7 Secrets For Building A Community So Passionate That They Get Your Tattoo

Can you imagine having a community of fans that’s so passionate about what you’re doing that they tattoo your image on their bodies? I interviewed Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili because they built that kind of community and I wanted to learn how they did it.

In 2005 they plugged a couple of mics into a computer and created an internet radio show called “Keith and the Girl.” They launched it on their own, but their community grew the show by promoting them, helping them buy better equipment, writing their press kit, and pitching in however they can.

Keith and The Girl

Keith and The Girl

Keith and The Girl

Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili are co-hosts of Keith and The Girl, a daily comedy talk show podcast.

A few lessons from this program

Here are some of they ways they built their community:

Forums – In his book Tribes, Seth Godin says that if you want to build a community, you have to let members talk to each other–not just listen to you preach. Keith and Chemda did that by adding a simple vBulletin forum to their site.

Emails – They read every single email they get. Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former evangelist, says to build a community, you have to support your “thunder lizards,” your most passionate people. If someone takes the time to write in, they’re signaling that they’re probably a thunder lizard. (If you get too much email, this interview will help.)

Filter – On the internet, there’s a philosophy that every voice should be heard. If you take that openness too far, you get a chaotic mess. As much as they love and appreciate their community, Keith and Chemda filter what makes it on their show.

Meetups – I keep hearing about the importance of in person meetings when I interview online community organizers. They make a web-based community feel real. Keith and Chemda encourage their listeners to organize meetups on their forums.

Evangelists – I’ll let you in on a little secret. You might have noticed that Microsoft has been a big supporter of my events for startups. It’s because they have evangelists who are paid to encourage startups. Keith and Chemda don’t have the budget to pay evangelists, but if they see that someone is creating an event around their show, they sometimes surprise them with free Keith and the Girl merchandise to help them.

Excitement – Keith and Chemda have done their show live at different cities around the world. From what I can see, there’s no real profit in these events, so I asked them why they do it. They told me that they work hard to keep giving their fans something new to look forward to. It helps build excitement among the community for their show.

Ask – The best way to get a community to pitch in and help you grow, is to ask for help. Keith says that people want to help. You need to give them a way to do it.

Update: Read Jeremy’s comments below. He explains how the community started.

What other ways are there to grow a community? I’m researching this subject pretty heavily. Please share your ideas with me by email or in the comments.

22 thoughts on “7 Secrets For Building A Community So Passionate That They Get Your Tattoo – with Keith And The Girl

  1. jen_v says:

    Hello Andrew. I’m one of those tattooed people and I just want to say

    you are right sir.

    And you spelled Keith’s name wrong.



  2. Ian says:

    Great stuff Andrew. Keep it up. Now to make people get a tattoo of Leximo, haha.

  3. Rhian says:

    I’m another inked one!
    nice one!


  4. mat says:

    Katg are great, they are what inspired us to start a show. The cruise they put together was freakin fantastic. FYI, you forgot the word with in your evangelists paragraph. I’ll let you figure out where it goes.

  5. Yoav says:

    Great post, can’t wait to go through the rest.

  6. Andrew – Have you thought to add a forum to your website ?

  7. Deep Patel says:

    unbelievable, how katg has created such a loyal community, multiple people getting tattoos of katg, that’s the pinnacle of branding. It’s interesting how the radio show grew through grassroots fan support and how members of the community meet with each other which creates those strong offline bonds that eventually make their way back online through the forums. This is something I am trying to achieve with my own community.

  8. Jeremy says:

    One key to the KATG community that I don’t think was touched on is the structure of communication within the community. Apart from the show files themselves, Keith and Chemda seldom affect influence on the community.

    The vast majority of the banter that occurs on their forums is not initiated by them and is not moderated by them. Except for spam, there is an exceptionally liberal moderation standard that encourages people to exchange ideas and emotions freely. The vast majority of communication occurs in a bottom-up model, instead of the normal top-down scenario.

    Nothing seems forced when it comes to community building. When a new initiative is rolled out, it will be announced and then left to it’s own devices for the community to mold into the form needed to suit their needs; not that that strategy is an easy one. A tremendous amount of planning before a rollout is required to insure that they are able to react quickly to the inevitable requests for tweeks and changes that will inevitably come. But again in this situation, the bulk of communication comes from the bottom.

  9. Andrew Warner says:

    Jeremy, I know you! I hear about you on the show a lot. That’s a great point. I wonder how it all got started? I keep hearing about communities that spring up and die pretty quickly. I wonder how KATG’s community started.

  10. Phil Schafer says:

    Great tips Andrew,
    Those tips are great. I especially like the fact that it is ok to ask for help.. humbling, yes, but really cool to know that their are people out there that are willing to help! Thanks again.

  11. Jeremy says:

    @Andrew I think the KATG community stated much slower. For the first couple months the only ways for fans of their show to interact were blog comments and email. These were dominated by a small hardcore group of fans. I think this is another reason Keith had the thought that forums would be, “only five people yappin’.”

    In the beginning, it was also much tougher to find these modes of communication. The blog comments were located at the not-easy-to-remember shitecom.libsyn.com, and their email address was not communicated often on the show. One had to really really want to send a message to figure out how to do it. I am not saying this is the correct way to do things, rather the opposite. Keith and Chemda have learned that they need to have easy-to-use lines of communication that are visible and promoted often.

    After the first couple months, all of the web traffic and modes of communication were consolidated to the show’s website, http://www.KeithAndTheGirl.com . The forums were added by the fans and it was found that many many more people would participate if they made it easier to do so.

    About a year after the birth of the show, Keith and Chemda started broadcasting shows live while they were recorded. This afforded them the opportunity to get the fans even more involved. Now the listeners could talk to them and send feedback on a particular subject as it was being discussed. I think this, more than any other part, has been a driving force in fan devotion. It instills a massive sense of fan ownership.

    Their live feedback system has had to evolve a lot through the years. At first, they were able to simply use an IM client, but this was quickly found to be inadequate. Too many individual chat windows were difficult to manage and moderate. From there they migrated to simply reading comments from a live chat client that they ran off of their site. The live chat also allowed the fans to talk to each other. For the first time, a fan in New Zealand could “LOL” with a fan in Colorado at a joke Keith was telling about Kurt Russell. However, live chat was also doomed to be inadequate when it came to being a means for fans to send feedback. The task for Chemda, who’s job it was to monitor the live chat, to sift through a couple hundred conversations happening simultaneously in one window, most of them not intended for her, was impossible. The need for an effective feedback system led them to their current feedback system, which is now provided by http://www.AttackWork.com . It allows fans to send their feedback to the show, separate from the extraneous clutter of a chat, and allows Keith and Chemda to easily moderate, highlight, and flag pertinent and viable messages.

    The current pinnacle of live fan participation is their video system. http://www.KeithAndTheGirl.com/LiveVideo They stream the video from three cameras to their listeners via a system that also allows their fans to see and hear each other. Now those fans in New Zealand and Colorado can see and hear each other laughing and having a good time.

  12. DaHonay says:

    I, too, have the faces of Keith and Chemda permanently colored on my body. Finding their show, meeting people around the world that were like minded with similar interests, and the “genuiness” of those people has been one of the best things that has happened to us! As crazy as these cats can be, we are better off for joining the KATG community!

    -Love, Peace, and KATG!

  13. Jeremy says:

    Just an update on this interview. As of yesterday, there are now 29 Keith and The Girl tattoos.

  14. AndrewWarner says:

    Jeremy, this is unbelievable.

  15. Jeremy says:

    I spoke too soon. Two more were just completed. 31 total now.

  16. Jeremy says:

    Again, I spoke too soon. The first KATG brand was just burned into flesh.

  17. AndrewWarner says:

    Wow. Michael has to update the tattoo page:

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