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5-min read
March 17, 2022

Minimum Viable Community: What It Is and How to Build One

Are you up for the challenge of building your own MVC? Scroll on to find out more about our Minimum Viable Community Challenge.

Start small, finish big is the way to success, right?

People in the product and start-up world will know this all too well, especially when it comes to building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers and validate a product idea.

Similarly, a Minimum Viable Community (MVC) is, in essence, the smallest group of people needed to come together for a shared purpose — to create a community.

Community builders can use this framework to get their ideal community off the ground without investing too many resources off the bat.

Ready to start your dream community? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a Minimum Viable Community?

We know what you’re thinking: exactly how many people are a ‘small group’?

The simple answer: however many people you can bring together. That could be five, 10, or 30 members — if they’re engaged, and you understand your members’ needs and the needs of others like them, your MVC can eventually become a valuable, fully-fledged community.

An MVC is not unlike an MVP, explains Alex Angel, Chief Community Officer at Commsor and The Community Club.

“One is the smallest feature set you can release to product users and feel confident they’ll find value in what you’ve built,” she says. “The other is the smallest group of people and supporting programs you can build, where members will find value in what you’ve built.”

It is important, however, to bear in mind that ‘smallest’ here doesn’t necessarily mean absolute bare bones, she adds.

“You need to have enough there to be able to collect valuable feedback about what you’ve built (whether it’s actually viable or not) and then iterate on it.”

Why start with an MVC?

Building communities is not easy, so it makes sense to start small and scale as you have more insight into what really works for your members.

“Communities are inherently unique in terms of audience, size, and scope. This means that nailing every aspect of the experience right out of the gate can be exceptionally difficult,” says Brian.

“Instead, it may make sense to take an iterative approach to build community and build over time. This isn't to say that you should skimp on the initial implementation. First impressions do matter and you don't want to risk going too minimum. You'll have to find the threshold for yourself.”

The benefits of an MVC for business

Resources don’t need to be stretched

“There are many ways building an MVC can benefit business,” says SVP of New Products at Commsor, Brian Oblinger. “For starters, you don't go too far down the rabbit hole only to realize that your approach is all wrong.”

Starting small offers you the opportunity to prioritize a meatier scope of the next version of your product or community based on actual market viability vs. assumptions based on market research.

Rather than investing significant resources upfront for either of these, Alex says, community builders can get something out there quickly with minimal resources and figure out the best way to continue building and scaling your offerings (and the teams supporting them).

“It also becomes easier to completely scrap if your product or community falls flat despite your initial research and assumptions,” she adds.

This ensures that the company ends up with a community well-suited to their customer needs and keeps businesses from investing a lot of time and money into solutions that ultimately won’t work.

A better understanding of customer needs

Starting small and creating your community space while gaining member feedback is a good approach to building the community your ideal members actually want from the get-go.

“Building with a lean mindset, in the beginning, will help you focus on what's most important and allow space for flexibility and agility as you shift into phase two, phase three, and beyond,” says Brian.

Get feedback and scale faster

After you have launched your MVC and see that it is a market fit, you can begin to act on member feedback and scale your community.

It’s much easier to track feedback when it’s coming from a select few. Larger communities may encounter issues where too many members are sharing their grievances and there just aren’t resources to get to address them all.

With an MVC, you can receive feedback from your members, build, measure, and learn at a much faster rate. This can make finding “gaps” in the market your community falls into much easier and increase business opportunities.

How to build a Minimum Viable Community

How do I start?

Start with planning. Figure out who your ideal member is, what the purpose of the community is, and what value it provides.

“I always start with community member personas,” Brian says. “Understanding who your audience is and what they need to succeed is the first step. This will also help you craft a sense of prioritization to define what MVC means in the context of the community you're trying to build.”

If you’re looking for an in-depth look at exactly how to do this, check out C School’s Creating Community Personas course.

At this stage, you’ll also need to answer the ‘why’ of your community. You need to understand what value you’re bringing to the members and what you’re expecting in return. You can only get this knowledge from constant member feedback.

“You should start small and iterate quickly based on conversations with members, and use this as an opportunity to learn as much as you can from what’s working well and what isn’t,” advises Alex.

Where should I bring people together?

Once you’ve got the above locked in, it’s time to start thinking about platform. If you’re looking to get things up and running simply and seamlessly, we’re rather partial to Meetsy, a platform for facilitating member connections. Bonus: it’s free.

It’s a quick process to get set up, and easy for new members to immediately start participating and meeting others.

Where to from here?

For Brian, an MVC ends the second you launch it. “Your immediate next action should be gathering data and feedback so that you can build whatever is next,” he says.

Join our Minimum Viable Community Challenge

What if you could build your community as part of, well, a community?

On April 4, 2022, we’re kicking off our own MVC Challenge, a six-week community-building challenge in which we support community builders in getting their very own community off the ground.

Intimidated? Don’t be! Our team will provide worksheets, tips and tricks for engagement and understanding trends, guides for what success looks like, weekly prompts and check-ins, and more!

Learn more about our MVC Challenge

Pam Magwaza
March 17, 2022

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