Guides Book review: Build Your Community by Richard Millington

Book review: Build Your Community by Richard Millington

Last updatedJune 3, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

In Build Your Community, Richard Millington presents a comprehensive, data-driven guide for creating flourishing online communities in the digital age. Drawing on his extensive experience as the founder of FeverBee and author of two prior books (Buzzing Communities and The Indispensable Community) on the subject, Millington delivers an indispensable resource for anyone seeking to cultivate a vibrant customer community.

The timeless power of community

Millington posits that in an increasingly disconnected world, people are craving a sense of community and belonging more than ever. He observes, “People today are looking for connection and a place to belong. They want to be part of a community aligned with their purpose, values and goals.”

Yet most organizations approach community building in misguided ways, using antiquated methods and hunches. Build Your Community aims to transform community development into a more predictable science, while preserving the art and human element. Millington’s contagious passion and deep expertise shine through as he shares proven tactics for overcoming common challenges and crafting communities that stand the test of time.

A comprehensive roadmap for community success

One of the standout features of Build Your Community is how it methodically guides readers through the complete community-building journey using lucid frameworks and concrete examples. Millington offers granular advice for each phase, from securing stakeholder buy-in to defining community purpose, crafting the optimal member experience, and gauging impact.

I particularly appreciated his step-by-step approach to setting community rules and social norms. Millington breaks down the different types of rules into universal rules that keep members safe, unique social norms that shape a distinctive community experience, and context-dependent judgment calls. He emphasizes the importance of establishing a strong community culture right from the start, noting that the choices you make about what behaviors to encourage or discourage will be one of the most impactful decisions for your community.

Millington provides a helpful rule of thumb: “Aim to come up with between one and three unique rules which set the tone for your community. You might even want to run these by some prospective community members to get their take on what they want to see.” This kind of specific, actionable advice is exactly what makes the book so useful. Rather than just discussing high-level theory, he arms you with clear next steps to implement.

I also found the sections on writing effective welcome messages and responses very valuable. Millington shares examples of best practices, like quickly responding to new member introductions, thanking them for joining, inviting them to share more, and suggesting next steps. Seeing these “templates” for successful community interactions helps make the advice concrete and easier to apply.

While expansive in scope, covering everything from launching a new community to maintaining mature ones, the book never feels overwhelming thanks to its clear organization and practical features. Each chapter ends with a concise summary of key takeaways, a checklist to guide your next actions, and a “tools of the trade” section pointing you to additional resources.

Putting principles into practice

Throughout the book, Millington shares candid stories of his successes and failures, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and triumphs of building thriving online communities. These anecdotes serve not only to entertain but also to educate, offering valuable lessons and practical wisdom that readers can learn from.

For me, the book’s most compelling insights related to the finer points of community management, like instituting different categories of rules. Millington classifies them into universal rules to protect members, bespoke social norms to foster a unique community experience, and context-dependent judgment calls. His rule of thumb to “come up with between one and three unique rules which set the tone for your community” provides a clear framework for action.

An essential guide for community builders

While I wish the book dove even deeper into vivid case studies showcasing memorable community triumphs and unconventional winning strategies, the instructive examples Millington does include illustrate how to translate his teachings into real-world success.

I emerged from reading Build Your Community energized and brimming with ideas to incorporate into the design of Hall, the customer community platform we are building. Millington has penned an essential, engaging guide for anyone passionate about harnessing the timeless power of community. Constructing a thriving community is no easy feat, but armed with the right blueprint, ethos and commitment to serving your members, the potential is boundless.

If you’re involved with online communities in any capacity, you’ll find immense value in these pages. Millington’s hard-won wisdom and contagious passion make Build Your Community an empowering field manual for community builders. You can read the book straight through for a comprehensive masterclass in community building, or dip into specific sections for targeted advice when you need it. Worth reading for anyone interested in communities, you will come away equipped with a robust framework and practical tactics to create a thriving community that delivers real value to members and the organization.

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