What’s Girl Gang?
This isn’t your average gang. Vancouver’s Girl Gang connects women in media, communications, tech and related fields to foster connections and support one another in their professional development. Sounds dope, right? With over 5,000 members – and counting – we thought their community would be a great place to begin our tribe lab case studies.
We were aware of Girl Gang because the ladies of My Loud Speaker are all part of it – and we’re big fans. Even from a distance, you can tell that this community has all the foundational elements that contribute to a strong community. We had an inkling, they’d rate quite well on our community scale.
We reached out to one of their founders, as the lead mod, to see if they’d be interested in our approach to assessing strong brand communities and see how it applied to Girl Gang. They brought their team together to join us for a discussion around how their community came to thrive, and where they still have room to grow.
Why an organization with a strong community should keep looking at it
We’ve said it before, but size isn’t all that matters. Often, people associate size with strength. That is not the case in terms of community. Even communities with growing numbers can find great value in taking a pause and looking at the community more closely, and uncovering where it can be improved.
Good, better, best – right? You should never let your community rest, until your good is better, and your better is best.
In the case of Girl Gang, they had been going through a bit of a struggle as their community expanded. It’s common to find, as a community grows, new pains revealing themselves.
Women in media and communications is a timeless passion. It’s a growing industry and is showing no signs of slowing or stopping. Recent statistics show women in marketing and communications are coming in stronger and in greater numbers than their male counterparts. With this in mind, this passion is only getting more fuel with every passing day.
Most of the time, a community can succeed once it has defined a clear passion. Girl Gang’s passion is creating a place for women in media and communications to support one another. It’s a passion people need and, as whole, isn’t being fulfilled, and a lot of women resonate with it.
However, one of the things they were finding were women outside of media and communications still wanted to join the gang. While these members didn’t fit the profile exactly, they wanted in. The leaders of Girl Gang found themselves stretching the original definitions they had in place to accommodate the onslaught of member hopefuls.
In order to make things better in the long run, a good practice would be to get back to their original definition. Who and what defines a woman in media and communications, and making that more direct. In order to up their score, creating more clarity around who the community is for, and being firmer on keeping it to those folks would be best.
What happens to the members outside that?
Whenever your community is clear, naturally people outside the definition will weed themselves out or adapt to fit within it. You’re never going to kick a member out, but you want to keep a clear focus. When it’s no longer something outsiders identify with, they will leave on their own accord.
One of their shortfalls was a lack of clarity around their vision. Girl Gang did have a vision but it had already been achieved, which meant the community had limited room to motivate their community to work towards a greater goal.
While it’s great that they have a large group of people with a similar passion, the community wasn’t driving towards a shared goal. While people love the amount of people posting job opportunities and the content shared in the group, there was a lot of pent up energy that wasn’t being mobilized. When you have hundreds of women pent up with passion, a new vision would be a great opportunity to give the community a powerful something palpable to work towards. Why not harness that energy and pour it into something meaningful that will benefit the community as a whole.
Even a goal like, “Increase the number of women in media and communications by 30%,” adds more motivation among their community to share more job postings, and empower the community to be even more supportive to help one another achieve the goal, and to nurture the passion that brought the gang together.
If you have a community as great as Girl Gang, how do you introduce a new vision?
In a case like Girl Gang, where your meeting place is congregating online in a fruitful Facebook Group, the best means to introduce a new vision is to announce it in a post. Touching on the excitement about what they’re about and their new vision, and opening the floor to some controlled feedback. However this would be different depending on your organization and your gathering place. It’s more important that it’s done in the native language of the community.
They are completely volunteer run, moderating their group despite their busy personal lives and careers. Even with limited resources, their leaders spend a great deal of time tending to their community. It’s comparable to a dedicated gardener ensuring all the plants are getting the nutrients they need. They address comments and concerns quickly and on any given day, one of their moderators is manning the community and ensuring the content, posts, and members are cared for.
Another tell-tale sign these women have strong leaders is their swift responses and attention to critical feedback. They want their community to take ownership, as opposed to imposing their own opinions and power. They want more people to embody their values and that’s how they run the gang: empowering others to run their community and allow their community to speak for themselves. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow.
Girl Gang’s leaders were unsure of how to set their rules and regulations to provide the right amount of freedom to members to feel organically authentic and share what they wanted to share. They didn’t want to lose control and allow for members to post just anything if it wasn’t providing value to the community.
Members of Girl Gang had voiced concerns in the past about having their voices muted. While Girl Gang does address these issues, it’s important for any community to allow space for things to breathe. Studies have shown that having some controversy and allowing people the space to address their concerns is actually a good thing and develops trust among ghost members.
You can sense a level of care in Girl Gang, and that’s not easy to achieve – you need to genuinely care and find a way to demonstrate it. Girl Gang is making wins and striving to find the best method to clarify their regulations to nurture their community.
The movement from Ghost Member to Tribesmen should happen at the beginning of joining a community. In an ideal world, you want to transition members as quickly as possible. When you notice members falling back or remaining stagnant, oftentimes the reason is they no longer align with the community’s vision or there is something that just isn’t resonating with them.
As Girl Gang grew, and more women were joining the community who rested just outside the definition of media and communications, there developed a shift in tone. Therefore, it made an impact on the community as a whole as things evolved. Totally natural. However, the Gang still maintains a strong tribe, with some opportunities to really allow the gang to flourish and nurture that core group of women pushing the community forward.
Tribesmen are defined by their level of engagement and dedication within the community. Not only liking and commenting, but organizing and facilitating different ways to achieve the community’s greater goals. Their moderators are a great example, and they have plenty.
Providing more opportunities to have deeper engagement with their community like offline events, more volunteer opportunities, and more unique and relevant content, would be a great way to light the fire of their tribeswomen. Content creation would be a great component to include too – and that leads us to content.
One of the best things about Girl Gang is the amount of content being generated by their members. On any given day, there are dozens of posts that are all valuable and support their passion.
The fact that their community is sharing so much content is a win in itself. Organizations would DIE to have that kind of engagement from their members. And Girl Gang is great at filtering and curating conversations, even allowing a content “cheat day” where members are free to post on personal topics, things they’re working on, and it still lends to supporting one another.
Mods, members, anyone in the Gang, can post as long as it’s valuable and fits within their guidelines. However, the main area for growth within their content would be developing content of their own for the community from the voice of their leaders and from the heart of their glowing Gang.
An example would be posing questions about what their community needs, whether it’s fighting for a better salary, how to assert your voice in a male dominated environment, or better ways to interview. They just need to collect that content and get people to share, respond and engage with each other on the topic.
Gathering Place 4/5
Girl Gang resides digitally in a Facebook Group, and solely there. It is always best to restrict the number of gathering places so as not to dilute your community across multiples platforms. The functions, customizations, and transparency among members make Facebook the perfect place for Girl Gang. We wouldn’t recommend adding another platform, because it would only be confusing.
The best way to improve their gathering place is to create more opportunities to bring their community together offline and make the Gang more public. While members are creating events for themselves and others in the community, Girl Gang could have a stronger presence within those happenings.
You do hear within the community a desire from members to become more involved and to meet up in different spaces. In order for Girl Gang to improve their score, they could host monthly workshops on different topics related to their vision and passion, or even partner with other events held by members. It creates more trust and would be a huge win for Girl Gang.
When Your Members Hold Their Own Events
If a member hosts an event, it’s still a win for the community, and the creative workshops or meetups hosted by their varied talented members contribute to a greater sense of community as a whole.
Any meetups outside your online gathering place contribute to an overall healthier community. But it doesn’t have the same power as if these events were, say, hosted by Girl Gang or partnered with Girl Gang, or most importantly, aligned with the vision.
As the influx of people came in, Girl Gang started to evolve. The conversations and people began to change. In order for Girl Gang to create trust and consistency within their community, we’d recommend they take the reigns back and have a little more control or guidelines in terms of content, members, and their vision.
In community building, conversations build trust for ghost members because they can see that the leaders are not hiding what is really happening within the community and this allows people to move from ghost to member more quickly.
If something crosses the line, but doesn’t break the rules and regulations, asking members to take their conversations somewhere more personal or remind them about the fact that it’s a respectful community, allows an openness that strengthens trust.
Being able to allow more conversations to happen, and for them to feel free to be themselves creates more trust. A community needs more space to breathe, and this freedom adds a level of confidence in the content for their members.
Is it time for you to look at your community?
Pretty much any organization that has a passion and vision can create a community. So maybe you’re not like Girl Gang, but you’d like a community that has the same strength and tact. When you have all the elements of a strong community, no matter what your community is about, you have a chance to build something strong around your brand.
Header Image: unsplash.com
With My Loud Speaker’s Tribe Lab, we study the social psychology of healthy communities and share our findings with organizations, clients, and changemakers.
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