In this episode, we will talk about your community needs. What constitutes an online community? Why a lot of so-gurus avoid the topic of community development. And why communities are so important to the success of your subscription service.

Welcome to the SubscriptionMaker Podcast. This is your host Zachary Alexander, Enterprise Architect at Please hit the subscribe button where ever you get your podcasts so that you won’t miss any new episodes.

Contrarian Alert: Passion, knowledge, and certifications will only take you so far in today’s business world. You also need a community. You need a targeted group of people who support what you are doing, people who get you, and understand what your trying to accomplish without a lot of arm twisting.

What constitutes an online community?

As you know, online communities come in many different flavors, for example, public social networks like Facebook and Instagram. Some people still use old-school message boards and list servers. You could even make the case that your email list is an online community.

For our discussions, we would like to concern our selves with a relatively new phenomenon called private social networks. What some marketers like to call branded communities. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to discuss the difference. We’ll talk about that at a later date.

What are community needs?

You can think of community needs as engagement problems. They take the form of questions like who are the people that you want to engage on a regular basis. Who are the people that you like talking with day in and day out? Who do you serve?

When we talk about community needs, we are talking about soft resources like people and relationships. These are resources that you can’t own. You can’t even truly rent them. All you can do is provide a subscription service that satisfies their needs and supports their success.

Why are community needs important?

There are two basic needs for people who want recurring income: platform needs and community needs. For the record, you could say that all you really need are customers. And you’d be correct if we were only talking about discrete sales or one-offs.

The challenge is retention. It’s difficult to get people to pay you month after month if you don’t give them a reason to stick around. Simply, answering questions or providing training is not enough. Eventually,  your subscribers will get pretty good at accomplishing the tasks you currently teach.

That’s when you need a community. Communities provide an online space for people to congregate. You could easily make the case that what’s needed is a safe corner of the internet where your subscribers can try new things without the fear of being ridiculed for their position on the journey.

Can communities support well-architected pivots?

The answer is absolutely.  Well-Architected Pivots are the kind of business decisions we were talking about in our last episode. So let’s tick off the individual pillars of the Well-Architected Framework and how they apply to community needs:

Operational Excellence

You can think of operational excellence as the ability to respond to new opportunities with a minimum of effort. Systems that are poorly architected are brittle. They break after even the slight change. Poorly architected systems cannot keep with your community needs.

Poorly architected communities will also hamper your ability to innovate. Unlike branded communities, you don’t control the flow of information or the direction the work will take. The best you can do is to monitor where the energy is in the group and change your strategy accordingly.


You must be able to respond to growing threats like spire fishing. Complex systems are vulnerable to malicious actors. And communities are some of the most complex systems on earth. However, your community needs organized activities to be successful. So they also need targeted security measures that limit exposure.

Most so-called gurus don’t like to talk about security function when they talk about community development. They would prefer to leave this discussion until later or better still let someone else handle it. You can’t wish away security threats. The best you can do is prepare to respond to them.


Communities like successful subscription services are built on availability and 24/7 demand cycles. Today, systems must always be available. Your online reputation can be damaged if you can’t meet these standards.

You can make the case that your community’s need for reliability has to do with conversations. Communication is the lifeblood of communities.  So people need to able to communicate reliably. That includes joining ongoing conversations that have going on for years.


A lot of so-called gurus on YouTube talk about the need to avoid energy vampires. As subscriptionmakers, you have to concerned with the kind of vampires, which sap community members of their creative energy. And their will to participate.

You can’t tolerate anything that is a drag on your community. Subscribers get upset when they feel you don’t hear them. When it comes to performance, we are talking about the rate of change. The more we get to know whose in our community the faster we should be able to respond to their request for change.

Cost Efficiency

For our purposes, the return on investment is the trickiest issue we have. Community needs can’t trump cost. However, with some work, they can be tied costs. If we do our jobs right, then our subscriber growth and retention will cover the cost of our community efforts. Long-term sustainability requires it.


Community needs are just as important as your platform needs when it comes to the success of your subscription services. It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out or executing a well-architected pivot. The sustainability of your service will be tied to the success of your community.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the SubscriptionMaker Podcast. This is your host Zachary Alexander. “Something Crazy” by the Particle House is the music track. You can find it at Epidemic Sound. Finally, you can contact me on