How to Organize Your Community ~ Jay Clouse

Community is a hugely important aspect of cohort-based courses. That's why I interviewed Jay Clouse to learn how to provide the community the most impactful experience possible.

We Covered
  • The story of how Jay became the community manager for SPI (01:58)
  • The big picture of what a successful cohort-based course community looks like (05:40)
  • The community experience is centered around defined touch points, the first one being onboarding, and the second one being a live welcome session (08:21)
  • How to set up the onboarding experience (13:38)
  • The next touchpoints are small group matching and an introduction to the curriculum (16:31)
  • How to match members together (21:21)
  • How to measure the success of the community efforts (26:58)
  • How to intervene with customers who abandon the community (29:22)
  • After the cohort is finished, members can self-organize for any further community involvement (30:40)
  • All the software/tools needed to manage the community and cohort-based course (32:04)
  • Some automations you can use with Zapier (32:46)
  • What to include in the code of conduct, and how to enforce it (33:49)
  • A summary of all the touch points on where focus your community efforts (36:18)
  • Final questions (39:50)
In a Nutshell
  1. Organize and prepare your community efforts centered around touch points, which can (should?) include onboarding, a welcome session, matching into small groups, and curriculum.
  2. Prepare a basic code of conduct
  3. When you get rolling with the weekly activities, make yourself fully available to answer questions and provide feedback on homework assignments
  4. Intervene with any members who stopped participating
  5. Measure the success of your efforts by keeping track of the proportion of students who are participating
Full Transcript

[00:00:13] Jonathan: Ahoy, captain! Welcome to Cohort Captain, the super actionable podcast made for cohort-based course creators. I'm your host, Jonathan Woodruff.

Community community community. When I used to be a community manager, I thought, oh, this won't be a problem. We'll just run some events. We'll create a space for people to ask questions and wham, bam jiggity jam, it'll be smashing. But I walked away from that experience feeling like community wasn't really my thing and that I wasn't very good at it.

But if you listen to the previous episode with Captain Melanie, then even if you share my discouragement about leading communities, you know that you can get good at facilitating a community with the right strategy and a spirit of experimentation.

That's why my guest today is Captain Jay Clouse. He and his team offer a cohort-based course called heroic online courses that you can see on Maven. And he also works on his own, making a full-time living, helping creators like you to build a life of creative independence. So he very much understands you as a creator.

And not only that, but he leads the community experience team at a very popular company you may recognize called smart passive income or SPI for short. 

And now Jay is here with us to help you create an amazing community experience for your cohort-based course. 

What's up, Jay?

[00:01:48] Jay: I'm so glad that I get to be a captain. When I heard you reference Captain Melanie. I was like, oh gosh, can I be a captain? Will I be a captain also? And I'm so glad that I am.

[00:01:58] Jonathan: So glad that you're a captain too. Yeah. It's kinda kind of a fun thing, that I like to call folks. So, yeah, man. So it's really great to have you here, very much appreciate you and your time. And I'm just curious, like, how did you become the community experience lead at smart passive income, SPI?

Like what's the story around that?

[00:02:18] Jay: Well back in, we just actually looked this up back in May of 2020. Yes. Time is hard. Time…The last two years, like thinking back as like how many months, how many years? In May of 2020, I was contracted to come in and help SPI create and launch their first paid membership. And that happened because the co-CEO of SPI, Matt Gartland who's the business partner of Pat Flynn had experienced a community that I had built previous to that called Unreal Collective, which was actually like a 12 week mastermind program. They called it an accelerator, but it was a mastermind program. And on the back end of that, we had a Slack community that I didn't realize I was building a community.

I just wanted a place for us to chat between like live calls. And it became like a really great vibrant community. And Matt had experienced that for a side project that he had worked on at one point in time. And he just thought that I could help them. And I was like, yeah, I think I could too. And that was at the time that like Circle was coming, like literally going into beta.

And I feel like online community has really accelerated in the time since. So it was like this confluence of, I was already doing this activity of building online community for like four years. And then, it just became a lot more en vogue and I think SPI actually had a lot to do with that. especially on the Circle front.

And, you know, we worked in a contract capacity for eight months. Then at the end of 2020, SPI actually acquired and absorbed my community Unreal Collective to bring me on full time to lead their community team.

[00:03:52] Jonathan: That's a really cool story. So you team up to lead a cohort-based course called heroic online courses that folks can see on Maven. And if I looked into it correctly, actually Pat Flynn and some of the other people at SPI help to lead that cohort-based course as well, right?

[00:04:05] Jay: Yeah, we were in the first cohort of instructors that were not like, I guess we would be the beta. There was actually like, technically an alpha of like two or three other creators, but we were the first group of creators they brought on, which really just became because I was following Wes Kao on LinkedIn and things.

And I saw her talking about this and I thought it would be a really cool space for us to join the conversation. I'm also a small investor in Maven, full disclosure, but yeah, our course, we went through their, their how to build a cohort-based course cohort-based course, very meta it's like how to build a CBC as a cohort-based course.

It was the three of us, me, Pat and Matt went through that program and built a six week experience, that the three of us co-led.

[00:04:53] Jonathan: Cool. How many cohorts of that have you run so far?

[00:04:57] Jay: We ran one cohort. Then we took that material and created a prerecorded course, actually. And we're running a second cohort in January of 2022.

[00:05:07] Jonathan: Okay. Cool. So do you already have a Circle of community around that course as well?

[00:05:13] Jay: What we have is a student course community on Circle that encapsulates all of our cohort-based courses and the course communities of our prerecorded courses. So we call it the SPI academy. It’s a student academy or a student course community for all of our courses, including our bootcamps is what we call our cohort-based courses.

And each bootcamp gets its dedicated space group within the academy with about five or six spaces beneath it.

[00:05:40] Jonathan: Okay. Cool. So paint a picture for us of like what a great community experience is like. Like what makes the community experience so awesome around, around SPIs, course community?

[00:05:53] Jay: Well, every good community needs to exist for a reason, right? Like that's the first thing I tell people, like, what is the purpose for this to exist? And you have to go beyond like to connect like-minded people. We're beyond that. We have communities for that like everywhere. You need a stronger, more compelling reason for why your community exists.

It should be a place that people budget time in their day, and even beyond budget, like look forward to spending time in their day to participate within. Now for cohort-based courses, we're lucky because the purpose should be pretty out of the box. Like the purpose of your cohort-based course community is to support the transformation of your course. Full-stop. 

So, you know, the best experiences that we create are because it is adding to your success in the course. And we also embrace the time-bound nature of cohort-based courses. At the end of our cohort-based courses, we tell them like, you'll still have access to these spaces, but we are not going to be an active participant in them anymore.

And we would encourage you to self-organize a mastermind if you would like, we also have a paid membership community where we do spend a lot of time every day and every week fostering community, but after the course is over, we don't… like we create the expectation that we are no longer cultivating that as an active community in our mind, they can use it however they want.

But, you know, if we go back to that purpose statement and the community exists to support the transformation of your course, theoretically, that transformation should be achieved at the end of the course. So what's the purpose of that space afterwards. And to me, like, I think you should just celebrate mission accomplished, or you need to redefine what the purpose is.

And instead of redefining what the purpose is and then creating this thing we have to maintain without being compensated. Like, why would we do that? But so many people think that there has to be this enduring community that happens after you go through a cohort-based course, but you're not really incentivized to foster it because you're not continuing to be paid unless it's an alumni community or a paid membership for alumni of the course and that's different and that's okay.

And you can transition people there, but we wanted to embrace, like once this experience is over, you can like write this off your list as something you need to pay attention to. We are not going to be fostering it, but if you do want to keep going with our team, here's how to do that.

[00:08:21] Jonathan: Love that. And yeah, I suppose, after the students are finished through the cohort, maybe their involvement would decrease in the community anyway even if you were trying to rally them together, unless like you said, you have like another, like separate purpose at that point that you want them to get together around.

So that's interesting. So let's definitely break down. Let's go deep into what the community experience, how to really make that amazing during the cohort to support their transformation because community is very, it's three dimensional is the way I think about it. It's you helping them. It's them communicating to you, and it's them communicating to each other.

And that adds all those three dimensions really can support their transformation, beyond just like taking the coursework and doing the assignments and everything. So how do we do that as uh, it sounds like a tall order and I think it is, but how do we do that as cohort-based course creators to facilitate that kind of transformation through community and allow other people to support each other? What would be your, the first step you would take to build your community around your cohort-based course?

[00:09:35] Jay: Well, it all needs to be integrated. And with any community experience, you need to be constantly thinking, how do I show that this is a worthwhile investment of your time? Like, I think about the word gratification a lot. You need to create what is a gratifying experience when like gratification just means I took an action, I made effort and I felt like that was worth it. 

And in a lot of communities, people will get excited, they join, they post their introduction, crickets. And immediately their first experience is not gratifying. Sometimes it's even worse. Sometimes they join in. They don't even know what action to take next. So if your first experience with something is bad, why would you continue to try?

So like every touch point in the beginning with somebody in your community experience needs to be positive. And you need to think about that from an onboarding perspective, from an education perspective, and with our cohort-based courses, we try to make it even more integrated. So the community is actually the first way, the community platform, is the first way that you can interact with the course and other people within it.

Because when you enroll, you'll get invited into those private spaces before we have any live sessions. And so we encourage you to go in there, and we have some like onboarding videos and messages saying like, Hey, welcome, it's a video from Pat, which for a lot of people is like a big deal. And they're excited about that.

And we say from here, you know, read our code of conduct, edit your profile, and then post your intro. That sends you over to the intro area where you see other people make an intro and you say, wow, this is exciting. These people are really interesting people I can spend my time with. You make an intro post, which is like a very confronting, challenging thing, very vulnerable act that we don't give enough credit to, to introduce yourself in front of a bunch of strangers.

And a lot of times like you don't get a response, and that's like very sad. It hurts. So as a team, we make sure to pour the love personally from our team on people when they introduce themselves. And that also is modeling the behavior of how to welcome people or the community. So we're creating a lot of good experiences to start.

And we're trying to constantly answer the question of, “now what?.” Because as people are doing things, they're kind of saying, “now what?” If they don't have an answer, they're going to hit the red X, and are going to leave, and maybe they won’t come back if that experience wasn't good on the whole. We ask them to, you know, make sure they're subscribed to our course calendar, so that very quickly we have a kickoff event where we force people into small groups sometimes one-on-one so they start to have a one-on-one like real-time connection with people. So now the same people that you're seeing in the community are the people you've actually met moving and seeing in their personal spaces and you start to feel connected to them.

It doesn't feel so sterile and so weird. It's like friendly faces. We encourage people to ask for help and feedback in the community forum when they're stuck, because we can't get through all the questions in the course experience. We also have a dedicated space for sharing their homework, which we assign, and we ask them to share it on a certain day, every week.

We tell people to, you know, give feedback to your fellow peers. We create this culture of sharing and feedback amongst our people. That's a very gratifying experience too, because they can go from seeing their first draft to now the finished draft, which is way better. And it happened because of that interaction in the community space.

So, it's really just this loop of gratification, answering the question, “now what?” When you're in the community, you know, getting them excited about the live sessions, when you're alive sessions getting them excited about going back into the community. We create small groups within our cohorts of like three to five people that are this enduring, like study group.

We give them a private messaging thread inside of that course community with five of them. So it's all about just creating connection so that in that space, they recognize people, and they want to continue to interact with each other.

[00:13:38] Jonathan: Love it. So that already gives us a ton to go off of. I mean, we could literally open up Circle and create those spaces, create the onboarding video, and really start to take action already. 

Okay. And so it's, it seems like this framework is really, like you said, all revolved around touch points. And so, you know, from the first moment where we're thinking, okay, how can we give them a gratifying experience based on what they need to do now? And then once they do that, what do they need to do next?

And how can we give them a gratifying experience for that? And so there's all these different touch points. And so once they sign into your community, you said you have an onboarding video. And is there anything kind of special to that video or is it more like a, just, Hey, here's what's going on?

Do you like give them a tour of the community? What goes on in that?

[00:14:26] Jay: Yeah. We usually have a separate video for that, but it's like one of the steps we ask them to take in that onboarding video is we'll say like, you know, watch the video tour because that's a big miss for a lot of people, but that's grown in popularity over the last year, too. Like just the idea of going into a room.

I think I always try to compare digital community and digital spaces into real life in-person equivalents. A lot of community experiences, you drop into a room and it's like you fend for yourself, and you can't like see people in three-dimensional space. It just feels very lonely, isolating and confusing. If you were to go across town to some meetup group and enter the building, and no one had like signs pointing you where to go or telling you how to interact or no one was there welcoming you, like, why would you stay there?

It'd be a horrible experience. That's what people are creating in these online communities every day. So having a video tour to show them around the digital space as if you would show them around the physical space, maybe you joined a gym and you want to know where things are like, someone's probably going to show you around the machines and where to do certain things get you comfortable with that equipment. 

You need to do the same in that community. So in the onboarding video, we'll say, watch the tour, read the guidelines, introduce yourself. In the introduce yourself space, we show them like, here's how to introduce yourself. Here are some prompts. We encourage you to use video if you want.

Here's like, Jay from our team, introducing himself in video. So it's like creating these moments. Post introduce yourself, you know, the next moment is probably our live session. Of course we want them to go and like welcome other people. But from there, they're kind of in like a waiting pattern until we start, but then we want to keep the energy really high in that live session and, you know, introduce some of the experience that we're gonna have, but really just get to know people as people, because if these people are going to be vulnerable and share about themselves and ask questions that they are nervous might make them sound stupid, the more comfortable they are with people as people first, the more likely they are to engage in that way. So our kickoff sessions are really just about making connections in real time between people.

[00:16:31] Jonathan: Love it. And that's something that I noticed was really good too. So, as my listeners have heard probably 10 times already, I do part-time work for Louis Grenier at Everyone Hates Marketers, and I sat in on his latest cohort, and the welcome session was exactly, it was pretty much what you described.

It's like, Hey, here I am. Here's what the course is going to be like. Here's like the certain days, like this is when you submit your assignment. This is when we were going to meet every week, at a certain time. And, here's your buddy that you're going to be paired up with. And, it really just like, I think just watching that and observing that it was a great way to set expectations, but it also, I imagine, like, I don't know for sure, but I imagine that it also helps to alleviate any fears people might have like, oh my gosh, like I just signed up to this program, like, is this what I signed up for?

And, you know, what's it going to be like? And so just having that kind of welcome session to see other people's faces, they see your face. I think that's just a huge, huge deal. So I love that that's the next touchpoint. So it goes from doing the intros and by the way, my experience with intros is that people love intros.

So, like it is, they do have to stick their neck out and be vulnerable. But I think it's, it's just a very popular thing. Like it's just like a thing that people know how to do, I guess if that makes sense, like they know how to introduce themselves. And it's kind of fun, I think, to like, you know, think of three things about yourself and to read other people's things that they're saying about themselves.

So I love when there's like a wall of intros and you can just kind of, see what people are all about. And it's a really good touch point. So we go from intro to live session and it's kind of a welcome introduce people session. And then what's the third touch point from there?

[00:18:20] Jay: From there, we get into like our course curriculum the next week. we do try to match people into their small groups as quickly as possible. But we also want to put some extra care into making those matches. And so like, if we're thinking about how we can match people, basically, because we don't do an application, we're judging off of their introduction posts and our interactions with them in real time.

So, you know, we're doing this matching exercise in a notion table. If someone hasn't introduced themselves and they haven't really shown up to a live call yet, if they didn't come to the set, the kickoff, it's hard to know what they're about or who they would work well with. We don't usually get into like your enduring group until the second week.

But in that first curriculum session, you know, we try to just show like how valuable this is going to be. Like, we want to make it both high impact and like impressive, but accessible, you know, like it can't be so fast paced that it's overwhelming, but it needs to be fast paced enough. Wow, this is awesome.

This is like so, so good. And we will interact in small groups, even if it's not your enduring small group, we'll say like, okay, so for the next 10 minutes, we're gonna do this exercise. We're gonna break you out into a breakout room of three people. Here's how we recommend you use that time. So now you're meeting those three people.

Sometimes that becomes like a request to say, like, I really liked this person. Could you please put them in my small group? And that helps us as well. But yeah, I mean, you know, kind of taking it from there. I know in some courses they want the experience to be so immersive and take over that it's like all you're thinking about and doing during the period of time that you're doing it, but we don't have things like every single day once you join, it's like you're joining the community. You say, hi, you have a good experience. We have a kickoff call. you meet people, you have a good experience.

We say next week, we're going to start our curriculum. And we kind of wait until the next week when we start the curriculum. And then when we start the curriculum, we want to have that be a good experience. We show you, uh, your homework and where to submit it. 

And we just kind of do that you know, week over a week for four weeks and when you do, you know, ask your questions or submit your homework, we want to get your feedback as quick as possible, but, you know, I think a lot of people look at their engagement metrics in their communities, including course communities. And they just want to be up into the right infinitely all the time. But if you optimize for up into the right in engagement metrics, what you're doing is taking up more of people's time in posting, which may or may not be actually helping them to the transformation that the courses intended to achieve. It could just be more busywork and that could actually be stressing them out. That up into the right engagement chart might not be representing people's actual, like psychological, emotional, happiness level with the course material.

So we just try to pace everything appropriately and not over-engineer for numbers, but instead like engineer for positive experiences.

[00:21:21] Jonathan: I love that you said that. And, it's just another example of how it can be easy, I think, to want to have those vanity metrics of like, Ooh, like I'm such a great, community guy cuz I, you know, my engagement is sky high. But yeah, I agree. Like, I think if you're constantly wanting that it could have a detrimental effect on their transformation and their overall experience.

So I love where you're going with that. And I want to take a step back a little bit to go back to the matching. So, how many people do you have going through your cohorts? Like, how, what’s your cohort size?

[00:21:55] Jay: 30 to 55.

[00:21:58] Jonathan: How long does it take you guys to match all those people together?

[00:22:04] Jay: Honestly, not that long, but like, this is part of my background. Like when I did unreal collective, that accelerator program, I was matching three times per year. So I got really good at it. Then with our membership community at SPI, just our general membership community, we do mastermind groups within there.

So we learned a process for matching there. So bringing that all forward, like we have a pretty good process in place where it doesn't take a whole lot of time. It's you know, you end up with some round pegs in square holes, and some squeaky wheels that want to get oiled and you move things around. But the initial pass of matching people into the right number of groups that are three to five each, it that it takes, you know, a couple hours over the course of a week.

[00:22:45] Jonathan: Okay. Yeah. That's not too bad then. Is it purely based on feeling, or are there some like hard criteria that you use to do the matching?

[00:22:53] Jay: Well, what I will do is create tags in our like table view in notion with their names, their like profile URL. I'll post the literal text from their intro post if they have it, and then I'll have some tags based on their intro posts, and anything else they've told us or have said in the meeting so far, I'll even tag like inactive if I haven't seen anybody yet.

And so I look at the tags first, like, okay, here are three people who are making a podcast around you know, family, those are probably going to be a good match. Here are three people who are focused on education in some way. Here are three people that are focused on religion. Religion and spirituality is a big one that you want to make sure they are matched with people who are at least tolerant of religious perspectives if not sharing it. 

So, yeah, that's kind of what I look at. And we do try to like separate, like if somebody has not been active, we'll put one of those people in a group or that group will have more people or make a whole group out of those people, you know, like, so that any given group has three or more people that have shown that they want to dig into this stuff.

The other thing I wanted to add to the last point, though about like stressing people out. In my experience, a lot of people who join these cohort-based courses are achievement oriented people that want to like even be completionist in a way. And so if you are creating quote unquote optional live sessions, several nights per week, and they can't attend them, even though they know they don't need to, they're going to feel some amount of FOMO that detracts from their overall experience.

So like as time has gone on, we've actually like, removed complexity and the amount of like real time commitments from people because it was not making them happier. And it was actually taking away from work time to get to the outcome that they wanted. And then they leave the course feeling like I didn't get out of it what I wanted, because my time was kept up with doing these other things.

I just want it to be like pretty linear. Like I know that we're already moving at a pretty quick pace. I would rather, you know, move at a quick pace for six weeks than drag it out over eight weeks because eight weeks feels like a long time for a lot of people. So like I try to move things more into like a six week framework, and that moves pretty quickly.

So like beyond showing up to the live sessions and asking your questions and being taught how to do things, really the rest of your time should be spent completing the worksheets and the homework and like the actual, you know, application of that learning to your own stuff.

[00:25:39] Jonathan: Makes sense. And, one more thing I wanted to ask you too about the matching is, you mentioned you, so you do the initial matching and then you also have breakout rooms too, where people can connect that way. What software do you use for breakout rooms?

[00:25:54] Jay: We just use zoom. in our, like we have two live sessions per week, and most of our boot camps we'll have a Monday session that is more of the lecture and instruction. And the groups that we break people out into that are typically random. And then on Thursday, we'll have a Q&A session. And the first half of that is like literally Q&A.

And the second half is a group working time where we'll break you out into your like enduring small group. And so we'll like define in zoom breakout rooms, like, okay, here is the peach group. Here's the apple group. And we’ll move people into their appropriate rooms.

[00:26:27] Jonathan: How many hours a week do you budget for people to work on the course content and interact with the community?

[00:26:34] Jay: It typically tell them because like the way this comes up is we'll have a Q&A session before the cohort starts for people who are considering enrolling. And they’ll say, how much time do I need to dedicate to this? And I'll say, well, you have three and a half hours of pure scheduled live session time.

And I would encourage you to save another five hours or so on top of that for the work throughout the week. So you're really looking at like eight to 10 hours.

[00:26:58] Jonathan: Okay. Cool. So, we have onboarding and intros as a touchpoint, we have live sessions, get to know each other, and we match people together, and then we get them started with the curriculum. And then it's just a matter of getting on that, that recurring kind of schedule of interacting with each other and the curriculum and, really starting to do their homework and getting the results.

So how do you measure success as time goes on? If engagement isn't the ultimate metric that we're looking for. We're not trying to maximize engagement at all times. How do you actually measure if things are going well or not?

[00:27:36] Jay: The main measure we've used so far is like proportion of students who make it to the end of the live sessions and are still attending. So we have this spreadsheet that has on the X axis, columns each, live session that we conducted during cohort… on the far left side, we have the name of every student and then we'll, we'll check attendance at the beginning of every one of those things, someone on our team will put that in there and it will be color coded so we can see like as time progresses, who's dropping off and we'll try to intervene.

But then at the end of the cohort, we can also look and see like, how did we do? And we can actually run some math on that and see like, what was the percentage of time that people, you know, made it to a live session, who made it all the way through the end? In our final live session, we do like a celebration graduation call and we ask people to like share their progress and their completed, you know, project if there is one.

In our most popular bootcamp is power-up podcasting with the value prop of like launch your podcast. So we can see at the end of that one, like, did these people record an episode? Do they have artwork? Could this go live tomorrow? We haven't gotten around to like doing a good NPS score tracking for it.

I would like to do that. I'm a L

[00:28:51] Jonathan: What's NPS?

[00:28:52] Jay: uh, net promoter score, basically that kind of scale of one to 10. How likely are you to recommend this to a friend or colleague, and you want to be in the nine or 10 range. Some people are like really dubious of NPS scores because they say like, most people will, if they respond, they'll respond positively, but a lot of people won't respond.

But we do collect testimonials at the end of every course as well. So I'm looking at attendance, and like the testimonials that we get and like what, how many people were willing to give a testimonial.

[00:29:22] Jonathan: Nice. And you mentioned that for people who are dropping off, you intervene, what does, what does that look like?

[00:29:30] Jay: Direct outreach. This is a big part of community building also like the community misses you when you're gone. If you're not noticed as missing when you've been missing, like it doesn't feel very communal. So we try to notice and then reach out and say like, Hey, I haven't seen your last couple of sessions. Everything okay? Anything we can help with? 

Because again, a lot of people are like type A, achievement oriented, completionist, and if they start to feel behind, they get embarrassed. They don't need to, but they often will. And so that might just like discourage them from showing up at all cuz they don't wanna be called on and say, how are things going? And they'll say, well, I'm actually two weeks behind. 

So we try to like reach out, identify if that's the issue. And if it is, we say, listen, you should at least show up and like, continue to learn along with us. It's okay if you're behind. We even like in most of our boot camps, we'll plug in a catch-up week in the middle.

Whereas like, if you're behind, this is a good week to catch up. We'll say like, don't worry, everyone feels behind. It's not a big deal. You can catch up, but at least, you know, continue to listen in, and other people's questions that they're answering in Q&A will help you, even if it won't help you for a week or two.

[00:30:40] Jonathan: How about the, so I've read a couple of community books before, and they talk about the role of the community member in terms of, consuming the content and being part of the community and eventually kind of graduating them into this… I forget the word almost this, a promoter of your course and almost can graduate into a coach, like they could graduate to a coach.

Like, do you have any kind of graduation in that sense or do they forever remain students, basically?

[00:31:12] Jay: Not really. I would say that 30 to 40% of bootcamp students end up applying to join our membership community afterwards. So, that's a graduation of sorts, but every bootcamp we've run, and we’ve run four of them now. Yeah. We ran four boot camps this year. Each one of those boot camps still to this day has a student-run organized mastermind group that's still meeting on a weekly basis. 

Not everybody's joining, but every single one of them has a mastermind group that was open to all students that someone from the cohort is organizing and continuing to run for those people, because whatever the project was, whether it was their podcast, whether it was setting up an email marketing system or building an online course, like that's still a priority for most of those people.

And so they’re still supporting each other.

[00:32:04] Jonathan: Yeah, the learning goes on. So in all of this, what's the total package of software that you use to help you as a community manager?

[00:32:15] Jay: It depends on the bootcamp, because some of them are based in our teachable prerecorded content. So for most of them teachable as part of it. For one of them, Maven is part of it. So one of those two things. All of them have ConvertKit. All of them have Circle. All of them have Zapier. And then like Zoom is how we run our live sessions. Miscellaneous… uh Google docs for homework. That's it.

[00:32:46] Jonathan: Okay. Yeah. Not, not too much. Do you use in Circle… I know you can use automations or like connect Zapier, for like, I don't know. I've seen that one guy does like after six days, just like automatically reaches out and says, Hey, how's it going? Just like checks in on them. Do you use any automations like that?

[00:33:05] Jay: Not currently not opposed to it. I personally send an automation that's a welcome message in direct message in Circle and a couple of my communities. But as far as our bootcamps go, we do not. What we do is have an automation that when somebody joins the course, we get a slack notification. And then when they get into Circle, we get another slack notification with their user profile so that we can click that and send them a message if we want to.

But, nothing, no automations within Circle itself, other than making sure that people are zapped into the appropriate spaces. I think we also add a member badge. We do add like a member tag in Circle that is the name of the bootcamp.

[00:33:49] Jonathan: So thinking about the spaces, in, for your cohort that you use, and you mentioned specific spaces that you use, one of those I believe was the code of conduct. So what kind of rules do you put in place for your community and how do you enforce those?

[00:34:07] Jay: We're lucky that the people who are attracted to Pat's work and SPI the brand are just like very kind good-hearted people. We get like no trolls. So our rules haven't had to be too intense. What we spend the most time trying to finesse in terms of language lately is like, this place is good because we have differing viewpoints, and we have shared interests that brought us here, but we are different people with complex viewpoints and not everybody has to agree on all viewpoints for us to have the same shared interests and get to the same outcome that we want.

But otherwise it's pretty basic. It's like be courteous, assume positive intent. if you see something say something, no sexual messages or like innuendo or any of that type of thing. It's, pretty basic. We encourage people to use their pronouns and to share their pronouns in their name.

We have a link to like, what are pronouns? Why, why is this a thing? so that people can learn. And again, some people disagree with that and it's like, well, this is a complex system of complex people and that's okay. You can disagree with that. But that does not give you the permission to be disrespectful to people who believe differently, but it's pretty, pretty light in terms of like rules. If people are breaking it, which is very rare, we'll reach out to them in DM and say like, here's what you did that's not okay. Here's what you do instead. If they break that rule again, we remove them.

[00:35:35] Jonathan: Yeah, that's, that's kind of what I imagined especially for probably the higher ticket cohorts that only have, you know, anywhere from 10 to 50 people joining, it seems like, at least from my experience, it seems like a pretty tight knit family. So it's not like a huge worry.

[00:35:53] Jay: It would be surprising to see someone pay you know, nearly four figures or more than four figures to come in and be a troll. Like they obviously care about the transformation of the course, probably above all else. And even if they don't believe everything or everybody's viewpoint, like they will continue through that process in a respectful manner to get the outcome that they want. Yeah, really not an issue for our community. Thankfully.

[00:36:18] Jonathan: Nice. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but just to, kind of give like a high level summary of what we've been talking about so far, So as a cohort-based course creator, like one of your roles is, is creating this amazing community experience. So within that role of creating this amazing community experience, you're in charge of making sure the onboarding is excellent with an onboarding video, making sure they feel welcome.

They know what to do. It’s gratifying. So they can take an action and do introductions and meet other people. And then it moves on to a live session would be the next thing to do more intros, more meeting people, set expectations for the course and what's going to happen.

There's matching. So you're really taking those, the introductions that happened and the other pieces, live interaction, and you're matching people together. So. not only do they get to interact with you, but they have kind of dedicated people to interact with throughout and share notes with and things like that.

Otherwise it's, you know, encouraging them to take the course work and making sure that everything is clear, they know how to do the assignments and when to submit them. And, other than that, it's just kind of keeping the thing going, like making sure that, you know, monitoring who is keeping up on their coursework, watching the videos.

If anyone's being like abandoning ship, then you intervene and you reach out to them and say, Hey, what's up? Anything we can do for ya.

Then that, I mean, that seems like in my mind, that's pretty much it, it's almost like setting everything up and then the only really monitoring you’re doing…cuz you're not really looking for breaches of code of conduct. 

It's more just like the ongoing thing that you're doing once everything is set up is just making sure people are happy. And if they're dropping off, then reach out to them and. And see what's going on. Is that pretty much like the summary of like the role of the community manager in cohort-based courses, or is there anything that I missed?

[00:38:09] Jay: It is. It's a lot of front-loaded, but, you know, 30 to 50 people doesn't sound like a huge cohort size, but when you add in like any one of those people may be asking questions in the community every week. All of those people are encouraged to share their homework every week and get feedback on it from our team and others every week, like it's a pretty significant lift to give that type of, both like direct support and also feedback.

[00:38:36] Jonathan: How much time would you allot to let's say a solo cohort-based course creator. They don't have a team. How much time should they expect to, on the day to day to keep the community experience going, have, uh, provide feedback and do all those things.

[00:38:51] Jay: Almost all of it, to be honest. I mean, during your cohort, like, it should be your full-time attention in my opinion. We have a full-time team member named Tony who's great who leads our bootcamp effort, but I'm still involved in a lot of ways. We have another team member who's still involved in a lot of ways.

That's for our typical bootcamp. For the ones through Maven where Pat is leading, it's like me and Pat and Matt, like there are multiple team members here that are managing this, not just the live sessions, but also the homework. So if you're doing, you know, support in the community and answering questions and giving homework support, it's going to take like all of your time while you're running the cohort, unless you're really trying to design for that to not be the case, in which case, like a lot of my recommendations here kind of change and you need to design it differently and set different expectations because otherwise, like people will ask a lot of you and if you want the experience to be really good, like I would try to design my time to allow for that during the cohort.

[00:39:50] Jonathan: Love it, man. Makes sense. Makes sense. So I have a few more questions for you before we wrap up that I'd just like to ask at the end. So, what's the biggest challenge that you have faced as a cohort-based course creators so far, and how did you solve that challenge?

[00:40:10] Jay: I think pricing is a challenge. And I don't know if I've solved it because to me pricing anything is a story more than it is like a science. It kind of comes down to like, there is a theoretical limit of what your target student or what your market can bear, but once you're within that threshold, the band of what you could charge is just huge.

And it comes down to like how well you can connect the value and the transformation of what you're promising to whatever price you want to charge. And I don't think that cohort-based courses are really that viable at a dollar amount in like the low hundreds. So you have to like ask yourself, do I have an audience that can pay in the high hundreds or low thousands for this experience?

And if no, like this medium, probably isn't going to be worth it for you to build in. And if the answer is yes, then it's like, how can I position this as a worthwhile investment of their time and money? The hard thing that we run into is, there's like a time sensitivity element to this. Like if we're teaching you how to build a prerecorded course, which is what our course on Maven does, that's going to be in a priority for you at a certain point in time and your business's life or in your year.

And if our timing of the bootcamp does not align with when you want to allot the time to solve that problem and build that product, that's tough. A lot of possible customers are ruled out just on the basis of timing. That's the hard thing, like pricing and timing. It's hard to get that magic right. To get the right number of people at the right price point at the right time to make all the economics worth it to the course creator.

And I don't know that we've perfectly solved it. Like we're still very much trying to get that balance right. I think the earlier you can define the dates of an experience and get people aware of it, the easier it is for people to slot that into their life and be prepared for it and maybe not get ruled out on the basis of timing.

So we're working right now to define our entire bootcamp live course calendar for 2022 to release that early and maybe even collect like, I don’t wanna say pre-sales but like reservations for your spot.

[00:42:28] Jonathan: Love it. And what are the top three resources that you recommend for listeners to learn more?

[00:42:35] Jay: The Maven How to Build a Cohort-Based Course cohort-based course was really great. I think it's still free and becoming more and more available. That's awesome. 

I have a couple of workshops on this that I'd be happy for you to work through. You can go to You probably want to look at the community building crash course or the memberships and advanced community building workshop that I have there. 

I don't know that I have the third, the third is probably this podcast. Keep listening.

[00:43:03] Jonathan: Well, well, thank you. And Jay, you have a podcast too, so.

[00:43:07] Jay: Yeah. Yeah. If you are creators and you want to learn from some of the best in the world about how they built a business on their creativity, listen to Creative Elements, it's where I'm putting most of my creative energy personally. And it's a whole lot of fun. I actually just interviewed Wes Kao, of Maven.

And that episode will be coming out in a few weeks. As of this recording will be late in 2021.

[00:43:29] Jonathan: That's exciting. Yeah. I'll have to, I'll have to take a listen to that one. So uh, is there a particular person or topic that you, as a listener of this podcast would like to see on the show?

[00:43:42] Jay: I'm trying to learn more about discord right now. And discord isn't usually the conversation for the course platform for a cohort-based course. So I'd love to learn from people who are running a CBC and their course is built on Discord.

[00:43:55] Jonathan: Why is Discord of interests?

[00:43:57] Jay: In my work supporting creators. I'm more and more interested in discord personally, because it's really the only community tool that's equipped to play nicely with the emerging web three and NFT tools, and I think that will continue to be the case for quite some time. So. I'm trying to learn how to use it as a community builder, because it's like wildly functional and there's a ton you can do with it.

But it's because it's built by really smart people, with a lot of like software background. And it doesn't mean that the functionality to create the things that you want to create is intuitive. So I'm trying to learn more about that and bring that in my repertoire as a community builder.

[00:44:39] Jonathan: Awesome man. And final question for you. Where can listeners keep in touch with you?

[00:44:45] Jay: Twitter is probably the best place. Go to I'm on Instagram at the same name. My website is, But, uh, Twitter's probably the best.

[00:44:55] Jonathan: Well, thank you so much. Jay learned a lot.

[00:44:57] Jay: Hey, thanks Jonathan. Thanks for having me.

[00:45:04] Jonathan: Thanks for listening. If you'd like to listen to more episodes, hop aboard If you'd like to be my matey, I would love for you to message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. And remember, always captain your cohort, always be my matey, and never lick an iceberg while your ship is passing by.


Popular posts from this blog

How to Start Your First Cohort-Based Course ~ Gautham & Aruna

How to Construct Reverse Testimonials ~ Sean D’Souza

How to Construct Reverse Testimonials for Your Cohort-Based Course