Alex, would you share more info about groupbuzz?
Sure! I'll start with your questions:
1) We have a member network website (comradity.io) built on an open source
custom social network platform. Is groupbuzz an open source plugin?
GroupBuzz is a *hosted* tool for email discussion lists. If you're familiar
with listservs (or heck, even this Google Group), you know how valuable
email discussion lists can be but you also know how *painful* they can be.
Especially as they grow! This list is actually a great example: when it's
valuable, it's VERY valuable. But you have to sift through a fair amount of
noise to keep an eye out for the most valuable topics.
And with our inboxes getting busier and busier every day, people are often
reluctant to join something that's designed to give a whole bunch of people
a direct line into their inbox.
As our membership grew and our list got more activity, we noticed a big
problem: people started tuning out posts to our list. Members would find
out about events too late (or not at all). Conversations would happen out
of band from people who would definitely have something contribute. It got
to the point that we'd worry about busy days on the list because we knew
that it would drive some people to create a filter or unsubscribe.
Not because they didn't want to know what was going on in the community,
but because they couldn't handle the amount of email coming from the list.
They always told us "I WANT to follow the list, but it's just too much
email, I can't deal with it."
Meanwhile, we know that without email, "forums" and other similar setups
are out of sight, out of mind. A forum needs to have a pretty high level of
activity before members start building the habit of "check back here often
to see something new".
I spent quite a bit of time researching other platforms - every email list
tool & every forum platform I could find. I don't think I need to tell this
community how frustrating this search is. Everything is a copy of
everything else's sucky "features", and none of them actually solve the
problems that are inherent to groups having discussions online. Discourse
was the first contender that I saw that actually thought about problems
besides getting messages to people, but after a few months of testing with
our community, it turned out to have the same problems as forums (mostly
out of sight, mostly out of mind).
We had been using Basecamp like a Forum that behaved a bit more like an
email list, but *what I really wanted was an email list that behaved a bit
more like a forum.*
GroupBuzz untangled this problem for Indy Hall (and the other communities
that have switched to it) by providing a new set of defaults for discussion
list emails. The result looks like this:
When a new thread is started, every member gets an email, just like a
normal email list. But unlike others, that's the first AND last email from
that thread they'll get...unless they click that "Follow" button in the top
Once you've followed a thread (which is basically opting in to getting
updates on that thread but that thread alone), you'll get the subsequent
comments in your inbox, threaded, just like a normal email list.
(Participating in a thread also auto-follows that thread for you).
Once you're following a thread, messages start looking like this:
The Follow button turns into a Mute button, which does exactly what you
might expect: it stops new messages from this thread.
Even though Gmail has a "mute" feature, it's hidden (keyboard shortcut
only) and most people don't know about it. I've also found that with some
discussion lists, certain threads don't properly mute. Who the heck knows
Our mute button is "first class", doesn't require any special plugins or
teaching people a keyboard shortcut. It's prominently displayed in every
message, so it's always handy.
And people love it. Best of all, those members who used to "tune out"
started telling how much less overwhelming GroupBuzz made it to feel like
they were a part of the list. Winning those people back was a HUGE win for
There's quite a bit more to GroupBuzz than the follow/mute feature
(including the way we do digests
a fully searchable archive
And our web UI is a full featured forum, not just a rough archive of
messages. There are a number of GroupBuzz community owners/users on the
list, if y'all wanna chime in with anything specific that you love that I
2) How have you used it to grow your business? Converting "community"
members to be regular visitors?
Community isn't just part of our business, or how we do our business, it IS
Our list has been a core part of our community - and therefore our business
- since before we had any space. ALL of our members are community members.
We don't focus on converting members from one level to another - that's not
our goal, though it often happens on its own given enough time. What we DO
focus on is giving people reasons to become, and more importantly, *stay*
Meanwhile, only 20% of our total community (and less than 50% of our
revenue) are full time members - we actively keep that number limited to a
fixed ratio. That means that 80% of our community uses our most finite
resource (physical space) 3x a week or less. And more importantly, *65-70%
of our community uses a desk once a month or less. *
I think about our list as another "place" for our community to gather. For
ALL members - full time, various versions of our flex members, and our
flagship Community members - the physical coworking space is only one of
the places where they can do the things that they pay membership for: They
want to meet and connect with people. They want to share and learn. They
want to ask questions and give answers. They want to be inspired. They want
to feel connected.
The ultimate outcome is that people don't have to be physically AT Indy
Hall to feel like they're a part of Indy Hall. We put as much work
in our online community as we do in the coworking space
often intentionally moving offline conversations into GroupBuzz so that
people who aren't present can participate. Online GroupBuzz conversations
often spread into "meatspace" as well, spurring new events and gatherings
among our members.
*So there are two ways to tie our use of GroupBuzz to our bottom line:*
1 - our revenue is nearly 2x what it could be if we didn't have an online
community, but we accomplish that by treating the online community as a
first class community space of its own, not an "add-on" to our coworking
space coworking. If anything, we've started viewing coworking as the add-on!
2 - our member lifetime value is....high. Even when members no longer need
physical space, they often keep membership to stay involved in the
community, and a large part of that is through GroupBuzz.
If you focus on "higher value memberships", you need to make sure you're
not just looking at the ones that you can charge more for. Because yes,
while our full time and lite memberships generate more revenue than our six
pack, basic, and flex memberships...they (full time and lite) cost more in
use of the finite & expensive resource (the space), making the net *profit*
for their membership a closer to that of our seemingly lower priced
memberships which have marginal fixed costs.