Hello and welcome to Community Tea, a new series where I dive deep into all aspects of community building with community professionals across all industries
I recently talked with the Head of Community at Groove, Taylor Harrington. To say that community building is part of Taylor’s DNA is an understatement. From starting a dance party in a Costco as a toddler to creating a safe and bright space for artists to be themselves during her college years, she has brought her love of bringing people together to her current role as Groove’s community leader.
Groove is a digital co-working community for solopreneurs. The Groove app creates workspaces where people working for themselves from around the world connect, set intentions for a productive 50-min session, do the work, and debrief together. Groovers have landed dream clients, met best friends, planned a whole month of TikTok content, and even (in the most epic Groove I got to join) used Groove to pack for a trip right before proposing to their partner!
I sat down with Taylor to chat about all things community and to learn about her journey as a fellow Community Architect. Here are 4 things I’ve learned from our conversation.
Impactful community building is collaborative
There’s a significant difference between building for and with a community. When talking about how to build community and what it means to her, Taylor defined community architects as the people who lay the foundation of the community or space but don’t paint the walls or bring the furniture in.
Architects establish the groundwork and invite people in to continue the work. By inviting members into the building process, you can create a safe, authentic space that is co-owned by everyone.
“We all get to design it together, and then it becomes ours.”
Make on-brand choices
An authentic community develops a distinct personality, and its quirks are born out of the members, rituals, community guidelines, and community leader. It may be hard to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, but some of the most memorable moments are born from authentic leadership.
Don’t be afraid to embrace having your own “brand” as a community manager and make decisions for your community that are on brand for you and what you want to create. When a community leader knows who they are and makes an on-brand choice, it gets recognized and creates a magnetic vibe.
Taylor recounted a recent incident when she accidentally shared a broken event sign-up link to the entire Groove community. Instead of trying to sweep it under the rug (*which never works*), she approached it head-on and decided to send a correction email but with a little bit of spice.
She googled ‘fun website to send people’ (google at your own risk), found a random link called screamintothevoid.com, and added it to her correction email, inviting people to join her in her wallowing. People LOVED it! There was a significant uptake in open rates and replies, and Taylor had Groovers laughing and thanking her for the newly discovered resource.
Images by Taylor Harrington
Set healthy boundaries
Community leaders often interact with hundreds of people, and let’s be honest – it can be incredibly draining. It’s essential to recognize that community leaders do not always have to be open book or be on call at all hours of the day.
Everyone’s boundaries are different, and you’ll figure it out along the way (it’s a journey, to say the least), but Taylor shared a few tips that could work well for you. For starters, she does not have her email or Slack on her phone and has a strict no weekend Grooving policy. And while she brings her full authentic self to work every day, she does try to show up a bit more professionally to help her create separation from being on and off work. Lastly, she also sets additional space boundaries by ensuring she’s logged off her work account on her laptop by the end of the workday.
The magic can get lost in the metrics
This was Taylor’s most passionate advice for fellow community builders! We both recognize the importance of metrics, especially when advocating for your community or securing project funding. But, Taylor challenges the corporate narrative of what community success looks like. Some of the most impactful moments from your community will not show up on your CRM and may be impossible to measure, but those moments are just as (if not more!) valuable.
Those one-on-one relationships created through your community (e.g. lifelong friendships, mentorships) and the anecdotal stories we all love are the magic your community is built on. Take the time to recognize those moments and share the magic!
We ended the conversation talking about Black Mirror, the Metaverse, and losing ourselves (and potentially our authenticity) behind screens or finding safe spaces in anonymous communities.
A massive thank you to Taylor Harrington for sharing her fantastic community insights and the rare opportunity for honesty (lessons learned along the way).
Read more from Taylor Harrington on Medium.