Are community and capitalism at odds?

Question of the day stole from David Spinks.

Are community and capitalism at odds?

Been thinking a lot about this question.

— David Spinks (@DavidSpinks) September 16, 2022

I have lots of thoughts around money and the business of community and I think this question can also lead to many other questions.

Specifically, I’m thinking things like:

  • how can we get better at finding the balance at making communities financially stable?
  • what’s working and what isn’t working?
  • how can companies be less greedy?
  • and as Arjay puts it, we can people before profit, but how can we find more examples of this? (and stop laying people off)
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Are community and capitalism at odds?

I don’t think so.

If the free market is about consumers making independent choices, communities fit.

Commerce happens within and between communities. Communities influence and drive economic activity.

Now, if by capitalism we mean profits above everything? Then yeah, I can see that being at odds.

It’s like when companies refuse to acknowledge that their competitors or alternatives exist. It’s zero sum thinking.

Communities don’t play nice in that situation because you can’t have absolute control over a community’s activity.


A couple of thoughts:

We need to get better at productizing community

Community can drive good outcomes yet often we struggle to ‘capitalise’ it because we’re too worried about ‘making money from relationships’. I think we need to find a way past that and not have guilt around it. A big part of this, I think, is ensuring there is value or a product that is more than just the relationships/conversations. Community stems from conversations, but if the output is super valuable then people won’t have issue profits made.

We need better examples of communities doing well financially

The original question from David Spinks came as result of the Figma acquisition. Which came right after the Patagonia’s announcement of exit to earth, but overall I think this is tied to the need to find good examples of communities that are respectful whilst also financially sustainable (or successful).

Of course this last part on what ‘success is’ can be very open to interpretation.

Agreed. Depending on the circles you’re in, there’s an ick factor to talking about financials, despite it being so important (especially in the current economic climate).

You can still prioritize the member relationship while watching financial impact as a byproduct. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

My philosophy on it has consistently been show up and be helpful.

Member needs advice? Give them the most genuine and accurate recommendations you can muster.

It that leads to business impact, make sure you’re tracking and taking credit for it!

Organic traffic, reduced churn, mitigated tickets, new sales leads, new user registrations, product upgrades, up-selling or cross-selling…

Figure out what you’re affecting today, and look for opps to affect even more things.

That doesn’t have to change what you do. You don’t need to go out and make a sales pitch.

Aside: I once worked with some folks who dug in their heels over linking to product pages from within the community.

They felt that it wasn’t right. “We’re community, not sales or marketing.”

But all the activity and search traffic was around product discussions. That’s what members were looking for.

Making it easier for members to find product information helped them, while also contributing to business impact.

Everyone wins. That feels like a pretty sweet setup for community.

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I have been thinking about this conversation over the last few weeks, especially after the Figma announcement.

Specifically speaking to tech, the pressure of growth for growth sake that can be brought on from VC’s and overinflated valuations is negatively impacting good product, people, and communities.

I want to see more bootstrapped organic growth over overhyped funded growth, where people are less disposable. But I know it may be easier said than done.

I am no expert, but I am feeling a bit unsettled about it all.

Then I come across a company like (via Rosieland!) and see it is possible to do this.:smiling_face_with_tear: Makes me wonder…will there be a shift after this recession? I can only hope so.

What I do know is once my Squarespace subscription is up, I will be switching to Ghost because the more I can vote for what I want with my dollar, the better chance we have at seeing the pendulum swing the other way.

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This is what I live for.

I love Ghost for setting up as non-profit and as a result that removes the equation for even thinking about selling. It’s just not an option. And I think that is just beautiful. :heart_eyes:

I like to think I’ve stayed true to Ministry of Testing. I’m still a (co)owner, but instead of trying to sell it when I wanted to step back I found someone else to take over the running of it. He is now a co-owner too.

We have talked lightly about making it an employee owned company, but are yet to do any deep analysis on what that means and how to do it.

I am convinced that if we did sell it then it would most likely die.

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