Shout out to the inimitable Greg Eisenberg who dropped this tweet into my daily feed yesterday. The author, Matt Estes, posted on Linked In about the hierarchy of needs, effectively showing that the value for community builders lies in the impact you have on the people you serve.
If the impact is to just make them chuckle, it's low value to the user.
If your impact is to change their lives, help them stop an addiction or realize their full potential in a particular domain, that's transformational and high value.
We see this with individual service providers in terms of what they can charge. For example, there's two different ways to get your hair cut in town. One costs $20, the other one costs $200. The difference is in the transformation.
My goal here is to challenge people who are creators working from audience to community – and thinking about monetization – to figure out their path to get to a place where they are creating that next level value.
In this post, I deconstruct the "hierarchy of value" concept to give you a sense of the steps you can take on this journey.
This isn't meant to be comprehensive in any way, but consider it a rough sketch for each level of the process that you can use to start moving forward competently and solving each challenge as you go.
1️⃣ Step One: Entertainment
Focus: Captivating Your Audience
Understanding what attracts investment and how it intersects with your audience's interests is essential
In shaping your community, the initial step is to cultivate your audience. This begins with a clear understanding of your interests or by immersing yourself in an existing audience.
Let's use pickleball as an example. If you're an enthusiast, you're already part of its community, likely engaging with various platforms like YouTube, TikTok, forums, or newsletters. These platforms represent different facets of the pickleball community.
First, map out these resources. This map will help you segment your broader audience based on factors like age, skill level, location, interests, or playing style. This segmentation depends on your goals and where you see yourself fitting in.
For instance, if your aim is to teach pickleball techniques on your channel, this map helps you determine whether your content is more suited for serious players or those playing for fun.
The key here is to balance unleashing your creative potential with capturing your process – think of it as creating and documenting simultaneously. This approach is vital for later stages, so ensure you're recording your journey, your methodologies, and your rationale. This documentation is not just valuable for you but will also be beneficial in the future.
As you refine your audience, you'll start noticing those who engage with your content. This interaction is crucial for determining the utility you wish to provide in the next step. If monetization is part of your strategy, consider creating sponsored content or partnering with brands relevant to your audience. This can include advertisements, sponsor messages, or even collaborations with other creators to mutually enrich your respective audiences.
Need context? Look to creators who have successfully monetized their content on platforms like YouTube or podcasts through advertisements and sponsorships. The goal is to become an authority in your niche, attracting companies and brands willing to pay for access to your audience.
Remember, it's not about having a massive following. Winning is having a specific value for a focused audience.
So while you shouldn’t hesitate to explore monetization early on, don’t go all in just yet. Understanding what attracts investment and how it intersects with your audience's interests is essential. Your challenge at this entertainment level is to identify and capitalize on this intersection.
2️⃣ Step Two: Utility
Focus: Providing Value
The second phase of your creator journey focuses on utility. Moving beyond just entertainment, a portion of your audience now finds tangible value in being part of your community.
This utility is shaped by insights gained during the entertainment phase, where you identified the interests of your audience and what they're keen to learn.
With this knowledge, you can tailor what you offer to meet their specific needs. While consuming your content is a basic form of utility, aim to take it a step further.
Consider offering practical, how-to information that stems from your experiences (using the content you documented earlier). This utility is invaluable because it's born from your unique journey and expertise.
As you demonstrate your knowledge and experience, a portion of your audience will be eager to learn from you and engage with what you've created. Although this educational content is a step toward building a community, it's not the endpoint.
Like before, use the opportunity to offer products to your audience, like revenue-sharing partnerships, ebooks, email courses, or even comprehensive online courses that deconstruct your process in a way that benefits them. The monetization will help with your growth and sustainability.
This behind-the-scenes content, authentic to your journey and audience strategy, becomes a powerful tool to engage your audience further. It not only offers them practical utility but also solidifies your position as an industry leader.
As demand for your insights grows, so does the value of what you offer. This stage is where your success with your audience not only bolsters their growth but also cements your authority in the field.
3️⃣ Step Three: Belonging
Focus: Transitioning to a community
In Stage Three of the Creator Blueprint, we focus on fostering a sense of belonging and nurturing a community. At this juncture, your audience is fully engaged, regularly interacting with the utility you've offered. This sets the stage for transitioning from a top-down approach to a more collaborative, peer-to-peer model.
Your role now is facilitating connections among community members drawn together by your unique insights, content, and strategy.
This stage is crucial because any effort you invest in the community has a substantial impact, given that members are committed and have actively chosen to be part of this journey.
Creating a community experience can take many forms, but the essential work here is providing a space for members to connect and interact.
Consider the experience of being a Kansas City Chiefs season ticket holder. The real value lies not just in holding the ticket but in the opportunity to mingle with fellow fans, share experiences, and build relationships. The outcome of the games is secondary to the sense of belonging and status within the community.
With such a highly engaged audience, numerous opportunities arise for further engagement and monetization. This could range from membership fees to organizing special events, selling exclusive merchandise, or even offering advanced courses or mastermind sessions. These offerings deepen the utility you initially provided, allowing members to gain more profound insights or direct access to you as the founder.
Take Jay Clouse and Creator Science community as an exemplar of successful community building at scale. His community's value has skyrocketed due to his persistent efforts in community development and his unique perspective and targeted approach.
By being part of Jay’s community, members get more than just content; they gain access to a fast track for creating impactful and monetizable content for their audience. All of which is based on Jay’s many years of working to start and build community.
This is the essence of this stage: offering direct access to your expertise and fostering an environment where members can thrive and contribute meaningfully.
4️⃣ Step Four: Transformation
Focus: Leading and Facilitating Change
In the final stage of the Creator Blueprint, you transition from community building to facilitating transformation. This stage is about leading your audience through a journey that fundamentally changes how they perceive and interact with the world.
Achieving transformation requires immense trust, meticulous planning, and a great deal of energy. It's a challenging feat, but without attempting it, you'll never realize its potential.
At this level, your members are ready for change. They might be struggling with a problem or a habit that hinders their growth and are seeking your guidance or an experience you can provide to overcome these challenges.
The transformation you facilitate is pivotal. It marks a significant fork in their life's journey. Post this experience, they can look back and pinpoint the moment they made a crucial choice that altered their path. Offering this opportunity, regardless of the outcome's magnitude, is incredibly impactful.
Reaching this stage demands time and intentionality. You might find yourself already in a space conducive to transformation if you've had personal experiences like overcoming a speech impediment, surviving an abusive relationship, or a profound spiritual encounter.
Transformation isn't limited to grand narratives; even seemingly small achievements like earning the first dollar online or connecting with someone who truly understands can be life-changing.
These transformative experiences are finite, intense periods like retreats, workshops, or focused coaching sessions. They act as catalysts for change, allowing people to take ownership of their journey. As a creator, it’s essential to understand that lasting transformation happens when individuals take independent steps forward.
For monetization, consider organizing retreats, workshops, personalized coaching, or mentoring sessions. These are most effective when they are time-bound.
A notable example is Tony Robbins, known for his breakthrough workshops, where the experience of transformation itself is the product. His customers seek these experiences repeatedly, each addressing different facets of their lives.
The Final Word
This blueprint is your guide you from providing entertainment to facilitating transformation. Not everyone is ready to or willing to walk this path. Don't get me wrong, it's a lot of work. But now you know the way, it's a choice for you. An option.
If you want to take this journey, you don’t necessarily have to follow every step in order. This is a roadmap to help you understand the necessary actions to achieve your goals. Remember, each step is a building block towards creating a profound impact on your audience’s life and growing alongside them.