Community Professional Spotlight

Empathy, Inclusivity, and Adaptability: The Recipe for a Thriving Community

Community management and community building are essential for organizations to build an engaged community. According to a survey conducted by the Community Roundtable, a leading community management organization, 70% of companies that prioritize community building report an increase in brand awareness, while 61% report an increase in customer loyalty. By fostering a strong sense of community, organizations can build lasting relationships with their audience, leading to increased engagement, loyalty, and advocacy.

We interviewed Krystal Wu, a community professional based out of Boston, to gain a greater insight on how to successfully build a strong community from the ground up.

EKOS: We'd love to hear more about your career, what led you to kind of pursue community management and in essence, what is a one minute elevator pitch for yourself?

Krystal: I've been in the community industry for seven years. I have a strong passion for community building and watching people create connections. I focus on the interactions, the meaningful discussions, and the ways to achieve community success by aligning with business goals. My career started at HubSpot, where I helped build a thriving social media presence by focusing on the needs and interests of the customers, and from there, I expanded my skill set to Shopify and established a community for merchants to connect with the Shop brand. Most recently, I have been elevating a community at Open Space to create programming, strategic engagement, and reach new market segments for their audience.

EKOS: What strategies have you found to be most effective for engaging community members and promoting active participation?

Krystal: Identifying what is most critical for your community and what your members want and look for is really important. Address your community members by their name and engage with them on a personal level: a one-on-one meeting. Have those private conversations and understand who they are as a person, but then bring those conversations and have them connect with other people rather than just themselves.

EKOS: How do you measure the success of your engagement initiatives? When you send out this content, how are you measuring that success? What metrics do you track?

Krystal: This is an extremely common question. Engagement is about the bigger picture – what problem are you trying to solve, and how do community and engagement fit? Let's say a company is trying to focus on retention – how do you create engagement and activity that will align with that type of retention? So you might track the type of interactions: post likes, comments, and whatnot. Through those interactions, who is remaining active in your community over time and who is bringing in members is a crucial indicator of the health of your community and the level of its engagement.

EKOS: What are some of the common challenges you face in community engagement, and how have you overcome them?

Krystal: There are so many because when you work in a community, you work with people who aren't always predictable (considering their behavior, interests, and reasons for joining). The best thing is to openly communicate. For example, gathering member feedback on certain activities or decisions and creating a feedback loop. That feedback loop will be an important way to help tackle those types of dips and challenges. The other aspect is the lack of participation, so you need to ensure you're offering value to all of your members and to a wider net. Ensure you are only sometimes relying on the top 10% of engaging members to continually contribute all the time. If you're finding that there is disengagement from your members, start having fun with it. You can do this by offering new and exciting content and creating new activities. Don't let your content run stale; trying new approaches with gamification, guest blog authors, or webinars are just some of the tactics you can use.

EKOS: How important is effective communication in maintaining a strong and engaged community? What methods do you use to ensure clear and concise communication?

Krystal: It's vital to ensure that you're timely in communicating with your members and regularly showing life in the community. Community and communication are like peanut butter and jelly: having one without the other is not great, as they can be bland alone but delicious together.

The kind of communication also matters because it provides a sense of belonging, which is a good indicator that you're still keeping them active and engaged at some level. One way to communicate is through surveys. They tell you what the community feels at that time and show you a projection of what is working and what is not. If you can give enough to your community, they will give back a minute or two to provide a survey. As long as it's consistent, any type of communication can be very effective and impactful when determining your content, understanding your data, and the community's health.

EKOS: How do you foster a positive and inclusive environment in your community and address any negative behavior?

Krystal: When I build a community, and I'm identifying what the value of that community is, I also want to ensure there are strong and clear guidelines on how members can participate. You have to be clear on what behavior and standards are expected. When members understand and respect those guidelines, you will create a positive and inclusive environment. It is also important to remember that some members might not follow those guidelines.

My best approach is to address that negative behavior directly and publicly. That way, the community knows it has been discussed and can better understand how that behavior is approached. The first offense could be a simple callout, as you always want to assume positive intent. However, if the behavior continues, have a plan for the next steps. Put together a public relations (PR) approach: documents describing what forms of behavior are expected and how behavior will be addressed if it violates the community guidelines. This could look like removing the member from a specific group or banning them for some time. You must choose what is best for your community as each one differs. Be very specific as to why you're calling this out: you want to set the standard in the community of adhering to these guidelines.

EKOS: Anything else?

Krystal: Make it fun! Make content or share resources in a fun way, for example, through contests, games, and other types of activities. People want to be in a community because it's a space where they can let go of their other selves and be part of the self that identifies with that community.


  1. Communities are dynamic. The needs and interests of community members can evolve over time and strong community building will emphasize the importance of flexibility and adaptability in the community.
  2. Manage Issues Properly. In the age of technology, the challenges associated with managing online communities include issues related to moderation, privacy, and user behavior. Knowing how to manage and rectify issues that may crop up within a community is key.
  3. Empathy and Inclusivity are crucial. Community building is all about creating a sense of belonging and connection. Successful community builders prioritize empathy and inclusivity, ensuring that all community members feel welcome and valued.

Community building is a powerful tool for connecting people, fostering collaboration, and driving positive change. By creating a sense of shared purpose and belonging, communities can inspire individuals to work together towards common goals, and build lasting relationships that transcend geographical and cultural boundaries. Building a community is not always easy, but with the right approach, it is a highly rewarding endeavor. Through active listening, empathy, inclusivity, data analysis, and adaptability, community builders can make an impact and bring people together.

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