Community projects and online summits come in all different shapes and sizes, and it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out which one will have the most impact for your business.
The sort of community project you should run depends on a number of factors, for example:
How much time you have.
How deeply you want to dive in to your chosen topic.
How technically savvy you are.
How much money you have available for outsourcing.
What your business aims and objectives are.
What sort of content your audience likes most.
In this post, I’ve broken down some of the most common community project formats for you, with the pros and cons of each approach.
There is no right or wrong here – the type of community project you choose is completely up to you. In fact, I encourage you to experiment and try whatever formats appeal to you the most.
Community project types
Daily emails sent out over the course of a month
This is my favourite format, and the one I recommend you start with if you’ve never run a community project before.
It’s simple to set up and manage, and once you have all the pieces in place it largely runs itself.
Doesn’t require too much technical know how.
Because there are lots of participants, you have a good chance of a wide reach and many promotional channels.
You get to deepen your relationships with your participants, and it gives you a good reason to reach out to new people and build new relationships.
It’s long enough for your audience to get really engaged, both with the project and with your business. And if people miss a day or two here and there they still have a chance to be involved.
At the end of the project, you can convert people onto your mailing list and/or if have a clearly defined next step for them to take, the chances are higher that they will take it.
It helps if you have a large existing network so you have plenty of people to ask to take part.
You need to make sure that your chosen topic is important enough to warrant spending a whole month on.
It can be tricky to keep all your participants on track.
Best for: when you want to go deep on a topic, expand your reach, start a movement, deepen your relationships.
Want some help with this?
Shorter email project
This is similar to the email-based project described above, but runs over a shorter period of time.
You need fewer participants so it’s a little easier to manage
There’s less time for people to engage with the project and for your community to flourish.
With fewer participants, the project has less reach.
Best for: when you don’t have much time or energy to devote to a full project.
A challenge is usually a time-bound project which is held on social media. Daily prompts are given and you ask your audience to share something (image, video, text) in response, or to take an action such as record an Instagram story, or create something. Everyone’s contributions are linked via a challenge-specific hashtag.
There’s no need for any participants, so you have complete control and responsibility.
Can be hugely successful – artist Tara Leaver runs a ’21 Days In My Art World’ challenge on Instagram and says it’s her number one source of new students for her ecourses.
You are solely responsible for the promotion of the challenge.
Unless your project goes viral, you have limited reach.
It can be tricky to convert people on to mailing list.
To really make it work you need a fantastic theme and a larger existing audience.
Best for: when you already have an engaged social media following, or you want complete creative control.
Weekend summit or online event
A weekend summit generally consists of a number of videos on a similar theme dripped out over the course of a weekend. It’s a bit of a marathon to keep up with it all!
Events are fairly easy to promote.
Gets everyone together in a really concentrated way.
You can turn this sort of project into a paid offering fairly smoothly i.e. it’s free live, but you need to pay for a recording or replay.
Very labour-intensive and technically complex to do well.
You often need a separate website to keep everything clear and focused.
Can be expensive to run.
There can be attendance problems if people aren’t available on your chosen date, or are in different time zones.
Best for: when you want a more event-based project, or you want to create a paid offering from it.
Whilst not strictly a community project, as such, you could certainly run an interview series as one. Could be done live or prerecorded.
Can be a great way to deepen your relationships with people.
Useful resource for your audience.
Very time intensive,
Need good video editing skills.
Best for: when you have time and skills to do this right, and you crave face-to-face conversations.
I hope this post has made you think a bit about your own community building intentions, and what sort of project might work best to achieve your goals.