The Evolution of Communities – Social Design and Key Metrics for Every Stage

Ligaya Tichy joins us from early stage communities of Yelp and Airbnb; without hyperbole, she is legendary. Thankfully, she led us on a step by step guide on building community from Day 1 to Market Leader, calling upon her many years of experience to color a fantastic bible of community for us.


Phase 1 of Community: Establish and Grow:

  • Day 1: Basic product, no frills. Ligaya asks: do you need a CM this early? She believes that a Community Manager should be one of the first five hires, as they are the best people to recruit early adopters and set tone/culture of the community.
  • Leverage existing communities with similar goals to jumpstart your own, utilizing forums like Reddit to create a built in community for your product.
  • Early adopters: Get into the heads of the community, find out what they want to learn and share.
  • Bring real world behaviors online, and set the stage for interaction.
  • Skill share: Locate potential interaction points to spur users along. Locate key interaction points in user journey to provide encouragement to keep them going.
  • Check your Metrics: look at monthly users (target: 30%), daily users (target 10%) and percentage daily users are using product at same time (target: 10%). If you aren’t hitting these numbers, something is wrong.

Hello, I'm Ligaya!

Phase 2 of Community: Rewards and Rituals:

  • What is the easiest way to get people excited about product? Vanity recognition doesn’t work in the long run; we must only reward meaningful contributions.
  • The ritual and rites of passage establishes the community. Great example can be found with Lyft (refer to session with Emily at Lyft to learn more).
  • Communities can also provide critical support during times of hardship. It is difficult for people to express their emotions publicly. How does your community help personal communications occur between users?
  • Learning, Play, Support: We need these three things together to feel sense of belonging to be accepted by people that know who we are, that respect us and reciprocate. It can result in meaningful experience, as when we experience these things together we feel a sense of belonging.
Live your values, especially during crises.

Live your values, especially during crises.

Phase 3 of Community: Expanding Segments and Markets

  • Building community by most populated cities method is flawed: we should go to areas where there is strong organic growth, which means there are early adopters there that understand the culture of the brand.
  • Community Identity: When people open app, they should see people that look like them, they can identify with, that speak their language.  We should put the community at foreground.
  • As you launch new markets, you’re going back to stage 1: going back to customer development, making sure value prop still makes sense. Flood of new users need to learn the norms of the community.
  • Growing pains are made better by clear rules and consequences: It is common to see attrition at this stage of early users. Keep caliber high for rest of the community. Go back to user guides; open channels of communications to address publicly.
  • Hearing words directly from user invokes deeper empathy with product/dev teams. Example of postcards at Airbnb, appearing that it came directly from the user – wrote verbatim what the user was experiencing; made impact for dev to listen and realize it was not just a number tally.
  • The community is the best recruiting pool; the best CM’s are already apart of the community.
  • Live your values, especially during crises. They are the moments that engender trust in your leadership.

Last Stage of Community: Market Leadership

  •  This stage is all about loyalty and retention with the existing community, which should be a good compilation of early adopters/power users, with healthy virility growth from existing members to create a cohesive community.
  • Create unexpected joy: example from Disney of Take 5: each employee takes five minutes every day to do something directly for a customer. This speaks to the higher purpose of your community.
  • Never stop listening: example from Adobe of their listening booth, which encourages employees to hear customer service calls and watch incoming help tickets in real time to be aware of customer needs.
  • Partner with others who want to change the world the same way you do: example of, partnering together with shared values to improve the world.
  • We can let relationships form, but we must find people in community space with similar values.

Closing note: What can we build together?

Huge thanks to Ligaya for taking the time to break this down for us, hopefully providing a great action plan for your next project! Ligaya can be found on Twitter, and on her blog.


Editor’s Note:  We’re live from the #CMXSummit all day today at Dogpatch Studios in San Francisco.  We’ll be covering all of the sessions, but you can livestream the event as well: 

Photos by Abby Sturges.  See more of her work on

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Ashley Hayes



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