts thoughtful responses.

Effective Community Programming

Creating a thriving community involves more than just setting it up; it requires thoughtful programming and strategic planning. April highlights the importance of structured rituals, dynamic programming, and effective launch strategies to build and sustain an engaged community.

Structuring Community Programming

April emphasizes the significance of rituals and regular activities that foster community engagement. While each community’s context may differ, the principles of effective programming remain consistent. She categorizes these into daily, weekly, monthly, and annual activities:

  • Daily Engagement: Share daily thoughts, industry news, and personal experiences to keep the conversation ongoing. This helps maintain a lively and interactive community atmosphere.
  • Weekly Rituals: Implement one to two weekly rituals to create consistency and give members something to look forward to regularly.
  • Monthly Activities: Organize events like guest speakers, group coaching calls, or themed discussions to provide in-depth engagement and learning opportunities.
  • Annual Events: Plan larger events that members can anticipate throughout the year, such as master classes, flash mobs, or conferences, to re-engage members and strengthen the community bond.

Dynamic Programming Framework: CERC

To keep the community vibrant and interesting, April introduces the CERC framework, which stands for Challenges, Education, Collaborations, and Relationships. This framework ensures that the programming remains dynamic and responsive to the community’s evolving needs:

  1. Challenges: Activities encourage members to achieve specific goals and foster a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Education: Continuous learning opportunities through webinars, articles, and expert talks.
  3. Collaborations: Facilitating projects and knowledge sharing among members to enhance collective intelligence.
  4. Relationships: Creating opportunities for members to build strong interpersonal connections.

Launching a Community

Launching a community involves several crucial steps to ensure a strong start and sustained growth:

  1. Preparation: Develop an application process and a landing page, and create an email sequence to drive applications.
  2. Screening: Review applications and select founding members carefully to ensure the right mix of participants.
  3. Platform Setup: Choose a suitable platform and build the community space, keeping user experience in mind.
  4. Pre-Launch Engagement: Allow selected members to join the platform a day or two before the official launch to start building connections.
  5. Launch Event: Host a virtual launch event with introductions, breakout groups, and engaging activities to foster initial connections.
  6. Post-Launch Activities: Focus on maintaining engagement through regular programming and continuous interaction.

April underscores the importance of a high-value proposition and thoughtful onboarding to attract and retain the right members. By creating a space that meets the specific needs of its members and fostering a positive and engaging environment, communities can thrive and grow over time.


A well-managed community enhances customer loyalty and serves as a space for customer acquisition and R&D. Choosing the right platform and aligning the community with clear business outcomes, such as retention or acquisition, are essential for maintaining its vibrancy and relevance.

Leveraging frameworks like CERC and maintaining consistent interactions keep communities active. A high-value proposition, combined with a well-executed launch and ongoing organic interactions, ensures the community remains a robust asset that supports long-term business growth.


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