Growing your online community flywheel with Rosie Sherry

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt, CEO of Truly, has over 20 years experience in market research and strategy on both client and agency side. She wrote one of the first books on how the social web is changing business, was named one of 2013's Entrepreneurial Women to Watch by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in Fast Company. She has built an engaged and enthusiastic business audience online of over 345,000 followers, including a significant number of thought leaders. Tara combines a data-centric with a human-centric approach to building an audience, leaning heavily on insights into consumer patterns and behaviors while keeping an eye on online trends and changing expectations.

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Rosie Sherry is the Community Lead at Indie Hackers, a community of independent builders and “side-hustlers” sharing their journeys. She joined us for a webinar for our community members earlier this week and dropped some MAJOR knowledge on us. Here is a summary for those who weren’t there. You’re welcome!

On Tuesday, July 7, Rosie Sherry, a community leader at Indie Hackers and overall community growth expert, joined us on Zoom to present a webinar titled, “How I do Community at Indie Hackers.”

There was much to love about this presentation, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I enjoyed the fact that she presented her major lessons in flywheel formats. Or, rather, in “phlywheelz formats”:

This wasn’t merely Rosie buttering us up, though! The four flywheels she presented were solid lessons in creating a healthy, engaged, growing community. They were:

  1. The positive culture flywheel
  2. The Harry Dry flywheel
  3. The Twitterz flywheel; and
  4. The 🤖 flywheel (automation)

Each of these flywheels that Rosie and the team at Indie Hackers (Founder, Courtland, and his brother, Channing) have deployed successfully are equally important. They all form one big, effective flywheel that has helped grow the community to 120,000+ members (growing in leaps and bounds each day!). Not only that, but it’s a nice community, full of helpful and lovely, generous people, sharing even their most vulnerable moments. 

If you’re wondering how to grow a thriving, healthy community like this, you’ll want to apply something similar to Rosie’s flywheels. They may look a bit different for your community, but here are the overarching themes.

Flywheel #1: Model the behavior you want to see

I can’t underscore this enough!!! 

In the case of Indie Hackers, Courtland Allen began the community around interviewing indie hackers about their ups and downs. His thesis was that people who build stuff feel alone and we’re only really exposed to the success stories. By creating radical honesty and encouraging brave sharing, it brought more indie hackers out to share. This created that positive flywheel:

People share openly and positively —–> This attracts others to come to share openly and positively ——> Which creates a culture of generosity and helping others feel good (and not alone) —-> Which leads back to people sharing openly and positively….and the flywheel continues!

Flywheel #2: Create content that your members will come back for

This is what Rosie called the “Harry Dry Phlywheel.” 

If you haven’t followed Harry, you’re in for a treat! He’s created this very cool, simple resource called Marketing Examples with frequent, microlessons that deliver clarity to his audience, like this post that gives 17 writing tips that anyone can implement instantly:

Rosie saw Harry posting these great tips in Indie Hackers and how much people loved them. The more Harry posted, the more people came back to engage! Rosie knew that she needed to create content that was engaging like Harry’s posts AND that she should encourage others in the community to do the same.

As Rosie said, “People mimic others in the community, especially the successful ones.” When others saw that Harry was gaining popularity and Rosie started emulating these posts (and gaining popularity), it inspired a whole bunch of other community members to do the same!

This flywheel was super positive in bringing members back time and time again to engage!

Flywheel #3: Bring your community to the members

Lots of people worry about driving traffic to the platforms – using lots of “come see more here” and promotions on social media. But Rosie looked at social media, and in particular Twitter, a bit differently. She didn’t think that constantly promoting Indie Hackers or cajoling people into clicking on a link to bring them back to Indie Hackers was a good use of these tools.

So instead, Rosie recreated the same community feel on Twitter as she did in the Indie Hackers community:

She posted questions inspired by conversations on Indie Hackers…not to link back to that conversation, but just to create engagement and conversation on Twitter. This increased the number of followers and engagement on Twitter, which inadvertently drove traffic back to Indie Hackers. It helped more people discover the community because it engaged people where they are.

So the flywheel here is:

Find great ideas in the community conversations ——> Post conversation topics to social platforms where your community already gathers ——-> This creates engagement on these social platforms, which helps even MORE people discover the conversations (and get curious about your community) —–> Those people go to the community and start having interesting conversations ——> Which you will discover and be able to use to post back to social media!

Flywheel #4: Use automation to reinforce the other flywheels

The team at Indie Hackers is small and, therefore, must get more efficient with their time. I think everyone reading this can relate! 

Rosie showed how she uses some automation to make sure all of the other lessons are reinforced – modeling positive behavior, posting great content, and sharing beyond the platform through effective automation. 

For modeling positive behavior, she greeted new members with a Typeform, asking the kinds of questions that will help them open up about where they’re at. To encourage posting great content, she used an automated post that would greet each new member to introduce themselves and share. To bring people back to the platform, they created a bunch of newsletter roundups of top content that members could subscribe to. These newsletters simply highlight the best content in order to remind members to come back and engage.

The important thing to note here is that this flywheel drives back to all of the other flywheels (and feeds off of the other flywheels), it doesn’t replace any human interaction. 


As mentioned above, this presentation was PACKED FULL of great lessons, stories, and ideas for anyone to apply to their own community growth flywheel. You can access the recording of this excellent webinar and all future webinars by joining Phlywheel. 

Our doors open MONDAY, July 13! There will be MANY more amazing speakers and experts to come!

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