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🛰️ Build enthusiastic communities with the Orbit Model
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README.md

Planets around the sun with rings labeled 1-2-3-4

🛰️ Welcome to the Orbit Model

The Orbit Model helps developer advocates, evangelists, and community managers build enthusiastic communities. It's meant to be added to and improved by all of us.

✍️ Read the blog post

The Orbit Model replaces conversion with connection.

As the funnel is to conversion, the orbit is to adoption. The orbit model is incrementally adoptable, meaning that you can start using it today for just parts of your community, not the whole thing. We recommend you start with Orbit 1. Identify your developers with the highest gravity and make a plan for extending their love and reach even further.

Table of Contents

Key Concepts of the Orbit Model

📚 Read the glossary to learn more about specific terms used in the model.

Orbit versus Funnel

Funnel Orbit
Conversion Adoption
Value capture Value creation
Push people through Pull people in
Based on single purchase event Inclusive of entire lifecycle
Binary (leads vs. everyone else) Non-binary (Orbit Leves)

Gravity = Love x Reach

This is the fundamental equation of the Orbit Model. Think of it this way: everyone in your community has some amount of gravity. Some ability to attract others. The gravity that each person has is a product of two things: love and reach.

Love Reach
Love is their love for what you do. That includes expert knowledge in your technology, a high degree of satisfaction, and feeling like part of the tribe. Reach is a measure of how well they can help spread the love. Developers with a lot of reach tend to be well-connected, respected by their peers, and have a passion for teaching and sharing.

Orbit Levels

Love, reach, and gravity are important because they help you segment your community into different levels. We call these orbit levels. Having orbit levels helps you give the right opportunity to the right person at the right time.

You can name your orbit levels what you want, and have as many as you like, but for the purposes of having a standard we can all reference, we describe 4 levels with the following names.

Orbit 1 - Ambassadors

Orbit 1 is reserved for our inner circle, our Ambassadors. Others call these folks Champions or VIPs or MVPs. The way that we engage with members in each orbit level is different. For ambassadors, who we should know by name, we communicate with via 1:1 email, slack DM, or even texts or Whatsapp. We don’t need many of them, but each ambassador counts because they have a lot of love and reach.

Orbit 2 - Fans

Orbit 2 is our fans. These folks are passionate about the technology, can easily explain what it does and how to use it, and are connected to some kind of work or local community. They might not have the love or reach of the ambassadors, but with your help they might someday. In the orbit model, we call it a promotion when a member jumps up a level.

Orbit 3 - Users

Orbit 3 is our users. These are folks who have some kind of working integration, some kind of sustained activity. Most customers fall into this level and there can be thousands of them. To help us drive adoption for our community, we need to find the ones we can promote to fans and learn how to motivate them.

Orbit 4 - Observers

Orbit 4 is our Observers. These are folks who’ve read our blog posts, watched our talks, kicked the tires with one of our sample apps, or just followed us on twitter. Relative to the other levels, there are a lot of observers. But at some point in the future, many of these observers might need our technology for something, so it’s important we stay top of mind with them.

Gravitational force (sum of gravities)

  • Orbit is a model for increasing the gravity of individual community members and the gravitational force of the whole community
  • Your community should attract people, pull them in. Welcoming people and high-quality resources make communities attractive.
  • Over time, if a community doesn’t maintain enough gravitational force, it’s likely to lose its members to other technologies.

Other Concepts

Conversion vs. Adoption

  • The funnel, and conversion, is a push model
    • You push people through the funnel
  • The orbit and adoption is a pull model
    • You make it enticing enough where people want to pull themselves into orbit
  • This theme is prevalent across modern marketing
    • consumers are in the driver’s seat
    • they have access to all the information in order to make their choices, including the competitor

Value capture vs. Value creation

  • The funnel is a model for capturing value for the company
    • What you measure is conversion and the revenue from from conversion
  • The orbit is a model for creating value for the community
    • What you measure is how much value you’ve created for the community - how much you’ve educated them, helped them, given them more reach, etc.
  • 🔗 How many developers did we help?

☄️ Asteroid belt

Between O3 and O2 is the asteroid belt. Here you must cross the chasm from user to fan. This is where community activation happens, building on product activation from O4 to O3. It takes something personal to really make a fan, like a great box of swag or a kind email recognizing something cool the developer has built. Getting some facetime on a call or at a meetup works well too. In other words, you have to win the heart as well as the mind.

A DevRel program should have a variety of programs in place to help developers cross the chasm from the product into the community, becoming bigger fans and advocates in the process.

Clusters

Big communities emerge from sets of smaller communities. In the context of the whole system, these smaller communities are called clusters. The nucleus of a cluster can be a person, place, or thing.

  • Person example: An influential community member; an ambassador
  • Place example: A geographic location like a city, state, or country; an employer; a program
  • Thing example: A subproject; a unique belief or perspective; a skill or experience

A community member needs less reach to attract someone in their cluster compared to the wider community. Members who associate with a specific person, place, or thing have a lower barrier to becoming collaborators. The fruits of their collaborations will draw in more contributors from their cluster and eventually the whole community.

In the Orbit Model, clusters can be visualized as pie slices stretching from O1 out to O4. Each cluster has its own ambassadors, fans, users, and observers.

When pie slices overlap, it means that some members are part of both clusters. As an example, imagine two clusters: "PHP developers" and "Developers in London". Some of the PHP developers cluster might also be in our London cluster. The more clusters that members share, the more likely it is that their reach will bring themselves in contact with each other.

To increase overall community gravity faster, identify active or potential clusters and connect members around those shared nuclei. As the clusters start to take shape, make connections between them.

1:few:many

Marketing is a 1:many model. Sales is a 1:1 or 1:few model. Community isn't either of these.

Community is 1:few:many. You, as the dev advocate or community manager are the 1. You have a deep relationship with a handful ambassadors - they are the few. Those ambassadors have deep relationships with the people in their communities - they are the many.

The 1:few:many model explains why so many things that don't scale in community (like facetime and relationship-building) still can have huge results. It's the ripple effect.

Early Adopters

Using the Orbit Model for your community? Tell the galaxy! Add your name to this list with a link to your site, community, or relevant material.

Contributing

Contributions and questions are not just welcome, they're essential! Please open an issue with your ideas on how to improve the model, feedback or criticisms of it, or just with information about how you're using it. The discussion will make it better, and we'll have you to thank 💜

Read the contribution guide to get started.

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