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Why Community Is Your Best Growth Strategy for 2022

Jacob Scott

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Some call community the newest “moat” for business today. No matter the sector, a vibrant community not only serves as a defensive hedge against the competition but can also drive learning, innovation, and value. And whether it’s bringing together a group of power users, software contributors, content developers, or a gaggle of superfans, we’re seeing thriving communities lead to greater brand awareness and higher switching, not to mention strong debuts in public markets.

The reality is that buyers have nearly endless options in today’s market, and companies can’t rely strictly on features and pricing to win. It’s why consumer brands like Lululemon and Sephora, as well as enterprise powerhouses like Salesforce and Twilio, have put community front and center in their growth strategies. It’s also why we’ve seen many IPOs in 2021 — including Roblox, Duolingo, Poshmark, Confluent, and Digital Ocean — lead with their communities and show them as essential to their success.

What do you mean by “community”?

The term can mean a lot of things: A support group, a networking forum, an open-source project, and even a tribe of rugby fans could all be considered a community.

A more useful taxonomy is to classify communities on the basis of member motivation, whether it’s related to the product (discussing and learning about specific products, including Sephora’s Beauty Insiders, Twilio’s Champions, or Salesforce’s Trailblazers), a practice (leveling up a discipline or craft, independent of tools or platform, including On Deck and Dribbble), or play (coming together around a common interest, including most communities on Discord or NBA Top Shot).

Understanding motivations for why people gather informs both how a company engages and its overall objectives for its community. Once a company understands its members, it can then determine an appropriate strategy, one that prioritizes creating value for members (e.g., creating content and tutorials, developing training materials, hosting events) versus capturing value for the business (sending drip campaign emails and creepy retargeted ads), a very significant departure from long-held practices.

Community is not the same as marketing

Unlike the traditional marketing funnel, which seeks to push leads through a linear process, extracting value at each stage, community building is about creating an environment so compelling that it naturally attracts people toward its center.

All of this is founded on the recognition that the relationship between brands and customers has changed. It’s not through sales channels and marketing campaigns that people decide which products to buy and which companies to support.

Instead, it’s based overwhelmingly on what they know and love or the recommendations of friends, colleagues, peers they know on social media, or even strangers they happen across online. It’s why we always say that products and services are no longer sold but adopted.

As companies and people rely more than ever on digital channels to communicate and build connections, more companies are embracing the prospects, contributors, and fans they had previously overlooked solely because they weren’t a viable lead for the sales team.

A new playbook to build community

The existence of communities may be as old as humanity, but this idea and practice of viewing community as a driver of brand loyalty, customer referrals, and user acquisition in a commercial context are relatively new. Early case studies show that when done well, a thriving community can be a means to boost a company’s growth efforts and its value in the public markets.

Take Roblox, which debuted on the NYSE in March. Roblox provides the infrastructure and supporting technology for its global platform, but the game experience is all user-generated content built by its global creator community of nine million-plus developers. This focus on community has enabled Roblox to build a vast world much faster than it could have done so itself and is a significant factor in growing and sustaining 200 million-plus monthly active users. The company has publicly said that its platform is driven by its community, and its unique offering is something Roblox has “built together” with its global community.

Albeit in a different industry, Duolingo, which went public in July, has also built a community around content creation from the outset. The company notably launched 39 new language courses to 50 million learners in less than 2.5 years — all with a team of fewer than 40 employees. That was only made possible by empowering community members to develop, test, and spread the word about language courses, extending its audience significantly in the process. This helped them drive their market cap from $5 billion at IPO to more than $6.1 billion just a few months later.

Beyond those examples, there’s no shortage of community-driven companies among the list of IPOs this year (including Poshmark, Confluent, and Digital Ocean) that exemplify how creating value for members alongside capturing value for the business can lead to better outcomes for everyone.

If you build it, will they come?

The reality is that at some point, all companies have a community around them — whether they choose to engage with it or not. Robinhood, which went public in July, is a lesson in what can happen if you don’t. When you make no home for users to meet and seek support from official channels, they’ll find their own.

The first step in embracing the opportunity is to build a strategy that specifies how an organization will provide value to its members, and then also derive value for itself. This kind of framework can help companies consider why it’s creating a community, who is in the community, and its value to and between members. Only then can you create a plan around conversing with, listening to, and engaging with current customers, potential customers, and those exploring something new.

To help make the concept more concrete, here are some questions to add more nuance and rigor to your company’s community strategy:

Who is in our community, and why are they here? Who is not in the community? What value will we create for the community, whether or not they are paying customers? What value will the members provide each other? How will we listen to, talk to, and be directed by our customers? How and where will we deliver insights from these conversations to the rest of the company? How will we incentivize, recognize, and reward participation? What values and norms will we model and do we expect of the community? How can we make our community smarter, happier, or wealthier? Through what programs and through which channels?

Communities are complex systems, which means understanding the relationship between input and feedback can be difficult or not show up for a long time. The act of discussing and debating these questions will bring more clarity and alignment about the purpose and impact of the strategy and should engage teams about how to create value in many forms.

Perhaps most important, this depth of discussion also levels up the very notion of community as something that’s not purely company-centric and transactional (e.g., “good for deflecting support tickets”) but transforms it into something that has the potential to impact every part of the business. When companies create more value than they capture, people learn new things, meet new people, and discover new opportunities, and of course, the company enjoys those benefits too.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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