Office Hours: I'm the co-founder of People & Company and was one of the first employees at Instagram.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Bailey Richardson, co-founder and partner at People & Company and co-author of Get Together, published by Stripe Press. Our mission is to help people bring their people together. We interview extraordinary people organizers on our podcast and consult with organizations like Nike, Substack, and Porsche on how to cultivate communities. In the past, I grew the early community around Instagram, where I was one of the first employees. I've also worked at IDEO, StoryCorps, Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine, made a short film about a Pinoy inventor named Dado Banatao, interviewed Russians who are LGBTQ about what their lives are really like, asked Casey Neistat how to make and share videos people love, and started a Queer Pool Club.Ask me anything about community, writing, startup building, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @baileyrichardson!Elphas – please ask @baileyrichardson your questions before Friday, May 14th. @baileyrichardson may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
bailey rocks!!!
Hey Bailey! I recently quit my job to build a community and wanted to ask:Do you think social media marketing is the best approach when it comes to building a community quickly*? What alternatives should we consider?Given how expensive traditional advertising is, social media can be great, but you're then forced to play by the rules of the social network you're using. So you might encounter problems like- Being at the mercy of ever-changing algorithms- Creating consistent, quality content is time consuming (and therefore expensive!)- Competing with a lot of noise*The reason speed is fairly important is because of network effects, i.e. the quicker you can grow the community, the better it'll become, and until you have X no. of users, your product just isn't as good as it could be.Thanks for giving your time! Would also welcome answers from anyone else reading this 😊
Hi there Georgie! If you're building a community - a group of people who keep coming together over something they care about - you want to allow people in the community to connect directly to one another. Some social platforms do that well (Reddit, FB Groups). Some are more parasocial (YouTube, Instagram). I think it's very important to have a space that allows members to connect, which we call a "watering hole." That said, you may want to use some social media platforms that are more parasocial to spread the word about the community so folks who are interested can discover it. How can you work with existing/early members to collectively send a clear, authentic signal about what your community is all about on social media? First, make it clear to members that you want their help with recruiting. You can’t expect people to recruit others without a nudge. Make it clear to members that their active involvement is crucial to ensuring the vitality and success of your community. At your gatherings, online or off, carve out time to make sure existing members know that the more people who attend, the more enjoyable and impactful the experience will be for everyone involved. If your members agree, they’ll take that sense of responsibility to heart.Once members know that they play a role in attracting new folks, your next step is to make sharing easy, even exciting, for them. Serve up the rad photos, videos, links, or language they’ll be excited to use when they tell friends on social media and beyond about the new community they’re a part of.
Love this! Thanks so much Bailey 🙏
Hi @baileyrichardson Thank you for taking the time to do this. In your book, you talk about storytelling as a tool to build communities. Can you recommend ways of mastering the art of storytelling? Any tips? best resources? hands-on workshops? One story can be told in so many ways, and some are more compelling than others. As a founder of a startup, I have to master the art of storytelling on so many levels for different audiences. Yet still, it's very foreign to me, and often the way i tell the stories is very dry :) How do I learn to turn any story into an exciting and memorable one?
Hi Bailey, Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge with us. I am hoping to build a book community this year. I'm currently getting the team together. Do you have any advice for someone who is new to this space? What do you think is the key factor for a thriving community? How do you drive up user engagement? Do you have any advice on how to protect users against harassment?Thank you!
Hi there @nhu313! When we speak with aspirational community builders, we tell them that if they only remember one thing from our conversation, it’s that you must build a community *with* your people, not for them. Nearly every challenge can be met by asking yourself, “How do I achieve this by working with my people, not doing it for them?” In other words, approach community building as progressive acts of partnership — doing more with others every step of the way. While amateurs try to manage a community, great leaders create more leaders.In terms of more granular planning questions, our book is a guidebook with lots of resources. We've also open-sourced all of our client tools and research here:
Thanks, Bailey. That is an important distinction. I'll try to keep that in mind. I'll definitely check out the book! Thank you again for taking the time out to do AMA!
What do you believe are the critical steps when starting a community?
Hi @ELatLUV! The big 3 questions I have for people "sparking" communities are deceptively simple, and I'll keep harping on them over and over: WHO, WHY, WHAT? You can build a skeleton plan off of those three questions. 1. WHO does this community bring together?The WHO you should focus on sits in the middle of a Venn diagram between these two questions: a) Who brings the energy now—who are the people who already engage, contribute, or attend? Don’t try to conjure motivation out of thin air. Start with keen participants.b) And who is the most important to the future (of this community or your business / organization)? Cultivating a community is a long-term play. Who does your organization’s future rely on (e.g., power users, loyal customers, key donors, passionate employees)? Who do you want to invest in? Make it real, jot down their names. 2. WHY will this community come together?Once you know your WHO, you need to get clear on the WHY. What's their connective tissue? Why would they want to connect and share with one another? What's the value for members?Is it: "Inspiration" "Fandom" or "celebration" "Collective impact" Or is it about something else entirely? (see attached image for how we evoke these answers with clients)3. WHAT do they do together?Once you know your WHO and your WHY (e.g. inspiration), you can get sharper on your WHAT. WHAT do these people share with each other? WHAT do they do together? How will they participate in this community in a repeatable way (an action they want to take over and over).This will be a creative exercise, one that you'll likely need to look to the world for inspiration for.
Thanks for joining us on Office Hours Bailey! I am so excited as I've read both your book and listened to your podcast and loved them!!I lead community here at Elpha and my question is around our world's gradual transition from a virtual world to things slowly opening back up again this and next year. How do you think about community in this regard and what do you think are some things that are important to be mindful of when bringing people together and strengthening on and offline communities in a post-Covid world, whenever that may be?
I am not a prophet. The world has changed so much in the last 2 years that to predict the future seems somewhat foolish at this point. So take this with a grain of salt :)Here are things that seem somewhat clear to me: 1) The power of in-person is eternal. People get lots of energy from interacting in person with others in real-world gatherings. Look for those to come back, and to be especially meaningful during the re-emergence period. 2) We all know how to hang out online now. This tool is not leaving our toolkits. And online gatherings are powerful. When the people you want to connect couldn't otherwise access each other in person—because of geographic distance, or mobility limitations—online allows us to meet. I'm excited that more of us have developed the online gathering muscle so we can gather folks who otherwise couldn't access one another. 3) We used to describe communities as "online or offline." But going forward, I think most communities will exist both online and offline to some degree. That means we will need to be more thoughtful as organizers around when to host online activities and when to use offline - both in terms of public safety, and also in terms of how to best serve *our* communities. What is helpful is to go back to the foundational questions: Who are we bringing together? And more importantly, especially in this moment: Why are they coming together? What is the purpose of this group? What kind of activity will get them the value that they need?