We’ve been a partner with Synner since early 2019 and have been the chief architects and strategists behind the community platform build. This project focused on creating community tools and managing the community itself to guide it towards long-term success. The key things we worked on:
After years of putting it into practice, we’ve formalized our community model and methodology that we apply to each and every project that we do. The model includes different areas of focus that have become our principles and we let these guidelines lead our strategy process to derive our recommendations for a stronger community future.
With much of the data being locked by another party, it was an odd circumstance for both the client and our team to not be given access to critical data such as post content and user data. As an early challenge, our developers had to be clever in how we could get back control with no access and to counter that, we created a scraper tool that would essentially have a bot crawl the website for data and userbase.
With data in hand now, we could successfully import the data from BBPress into XenForo and continue the full community re-build.
We did a full audit of the site before implementing our strategy to form a baseline for the project and make sure we had our focuses set correctly from the start. From the audit discovery, we completed:
Part of the new design was improving the user experience for finding content. As is typical with forums, you have to use the forum list and search between individual forums to find what you want, relying heavily on watching content and receiving notifications to remain engaged in the conversation. We wanted to change that with our Feeds system.
With Feeds, we can offer community members a variety of content feeds to choose from and items that receive replies will get bumped back to the top of the list. Users also have the ability to interact with the content within the feed, saving them an extra click. We have found that this experience makes it much easier for users to find the content they’re looking for and also personalize the site experience to their preferences.
Creating a platform that is simple and easy to use while still having an interface that sets it apart from competitors is critical for user retention and a positive user experience. Synner already had a unique aesthetic and site layout based on industry standards and their own brand preferences, so we made it a goal to further optimize the platform by:
Working with Audentio was a pleasure, their knowledge and experience in community and social was critical in delivering our community site. The Audentio team went well above and beyond to ensure that our platform migration and rebuild went smoothly by identifying potential hiccoughs ahead of time, being clear and concise in both word and action, and by demonstrating care and craftsmanship via the final product. In a word: Impressive.
We’ve been accustomed to developing add-ons and extending community software such as WordPress and XenForo, but Synner was a unique challenge in their need for a full-scale lesson system. Prior, their lessons were similar to YouTube in that it was a video and comment system. With a chance to plan the data structure and UX from the ground up, we focused on student-first utility when building their lessons system.
Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, we looked to industry standards like Team Treehouse and Skillshare to derive the critical features and ideal way to display and organize information.
Though complex, it was a necessary bridge to cross to have better content discovery and increased engagement from the students. The new system would allow:
After implementing the new lessons system, we surveyed community members to determine happiness with the new software and quality of learning.
“I love being able to mark lessons complete- it sends a dopamine rush to my brain. The lesson content is amazing, especially considering that it's on a site and not live.”
“I love that the dashboard gives you a general overview of what's going on in the community and keeps track of where your progression is. I love progress tracking on lessons.”
A feedback system is crucial for learning guitar. At Synner, a media gallery, or “Riffs” section was already in place and users regularly uploaded videos in order to get feedback on technique, showcase improvement, demo self-written work, and more. Because this system is so important for improving guitar skills, we made sure the user experience was as streamlined as possible by:
A large part of a community’s success is the commitment of its leader. A community leader has celebrity-status among members and often drives engagement on the platform. We wanted to build a community leader who was familiar with the vision of Synner, had a place both within leadership and within the general community population, and had the drive to not only follow the vision, but also take it a step further and implement their own thoughts and ideas for what the community should be. Based on these standards we followed this path to build a leader for the Synner community:
Mitigating toxicity is vital in creating an inviting ecosystem for your users and allowing them to feel comfortable continuing to contribute to the site. For Synner, we worked to create a positive environment by:
Before building the monetization model for Synner, we first needed to ask the community how they would be willing to support. We sent out a survey asking if they’d be willing to contribute, how often, and what dollar amount they’d be comfortable with. The results of this survey helped to guide the model and make sure we were introducing a monetization system that fit the capabilities of community members.
The subscription pricing we introduced was informed by the user feedback and also offered monthly or annual options depending on how often the user wanted to pay on a recurring basis. We also introduced gift upgrades, allowing users to send subscriptions to other members of the community. Each of these memberships also came with perks, like a unique status and exclusive achievements in order to provide value back to members.
The user feedback also told us that many users would prefer to support the site as they can and not on a recurring basis, so we introduced a donations system for one-time payments. As we monitored the success of the monetization model, we realized that not as many users utilized the donation system like we anticipated, so we decided to forgo donations and instead focus on increasing subscriptions.
To provide value to those who’ve purchased subscriptions, we’ve introduced care packages and send them annually. For the past two years of sending these packages, we’ve:
Communicating with users and creating a fun and inviting atmosphere is crucial for establishing an active community. Synner was already an upbeat community with members supporting each other with lessons help and tips to improve their skills, so we made it a point to:
All of these strategies work together to create an environment where users feel like part of the development of the site and that any post or thread they create will spark an interesting discussion. Since implementing our engagement strategies we have seen increases in user generated content across the community.
We ran a survey to get feedback from the community on the new direction, overall happiness on the platform, and any other areas of the site users would like to see improvement.
“I totally understand that progress can be slow and big changes take a lot of time and resources. But I've seen the birth of this website and all the changes its undergone and its miles from where it started. I have nothing but absolute respect towards everyone involved, and I can't wait to see everything that is to come!”
“I don't think you get enough recognition for all the hard work you do! Congrats and keep up the good work, I imagine it must be really hard to build this site, but you nail it and do it so amazingly! The design is absolutely wonderful and the general experience is so smooth, cool and easy to use! Audentio team, you rock.”
We introduced a leaderboards and achievements system to reward community members for positive actions and to allow them to join in on some friendly competition. Awarding users for their contributions to the community can provide a sense of accomplishment and encourage further positive actions from that user and leaderboards lets users see how they compare to other users for a variety of content types.
In building a future-forward community and more members browsing on mobile, it was a natural step to pair Synner with a native community app. Our community app provides the framework but with continued customizations and an integration with our streaming solution, we were able to deliver an app that best suited Synner’s growing brand. The app features functionality such as:
“It’s finally here !!! I’ve been waiting for this app for ages! The login process is such a breeze and honestly the fastest of ANY apps I use. It’s super easy to navigate and find exactly what you’re looking for.”
“Best app for a guitarist or someone who is interested in guitar. There is much more you can learn about the app but why don't you just get it, hope you enjoy this app, I know I have been!”
Learning guitar and sharing progress with others is at the heart of the Synner community and a streaming platform was needed to bolster that mission, but industry standards like Twitch and YouTube weren’t suitable solutions. What was needed instead was a personalized streaming space that felt exclusive — branded to Synner and without third-party logos — freedom to customize functionality, and more control over monetization.
By building upon our streaming solution, we could give back that control to our client.
Since the launch of SynTV, community streamers have run several successful streams covering their interests, whether musical or more personal skills. We’ve had streams focused on gaming, music theory, cryptocurrency, guitar lessons, cello lessons, and 3D imaging. We’ve given users the space to showcase their progress and their own guitar skills, but also the ability to make a more personal connection to the community beyond being a guitar student.
Beyond the ability to stream to the Synner community, streamers have the capability to earn a share of the revenue from their streams. We chose to give streamers a share of profits to incentivize content creation and also support members of the community that have unique skills to share. In the first month of SynTV, we’ve seen:
As a soft launch to premium subscribers, we hosted the first streaming event on SynTV to introduce users to the platform. With an incredibly supportive client and community, the event went extremely smoothly and has everyone excited for the future of SynTV. To make sure this event was a success, we:
Since starting our work with the Synner community, we’ve implemented tools and strategies to create the engaged community with a lessons system, native app, and custom live streaming platform. From these efforts, we’ve seen increases in metrics across the board.
For the past few years, I've had the amazing opportunity to grow the Synner community alongside the Audentio team. From the beginning when we started as an online school and community, their team has always been attentive to the needs of our users. Now the Synner brand has evolved into so much more with a streaming platform and mobile app as well. Through it all, they strategized and managed the community to make it the fun and engaging space it is now. Without Mike, Alex, and the whole team pushing my ideas into reality, supporting and encouraging users in the community, and building all the intricate technical aspects, Synner wouldn't be the mind bending experience it is today. I'm so stoked we get to partner on all of these incredible projects and hope for many more in the future.