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How to Build a Community in Seven (Mostly) Easy Steps

In the digital economy, community drives everything. People need it. According to an MIT study, we actually register craving for interaction in the same brain region where we crave food. As a businessperson or thought leader, it should come as no surprise, then: Give people community, and they become more than just customers/members/students – they become believers.

Most of us understand that, whether it’s a clear-as-day truth or just an intangible feeling we get from our favorite brands. But knowing how to build a community? That’s not something you’re born with.

Luckily, we at Cause Machine have made it into an art form. Sprouting that initial group from a seedling of an idea. Growing it into a real community. And then monetizing it in ways that benefit both users, and entrepreneurs. That’s what we’re all about. 

Obviously, there’s much more to it than one blog post can cover (get in touch here to see what I mean), but we can at least get you started … right now, in fact. Check out this brief rundown of how to build a community in seven (mostly) easy steps.


1. Form an identity 
Think about any community you belong to, whether it’s digital or out in the real world. They all exist with the phrase “this is who we are” at the core. Sports fandom, professional associations, student bodies – they’re all built around identity, and that’s what your community needs, too.

Ask yourself the question, “who are we?”
Find a clear way to fully express the “why” of your mission 


2. Connect with a few early members 
The next thing on our “how to build a community” checklist – get some members. That sounds daunting, but don’t overthink it. We’re not talking about numbers in the thousands … or even dozens. Start with people you know, or friends of friends, but make sure they fit that “who are we” question.

Find a few people who feel like you do, invite them to take part 
These members will help set the tone for your community, so choose carefully

3. Earn trust 
You’ve got to give your community a purpose, a reason to join and stay – and that is best done through involvement. Interact with your early members, get comfortable with each other and invite them to speak into the mission. 

Start slow, with regular content posting
Schedule a real life meet up, if possible, or get to know one another online 
Hear your members thoughts on the mission
 
4. Encourage connections 
Now you’ve got something going, and it’s time to expand. Once your small community has identity and trust, you can give members ownership in driving growth. Empower them to find new likely members from their own lives, and get those “recruits” involved, too. 

Empower members to spread the word
Personal connections are the strongest 

5. Rewards
I like to think of this as the “gold star phase” of how to build a community. Just like in elementary school, positive reinforcement works wonders in a group environment. Find ways to celebrate your most dedicated and effective members, and that will encourage others to follow suit.

Give perks to those helping accomplish community goals 
Could be as simple as a newsletter shout out, or actual prizes 

6. Never lose the ‘why’ 
As things progress, your community may start to get sidetracked away from the original mission. This is natural, but it’s important to always steer the group back toward its overall goal. 

Remember, communities are built on identity and trust

7. Continuous growth 
If you make it this far, your community should now be nearly self-sufficient. You’ve got a clearly defined mission and an active group of members, who all feel empowered by each other and want to see it succeed. 

 

Sounds simple enough, yet learning how to build a community is something entire careers are devoted to – like they are here at Cause Machine. This guide can help, but there’s nothing like having a team of experts on your side, each step of the way. Set up a free demo and get your community on the right track today.

 


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8 Awesome Alternatives to Facebook Groups

Over the years, many have relied on Facebook Groups to launch or grow an online community – and it used to be for a good reason. They were easy to start up and got you connected to millions around the globe, with a clean look and a place-to-be atmosphere. But that was then.

These days, more and more are turning away from Facebook Groups, with everything from the lack of monetization tools to scandals in the news driving the shift. If you run an online community, it may be time to consider some alternatives to Facebook Groups – and luckily, there are many options to choose from. 

Schedule a free demo with Cause Machine today, and we’ll show you ours!

From customizable branding and greater control over what your members see, to positive associations with the platform and the ability to launch courses, there are many reasons to switch. Here are seven powerful alternatives to Facebook Groups which will help your community thrive.


1. Slack


If you work in an office setting, you might already be familiar with Slack. It’s a business productivity tool best known for its chat function, helping team members stay in touch whether they work in person or remotely. But, its group-building tools are top notch, too.

Key attributes:
- People already know and love it
- Mobile ready

Drawbacks
- Can’t monetize or offer courses

 

2. Discord

Likewise, Discord is another growing alternative to Facebook Groups with a great messaging system. You can set up groups and separate conversations into text and voice chat channels, and it’s also available on both mobile devices and web browsers. Plus, it’s pretty user friendly.

Key attributes:
Easy to set up and great interface
Free to use

Drawbacks: 
Text and voice chat only, no custom branding

 


3. Discourse

Elsewhere, Discourse is a forum-based example of alternatives to Facebook Groups, allowing users to build discussion forums and chat rooms with a traditional web format. It’s open-sourced, so if you’re tech savvy, you can modify it as needed, but it won’t feel sleek or modern.

Key attributes:
- Simple, familiar text-based design    
- Open sourced allowing for customization

Drawbacks:
- May feel dated compared to other options

 

4. Telescope Nova

Telescope Nova is another open-source platform that’s free to use, but this one comes with a more modern-feeling design. It also allows all the common community-building elements like posting and commenting, but you will need some technical know-how to keep it running.

Key attributes:
- Modern looking    
- Open sourced

Drawbacks:
- Steep learning curve to build and maintain

 

5. Telegram

If you already have a Facebook Group, but are looking for alternatives to Facebook Groups, Telegram might be a fairly smooth transition. It’s a social media platform that can be used on almost any kind of device, can be monetized, and has a built-in user base. But it has been described as confusing to use.

Key attributes:
- Social-media based – easy transition from Facebook Groups
- Can be monetized

Drawbacks:
- Confusing to use and requires frequent optimization

 

 

6. Kajabi

Kajabi is a community builder well suited to hosting online courses, if that’s your thing. You can also create custom branding, making it one of the standout alternatives to Facebook Groups – but all that power comes with a literal price. Plus, it’s more difficult to set up.

Key attributes:
- Ideal for online courses
- Customized branding

Drawbacks:
- Can be costly to run, and tough to learn

 

7. LinkedIn

Most people know and trust LinkedIn as a social network tool for professionals and job seekers, but few realize it also features a Group function similar to Facebook Groups. It’s fairly basic but easy to set up, and comes with big time community-growth potential.  

Key attributes:
- Trusted by more than 800 million users in 200 countries
- Good ease of use and sharing functions

Drawbacks:
- No monetization

 

All of these alternatives to Facebook Groups offer ways to get away from what’s starting to look like a sinking ship, and each one has its own area of strength. But if you’re looking for the total package – ease of use, custom branding, the ability to monetize or host online courses, and control over what’s allowed and what’s not in your own group, look no further than Cause Machine. Our platform is purpose-built to grow impact-making online communities; schedule your free demo today.


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How to Pick the Right CRM Software for Small Business

Whether you’re just starting out or already a crafty veteran, the proper CRM software for small business is essential. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and when implemented correctly, it can supercharge sales, drive exponential growth and let you provide incredible customer experiences.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, not necessarily.

With the right CRM software for small business, you can create a central hub of customer information that allows your team’s different departments to optimize their effort. CRMs can track sales, quickly organize analysis and encourage collaboration, getting everyone on the same page and putting all the elements of a successful business in one place.

In an increasingly data-driven world, this is a critical piece of the small-business puzzle, with the best options aiming for clarity – letting you spend less time cobbling insights together and more time engaging your community. But, the CRM landscape is large, and with so many options, getting started can feel daunting. Even deciding which type of CRM software for small business is right for you may not be easy.

 

Three types of CRM software for small business:

Collaborative – To help teams within your company work together more seamlessly

Operational – Automated, tactical solutions that make your customer experience better 

Analytical – Providing insight into customer behavior, helping you steer toward greater results 

Here at Cause Machine, we are all about optimizing your digital presence so you can take your cause to the next level – and sometimes that means explaining the landscape, so you can make an informed decision on what comes next. With that in mind, we’ve broken down 10 examples of CRM software for small businesses (in no particular order).

1. Salesforce

Salesforce is an all-in-one CRM with a sales focus, helping manage contacts, leads and more into an interactive dashboard. The result is a big-picture view of your business, and you can add features as you grow.

Cloud based platform with mobile app
Basic plan starts small, but can scale up


2. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is a popular choice for small startups looking to keep expenses down, because its free plan allows up to three users. You can create sales workflows and keep track of customers, and switch to a paid version for more features.

Free option for three users
Add-on apps to integrate marketing, inventory and accounting (paid version only)

 
3. Zendesk Sell

For small businesses relying heavily on customer support, Zendesk Sell funnels all customer interactions into a single interface, tracking leads and keeping your team informed. It even allows calls to be recorded, helping your help desk be its best.

High performance help desk features
Call recording 

4. Insightly

Insightly works best for small businesses with project-management needs. If you need to track a project from inception through implementation, delivery and review, this CRM can help keep things running efficiently.

Chart-view tracking of project workflow
Easily import date from other apps


5. Agile

Like its name suggestions, Agile is a CRM for small business which excels at being versatile – namely by adding top-notch marketing features. It’s ideal for shops where sales and marketing team members work closely together.

Streamlined sales and contact tools
Drag and drop marketing campaign builder


6. Keap

Keap is another CRM which combines sales and marketing prowess, where leads can be organized, tracked and turned into sales. Plus, it offers expert instruction to get the most of the platform.

Automated lead capture and organization
Expert coaching and support 


7. Less Annoying CRM

Knowing that complexity is a small-business turn off, Less Annoying CRM is exactly what it claims to be. It lets you manage your contacts, calendar and more without getting lost in the tech-feature weeds. 

Built for ease of use 
Only what you need focus


8. monday.com

If you’ve got a fast-moving team who need to be in lockstep, monday.com could be your ideal CRM for small business. Those familiar with Kanban will find its visual organizer especially easy to use.

Kanban-style organizer boards 
Free option with robust features


9. Freshsales

For many small businesses, finding and developing leads is a key concern, and Freshsales is built to make that easier. Automatically capturing and tracking potential customers is the beginning of rising revenues.

Built-in lead capture 
Advanced analysis options


10. Creatio

Creatio can take a complicated, multi-step process and make it (relatively) simple, by automating the sales cycle, marketing approvals and more. And best of all, you don’t need to be a code wizard.

“Process library” of pre-built workflows
Intuitive customer record keeping 


Remember, with the right CRM software for small business, you can take your customer experience to the next level – along with your sales, revenue and more. That’s absolutely essential for the digital economy, so sign up for a free Cause Machine demo to learn about what’s right for you. 


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3 membership site tools to inspire your approach

So you’ve built a thriving community around a bold cause or brilliant product. Great work! But you’re not done yet.

As your project scales up, one of the most powerful tools you can implement is a membership site, turning “users” into members, driving engagement to your cause… and even monetizing your work.

With the creator economy growing, all sorts of businesses use membership sites – which is really just website that features some sort of “gate,” beyond which only members can pass. 

Artists and influencers, nonprofit organizations, social clubs, associations, even retail businesses use these since they all need to present content that only members have access to. That could be special sales and exclusive products, digital classes, or even just a newsletter, and these memberships don’t even have to be paid – they could just involve opting in. But the point is this: Being a member comes with special privileges… and added consumer value.

From your perspective, this added value is the key. It can lead to more revenue for your business, repeat visitors to your site, longer session times, and greater sales numbers – and plus, you could even add a revenue stream if the memberships are paid. But like anything, there are different methods to building a great membership site for your community, and different strengths to each approach. 

 

3 popular membership site approaches:

 

1. WPQuickStart

membership site

WPQuickStart for Membership Sites is a plug-in service designed especially for WordPress – the website builder used by almost half of all websites worldwide. If you already have a website, and it’s running on WordPress, this offers a way to add membership functionality.

Key Features 

  • Fast and easy set-up
  • Multi-level subscription packages
  • Built-in tools for payment, marketing, and analytics
  • WordPress Security



2. CMS Hub from Hubspot

membership site

On the other hand, creating a membership site using CMS Hub from Hubspot can help you create a customized experience. More than a plug-in that works with your WordPress website, this standalone content management system is fully hosted by Hubspot (and fully integrated with its marketing, sales, and service tools). The possibilities are endless. You can create multiple membership tiers, with unique perks included in each. But the downside is higher cost – and the fact that one-of-a-kind creations take time and expertise. 

Key Features 

  • Hubspot hosting and systems integration
  • Full design flexibility
  • No plug-ins necessary
  • Personalize membership experience

 

 

3. WildApricot

membership sites

Creating a connected membership site usually comes down to whether or not the platform can truly meet your needs. Another solution that has membership capability is WildApricot. WildApricot has a variety of ways to build and run your community. One is a built-in member database that allows you to manage how members interact with one another, share exclusive member-only content and more. You can create multiple tiers of membership and encourage users to join up with membership applications. WildApricot is a solid option for launching a membership site.

Key Features 

  • Member database
  • Event management
  • Mobile app
  • Online store

 

Transitioning from casual users into highly-engaged members is crucial to growth and monetization, and so is using the right platform to do it. Ideally, you’d keep everything from website building to e-learning and membership controls in one place (with a little marketing prowess and analytics thrown in), so you don’t have to piece your digital footprint together. 

That’s the exact goal of Cause Machine – to supercharge your vision and take the guesswork out of optimizing it – so sign up for a free demo today.


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9 Best WordPress Alternatives for Building a Website

When it launched in 2003, Wordpress sparked something close to a digital revolution. Suddenly, almost anyone could make a professional-grade website packed full of high-quality content, and it now dominates the market.

Believe it or not, about 43 percent of all websites currently run on Wordpress1, making it the most popular website builder in the world. But it’s not the only option. And if you’re about to take the plunge, you should ask yourself:
 

What kind of WordPress alternatives are out there?

It’s true that Wordpress is a powerful tool, with things like drag-and-drop block editing, thousands of themes and countless plug-ins to choose from, but it can also get complex pretty quickly. Perhaps the plug-ins you’ve chosen are not compatible with each other… that happens. Or maybe you’re not up for the hassle of managing your own web hosting, with security and updates and all the rest.

Luckily, many WordPress alternatives exist. Some offer a simple approach, while others are extra flexible. Some emphasis e-commerce, while others are great for blogging. You just need to know what's right for you. 

We’ve scoured the internet to compile a list of the 9 best WordPress alternatives for building a website, with hopes of giving you a fuller picture of the options.
 

1. Wix

wordpress alternatives

Wix is probably the best-known Wordpress alternative, and there’s good reason for that. If you’re looking to keep things simple, Wix is great for building basic websites with a similar drag-and-drop model to Wordpress, but a more streamlined list of plug-in options to choose from. 

 


2. Domain.com

Wordpress alternatives

Next up we have Domain.com, which excels in a few areas where Wordpress does not – right out of the box. While WordPress needs some customization before you can start selling goods and services, Domain.com comes ready-to-go with e-commerce capability. Good news if you need to set up shop.

 


3. Shopify

Wordpress alternatives

Then we have Shopify, and just by the name you can tell – it’s built for e-commerce. Shopify is one of the best Wordpress alternatives if you need a digital storefront, and with great-looking templates, payment option tools and 24/7 tech support, you get a professional feel without much heavy lifting.

 


4. Drupal

wordpress alternatives

As far as rivals to Wordpress, Drupal is most popular with bigger organizations. If you’re looking to create a website with complex, one of a kind content at enterprise scale, Drupal is almost endlessly customizable, and highly adaptive. The drawback is you’ll need some technical know-how to set it up.

 


5. Squarespace

wordpress alternatives

Squarespace is a great Wordpress alternative with a little something for everyone. Whether you’re building your first site for a new small business, or you’re a creative looking to showcase your work, it has a familiar drag-and-drop feel, and templates that often look better than the competition.

 


6. Hubspot

best wordpress alternatives

Searching for a high-tech solution? Hubspot’s CMS Hub is a powerful content management system – and its main draw is a fully-hosted platform, meaning it can handle all that pesky back-end maintenance on its own. Plus, with automated marketing tools and killer analytics, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

 


7. Ghost

wordpress alternatives

Not all websites are intended to sell stuff – some are just there to deliver fantastic content – and if you are a writer of any kind, Ghost might be the way to go. With powerful SEO and publishing tools built right in, plus things like an RSS feed builder and full-picture editor, this is a great choice for creatives.
 

 

8. Web.com

wordpress alternatives

Web.com is a good choice for Wordpress alternatives that don’t break the bank – or take over your life. Relatively inexpensive and easy, users can start by choosing from a list of templates. Or, with the added ability to make your own design, this option can also help you create a truly unique brand experience.
 

 

9. Medium

wordpress alternatives

Another example in the world of Wordpress alternatives is Medium. Perfect for publishing text, you’ve probably read a column written by a celebrity on Medium in the past – even if you didn’t know it. It’s not as endlessly customizable as some of the others. But it’s clean looking if the written word is your thing.

 

In the end, this is still just a fraction of the website-building options out there, and it might sound like a lot to think about. Whether you just need a website or if you're looking to give your community a home, it’s a decision you can’t afford to sleepwalk into. Take the time to decide what works for you.
 

Cause Machine Solutions

Here at Cause Machine, we help organizations solve complex community engagement problems/questions.  We use these disciplines of innovation ourselves in our own development process and have helped lead many organizations through their own process of innovation discovery.  Leveraging the Cause Machine platform for engaging your community helps you be confident that the foundations of this platform are built on time-tested best practices of great processes like innovation and design thinking.  Schedule a FREE demo today!


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