influencer marketing and ecommerce marketing podcast GRIN gets real

Hosted by:

Katya Allison portrait

Katya Allison

Director of Marketing Content at GRIN

How To Create Engaging Online Communities

In this episode:

Carrie Melissa Jones

Author of Building Brand Communities

Carrie Melissa Jones is an author, community builder, and researcher of online communities. Her work has influenced the world’s leading online brand communities including the American Medical Association, Patreon, Google, and two U.S. presidential campaigns. She is the author of Building Brand Communities: How Organizations Succeed by Creating Belonging with Charles Vogl and a student, teacher, and researcher of virtual communities at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to her work as a consultant, she served as Founding Partner and COO of CMX, the hub for over 20,000 community professionals worldwide.

grin gets real podcast - carrie melissa jones

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Full episode details

“A community is a group of people who share a mutual concern. Period. They have to actually care about one another in order to be considered a community.” – Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities

In 2020 many people moved their daily activities online and the popularity of online communities exploded. But many brands simply started calling a group of people their “community” without laying any groundwork to connect people.  This approach doesn’t go far enough to ensure that people will form relationships and that efforts will pay off over the long term. Having a true community requires mutual concern among members, a shared purpose, and outcomes that help people become who they want to be. Brands should strive to build communities of leaders who engage with each other, offer valuable knowledge, and build trust. 

A brand can foster these types of communities by starting out small, building connections slowly, incorporating feedback and developing leaders within the group. When a brand invests in building a true community over the long term, they will see an explosion of success when the community comes to maturity.

“Really working on the relationships in the community first, because you’re moving slow, in order to move very quickly in the future.” – Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities

Breakdown of the GRIN Gets Real Podcast Episode 22

“SEO is a great corollary to community. It takes a long time. And then once it’s set up, it’s like, oh, my gosh, I can’t believe how much we get from this.” – Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities

Carrie Melissa Jones knows communities. As a founding partner of a 20,000 online community of professionals and a consultant for the world’s leading online brand communities including the American Medical Association, Patreon, & Google, she has seen the gamut of what works and what doesn’t work in online communities. In 2016, Carrie was named by Salesforce as one of three experts to follow in community management, and she, along with Charles Vogl, is the author of Building Brand Communities: How Organizations Succeed by Creating Belonging. Carrie researches, teaches and consults on how successful brand communities are built, managed and scaled. 

In this episode of the GRIN Gets Real Podcast, Katya from GRIN, talks with Carrie about how she defines community, and why that definition is important for long term success. Since Katya is working on building a brand community for GRIN, she takes the opportunity to ask Carrie for advice on how to get started the right way. Together they explore when and why a brand should build a community, what the timeline looks like, and how to keep members engaged.

“You need a balance between educating people, building friendships within the community, collaborating and co-creating things.” – Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities

Carrie unpacks for us some key aspects of building a true community such as:

  • Where most brands go wrong in their efforts to create a community.
  • The ideal number to start with when building a new community.
  • What “social loafing” is and how to avoid it.
  • What short-term benefits can be gained in the beginning stages of community building.
  • The mindset a brand must have when forming a community.
  • The difference between customer advocacy and community, and where they overlap.
  • How to form an influencer community that stays engaged and connected to your brand.

“So when we’re creating an advocacy program, that is also a community, we have to think about, how does being part of this program help this advocate or ambassador make progress toward who they want to be in their lives?” – Carrie Melissa Jones, Author of Building Brand Communities

Anyone can be an integral part of an online community, regardless of their personality type or prior knowledge. As long as the community functions to help its members become the person they want to be in the world, the community will flourish and grow. In a world where humans are starved for connection, brands who get serious about building a true community, both online and offline, will be ahead of their competition in the years to come.

If you’ve got questions about your brand community, or want information on how to build one, this episode is a must listen. You’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of what makes a community tick and what may be missing from your own online communities. 

Join in on the fun and listen to the podcast now!

Quotes from this Episode

podcast episode - grin gets real“No matter the purpose of the community, the structures are all the same. From a political campaign to a tech brand, the bones are the same in a community.”

“How you begin is going to set the stage for everything else that you do in the community.”

“But the reality is that there are some organizations in which the leadership are not ready to be changed by what a community will show them and teach them.”

“Whether you’re creating an influencer program, or a committee, or an online community forum… purpose is the bedrock of everything else.”


“I can say with relative certainty that there will never be a world in which we don’t have more hybrid approaches to gathering people.”


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