Size matters

What to focus on given the size of your community

It’s Wednesday, June 28th, and today we’re covering the critical shift in approach when managing communities of 20, 100, 1000, and beyond.

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The Big Idea

Does Size Matter?

Anytime a brand is looking to work with Wondry on their community building efforts, we hop on a call. At some point, a variation of the "critical mass" question takes place.

"I'd like to launch with 100 (or 500) members," they tell me.

"Okay, great, talk to me about that number—why 100?"

"Well, it will probably take that many people to get engagement going."

What they're really saying is that it will be less work. They're looking for a tipping point where the community will start "talking among themselves" and require less from them.

It's a fair assumption, but it's wrong. What if I asked you to throw a dinner party for 25 interesting people? How about 100? 1000?

When you consider it through this lens, it becomes clear that the work is never easier, just different. Every community size demands a shift in skills. Small, medium, and large communities have distinct priorities, challenges, and operational demands.

Let's Get it Started: Your tiny new community

This beginning, micro-community is rooted in intimacy and personalization. Launching is an invigorating feeling (and not many get there), and this season is usually marked by nervousness and excitement.


  1. Personalizing the experience.

  2. Developing a fairly deep knowledge of who's present and what they’re all about.

  3. Using said knowledge to make introductions within the community.


  1. If your guests don't already know each other, there will be some natural awkwardness and silent moments as trust and rapport are being built.

  2. Your presence is a necessary glue. You invited them over, and without you, they will likely head home.

  3. Emotional availability: even in the most pragmatic of communities, most of your energy is spent making sure others are having a good time and tending to their needs. It can get a bit exhausting.

Operational Focus:

  1. Connecting with members: make it personal and do things that don't scale. If your community is small enough, allowing members the option of booking a short call with you is pro-level stuff.

  2. Documentation: As processes start to evolve, get them in writing, preferably accompanied by a loom. You will thank yourself when it's time to bring in help.

  3. Intel: Set up a spreadsheet where you can track key, community-relevant learnings of your members.

0-100: Moving into the 100s+

As the numbers start climbing into, balancing personal attention with logistical efficiency becomes crucial. At this point, you'll start to see friendships and conversations take place outside of you, and a steady stream of new members inject new waves of energy into the community. It can also be a bit of a bummer the day you realize that you no longer recognize every face.


  1. Creating a plan for engagement that, while a little less organic, helps ensure members continue to feel connected (i.e., themed posts, (non-cheesy) icebreakers, etc).

  2. Personal touch replaces personal relationships. You can't reasonably have quality relationships and interaction with 100s of people, but you can infuse your community with personal touches that create the same effect.

  3. Formal opportunities to come together, whether it's virtual mixers, book clubs, or guest speakers start to become important pieces of maintaining familiarity for your members.


  1. Around this time, you'll start to see the 90-9-1 rule take shape. It can be discouraging to see a large number of members stay silent, but don't let it deter you; it's an inevitable part of community growth.

  2. This phase is a bit of a "management purgatory" for some. The community is starting to require more, yet is usually not big enough to need formal volunteers.

  3. You won't know every face like you once did and will have to lean on some operational processes to fill in the gaps.

Operational Focus:

  1. Onboarding: you likely can't do the things that don't scale. Make sure you have an application or onboarding process that asks a few key questions to help you know members, even when you can't meet them 1:1.

  2. Events: test a few ideas. Don't panic when they're not well-attended. You can expect around a 50% no-show rate on free events, but the goal is to learn, not raise the roof.

  3. Start thinking through where you may be able to delegate help to other members in the future:

    1. Moderation?

    2. Hosting events?

    3. A welcome wagon?

An Empire State of Mind: Thousands and beyond

At this point, there's a pretty big shift toward diligent planning, scalability, and adaptability. I'm a big fan of integrating collaborative challenges and group activities. The goal is to create sub-communities. Small pockets where people can find The Others and continue to find intimacy.


  1. Scalability and infrastructure: Ensure the community's platform can handle growth and review guidelines. While I am not suggesting migration, it's important to look for any potential bottlenecks or limitations that may hinder the community's expansion and evaluate what tools may be most helpful.

  2. Engagement and communication: As the community expands, maintaining a high level of engagement becomes more challenging, particularly when it comes to keeping everyone up-to-date. You'll have to be more organized and strategic about the events you launch and how you keep the community informed. (you'd be shocked at how many times I felt like I marketed the hell out of an event, only to have members say "I didn't know about this!")

  3. Community health and moderation: A larger community may attract a diverse range of individuals with different interests, backgrounds, and behaviors. You'll need to proactively monitor discussions and evaluate the community's overall health and take steps to address any emerging issues or challenges promptly.


  1. An increase in the noise-signal ratio will require community managers to find effective ways to filter and highlight valuable content to ensure members can easily discover and engage with it. (Another reason I am not an advocate of chat-forward platforms).

  2. Managing expectations gets more challenging. Members who've been in for a long time will complain about the changes. New members will often start to ask repetitive questions. Keeping quality high so that your external messaging matches the internal experience poses a new sort of obstacle.

  3. You'll need help. At this point, you'll want to start recruiting community members and delegating tasks, which can be a sticky process. I've had a lot of success choosing a small number of people and being very transparent that we'll be figuring it out as we go.

Operational Focus:

  1. Resource Planning and Allocation: As the community grows, resource planning becomes critical. We often need more by ways of staff, technology, and tools. You'll need to identify areas that may require additional resources, such as moderation, technical support, or community initiatives.

  2. Process Optimization and Automation: With the influx of new members, manual processes can become time-consuming and inefficient. It's time to optimize workflows and automate repetitive tasks where possible. Streamlining moderation processes, content curation, member onboarding, and routine communications can save time and improve efficiency.

  3. Metrics and Analytics: As the community scales, tracking and analyzing key metrics becomes crucial to understanding its health, member engagement, and the impact of community initiatives. You'll need to understand which metrics matter, how they'll be updated, and how they inform future decisions.

  4. Passing The Reigns: Creating a process around volunteer help, including recruiting, interviewing, code of conduct, nurturing, and creating clear boundaries and instructions is arguably the most critical piece of scaling a community.

As you can see, there is no community size that acts as a magic bullet. Each of them requires that you show up, adapt, and genuinely care. Personally, I've found that defaulting to transparency is my greatest asset. Communities are usually both kind and helpful when you're open about your efforts and struggles.


A few things I’ve read this week that are worth soaking in:



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