The flywheel concept has been popularized more as a customer success metric than something that has to do with community building. In the recent years, customer success has become more prominent and a sought after category in business. And as time has proven to be true, simply selling a service or a product is not enough nowadays. You need to delight customers, engage with them, and see to it that their problems are being solved and not just that their requirements are bing met. The same thing applies to communities.
When you get a new member and you don’t offer great value and don’t take measures to engage with them effectively, they leave. Creating a funnel is standard practice even today, guiding members from the top of the funnel to the bottom. But it often doesn’t stick, a lot of them end up either reaching a dead-end or just making a U-turn and heading back. The idea of a flywheel has been conceptualized to create a self-sustaining model that spins on it’s own.
How does the flywheel model work for communities?
Think about this - A stranger to your brand or business sees/reads/hears something about your product. They discover it, go through your community knowledge base, check out your product, and become aware of the community. Join the community, go through an extremely fun onboarding process, get instant value through activation, and start participating in conversations. Soon they are active contributors who are writing content, sharing advice, and providing answers. Before you know it, they become advocates for your brand and start promoting it publicly. A stranger sees/reads/hears something about your brand. This becomes a cycle - the flywheel.
What do you need to do to rotate the community flywheel?
The more friction there is, the sooner will the flywheel come to a stop. You need to be responsible for reducing that friction. This friction can be anything - a lack of engagement, poor onboarding, monotonous events, unclear purpose, or lack of a good community culture. Everything that can lead to friction in the flywheel needs to be rooted out as critically as possible.
Once the flywheel gains momentum, it spins faster, gets bigger, and spins longer. Of course, nothing ever will go on forever, the wheel will eventually slow or even stop, but your goal should be to extend that time span as much as you can.