In the past decade, video content has eaten the web. TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo – video has become one of the most important ways of disseminating information to users.

When thinking through a video content program, it is easy to fall into the trap of virality – gaining a metrics boost for the program with a video that blows up across multiple channels. This is a boon for the marketing team, but is it the best use of the community team’s time?

When choosing where the community team puts its focus, we need to think about the right metrics and the best way to optimize communal spaces to grow an actively engaged membership, not just maximize number of eyeballs. 

Do views matter?

The role of a community builder is not to grow an audience. Community builders seek to strengthen a community. The strength of a community is measured by its interactions.

In order to create a community where members interact with each other, we need to provide spaces for this to happen. This is why many communities revolve around a forum, a Slack organization, or a Discord channel. These spaces are optimized for member-to-member communication, and the way we handle a community video program should reflect this same ideal.

“ Community metrics are a mirror held up to the goals and values of a community.”

Community metrics are a mirror held up to the goals and values of a community. The metrics should correspond with creating a strong, healthy community of any size. That said, communities should focus on creating programs that optimize how members interact with the core team and with each other.

A recorded video is great for disseminating information from one source to many individuals, but that is not the basis of community. A healthy community thrives on communication from multiple participants. From an analytics perspective, we should care about what a member does much more than what a member sees.

Forging bonds through communal viewing

If the role of a community builder is to create opportunities for community interaction, then a single time, space, and topic will optimize for those well beyond a static piece of content. Live spaces allow for more organic segmentation and the strengthening of communal bonds.

By gathering the community in a single time and space around a specific topic, we bring together other interested members. Two members who have never interacted before may recognize a kindred spirit by attending this live event. They can strike up a conversation and carry that with them after the event.

Even if attendees have interacted before in another community channel, by carrying their relationship into a new channel, that bond is forged stronger.

At Orbit, we host regular “conversational education” events. These events are structured around providing expert information from the Orbit Community team in a way to be consumed, but also to open the door for members to share their stories and expertise. 

One of these events is our Study Group initiative. Each study group is structured by the Orbit team. We provide insight into a specific topic around community building. Throughout the event and presentation, there are openings for the community to share with us. We use Miro to facilitate communal brainstorming around topics. Members are encouraged to leave sticky notes on the questions we ask, and then we talk through them as a group. The community gets to hear from a diverse group of people, and the Community Team gains valuable insights.

Content that a community team creates, programs that it starts, and events that it runs, should be optimized around meaningful engagement.

That meaningful engagement can take many shapes:

  • Product feedback: Quantitative metrics are great, but qualitative feedback from product users is amazing. Live spaces give users a direct avenue to give feedback about frustrations, joys, and trouble spots.
  • Questions asked: While produced videos can teach concepts, live videos open the door for community members to ask follow up questions and direct the educational content immediately.
  • Questions answered: Not all questions need to be answered by the core team. In a live environment, community members can answer each others’ questions in meaningful ways. In fact, this might be one of the most important engagement types.
  • Peer-to-peer knowledge shared: Community experts can shine in a live environment. Whether showcasing a blog post or code snippet, an expert can provide deeper details to the community during a live stream.
  • "Aha" moments mentioned: If a live event is optimized for community engagement, we are more likely to have a member experience a moment where they truly understand the value of a product or feature.

While live video can optimize around these engagements, it is possible for this to happen in a comments section as well. So, more important than incoming engagement is the ways in which the community and the core team respond.

By responding to an engagement, we let the member know we value them and hear their feedback, frustration, celebration, or expertise. By valuing the messages sent, we create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing.

A closed-loop community engagement channel

When you create a produced video, there is no direct engagement loop. We provide content, and an audience watches it. They might leave a comment if a space is provided. Hours later we might respond. This flow is far from optimized. We want engagement and conversation to happen much closer to real time.

“ More important than incoming engagement is the ways in which the community and the core team respond”

When we create a live space – whether a live stream, a webinar, or Twitter Space – we open the door for quick feedback cycles. A question is raised and immediately answered. An "aha" moment is celebrated in real time. Because of the synchronous nature of the audience, each feedback loop closed encourages a new loop with another community member.

In other words, a live space has the opportunity to multiply engagement over the course of the event. With that said, there are certain types of content that optimize for this sort of behavior and some that are still better produced and watched later.

Not all content is optimized for live

I am a passionate proponent of live events, but not all types of content should be live. Some content has different goals or is best consumed in private. Some content needs more focus. Let us look at some example programs and whether or not they are a good fit for live video.

Optimized content for live spaces:

  • Question and answer programs — optimized for closed-loop engagement
  • Community or user interviews — allows for members to show expertise and answer questions
  • Simple product/code demos — allows for clarifications, excitement and "aha" moments
  • "Show and Tell" programs — creates a live sense of community

Unoptimized content for live spaces:

  • Core educational materials — optimized for speed of knowledge gain
  • Follow-along tutorials — focus and precision is necessary

When figuring out what your live program should be, think through your goals and your community’s goals and adjust accordingly. A live video that could have been an article is just as bad as a meeting that could have been an email.

What does success look like?

Success of a live video program hinges on community engagement. If three community members leave with new or stronger bonds, the event succeeded. If five members provide real-world product feedback, the event succeeded. If the community is strengthened, not just the product or business, the event succeeded.

Community growth is not a "numbers game." It is a patient, long-term strength game. A community forged of strong bonds between members and with the core will last. Educate your community with static videos. Grow your community with live events.