You've probably heard the term product-market fit before (if not, check out this great post from Justin Jackson), but what about community-market fit?
Product-market fit is often used to identify when a product has proven there is strong market demand. The concept of community-market fit can be boiled down to one question: how do you know you've built a community that people actually want?
Of course every community is a bit different, so this isn't meant to be a magic checklist, but rather just some collected thoughts around signs you can use to show that your community is on the path to satisfying that market demand.
Just like organic adoption can be a great sign of product-market fit, organic community growth is a great sign that people want the community. This is especially true when existing members are inviting their friends and colleagues. You're doing something right!
Roughly the first 250 members in Community Chat were personally invited to the community by us. Now we're at nearly 1,300 members, and less than 10% of new members are invited by us!
This is absolutely my favorite indicator of community-market fit. Once members start engaging with each other and you're no longer required to respond to every question or post yourself, then the community will truly start to feel alive!
Look for the familiar faces, the ones who always say hi to new members, answer questions, and contribute. The existence of your first super users is a great sign that people are enjoying and finding value in the community. Members won't engage or commit enough to become super users without community-market fit.
When members start to step up and find ways to get involved in the community beyond just being a member, it often means they feel a sense of 'ownership' in the community. A true community enables and empowers members to become the next generation of leaders within it.
You have to be part of the community to get this one.
This is sort of an 'anti-point'. When a community is super small and just starting out, you can often get away with not having guidelines or a code of conduct. At a certain size and scale though, you'll inevitably need to worry about rules and moderation.
Just like building a product—start with an MVP, and prove there is demand for your community before worrying about expanding. Often folks focus too much on picking the right platform, adding new layers and 'features', and pushing their community too far too quickly. Focus on bringing people together with purpose, and the rest will come.