“I never thought I would be in the tech space, or in any type of media,” says Olivia DeRamus – yet today, the founder and CEO of the social-networking platform Communia is at the helm of a technology-driven venture she believes “can become the size of a company like Reddit or Bumble”.
Communia was born out of a traumatic personal experience. After becoming a victim of sexual assault in her first year of university, DeRamus spent years feeling silenced and unsupported, longing to connect with other women who might share her pain. “I was very isolated, with a real lack of information,” she recalls.
Struggling to navigate her healing process alone, DeRamus resolved to reach out to others who might also be feeling lost. In 2019, she launched Restless Network, an Instagram page and editorially led website where survivors of sexual assault could connect with one another. Fast-forward three years and the brand has just launched its debut app, Communia Self, a networking and self-development platform for women and non-binary people to seek advice on rigorously monitored forums, while accessing self-help tools such as collaborative journal writing.
With Communia already attracting about 20,000 daily users, DeRamus is focusing on the growth of a thriving digital community that promotes open, productive and mutually supportive conversations. Here, she shares advice on how to establish and grow a community online.
1/ Hone your social-media presence
“I started the Instagram before the site even existed. I would always say to people who are working on a new venture: don’t be afraid to build your community before you’re ready to launch. It will help you through every iteration of what your project becomes. It’s about picking and choosing the platforms that speak to your purpose and the community you want to build. That being said, I think it’s important to have a presence on more than one social-media platform; just make sure your handles are exactly the same on every one, so it's easy to find you when people want to engage. Social media is a very powerful tool when used in the right way.”
2/ Make your users feel safe
“If somebody does something that’s inappropriate, they’re off the app, period. We have the power to safeguard our communities and we prioritise that over profit. On Communia Self, if you’re logging on to the app for the first time, we require identity verification before we allow you to communicate with our community, because we want to make sure all users are authentic and here for the right reasons. We use a lot of human moderators too; we’re literally on the app every day.”
3/ Visibility and relatability are essential
“For the same reasons I don’t feel comfortable talking about my experiences on Facebook or Instagram because they were made by white men who don’t care about women’s wellbeing or safety, I think we need a space like Communia that is built by women, for women. You’re not going to feel safe in a digital environment if you don’t know that the people who are creating it have your wellbeing first in mind, who care about you personally. I post on the app myself; I’ve asked a lot of questions over the years using the anonymous-posting feature; and the community has really helped me – I’ve learned a lot from it.”
4/ Commit to your cause
“If you don’t feel genuinely passionate about the community you’re building, it’s just going to run you down and you’re not going to have any fuel to continue. Whatever your business, project or community, make sure it really speaks to your soul, because that’s what’s going to push it through.”
5/ Create healthy work-life boundaries
“What I’ve been working on is getting perspective. I went through a period where I felt like if Communia succeeded, I would be a valid person again. Without knowing it, I tied my self-worth to Communia. because you can struggle a lot as a survivor, feeling like you’re somehow less worthy. I very much accidentally fell into this trap. I haven’t perfected the art of separation yet – it’s something that I’m working on – but when you do have struggles in your business, I recommend on getting outside, changing things up and really trying to separate your worth and your mental health from work.”
Discover more at Communia.
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