In 2016, Dr. Amber Thornton made her professional debut in social media as a mental health expert with the release of A Different Perspective podcast. With tens of thousands of downloads, Dr. Thornton grew an audience and saw how she could use technology to grow community around mental health.
Over time, her life began to change. With the birth of her first child, Dr. Amber began to shift her content to focus on the needs of working moms. This pivot led to the creation of Balanced Working Mama®, a community of mothers who discuss identity and wellness in motherhood. Within months, her social media community seemed to grow overnight. She went from around 5,000 followers to over 20,000 followers who connected to her as a working mom and mental health professional. She saw a need to create a specialized community for working mothers and launched a membership program.
When you think about your career, was this the planned trajectory for your career?
No, it wasn't. It was not always the plan. I thought that I would find a job and stay there for the next 20 years. That's what I have seen my parents do, you know. They stayed in the same place, the same organization, for long periods of time. But I just knew that I wanted to write, I wanted to get my ideas out there, I wanted to be heard, and I also wanted to build this online space where I could talk about mental health from a Black psychologist perspective.
When did your career shift beyond a 9 to 5 and allow for an online community?
Ooh. Whew. Back in 2016 - 2017…. Originally, it was just a hobby for me. I like to write, so let me blog and then I started the podcast. It was just a hobby and then I got good at it. As I put myself out there more, I really started to see the potential of what could be possible outside of my traditional nine to five. I found that I enjoyed it more. It really pushed me to really figure out, “How can I actually move this from just being a hobby, to maybe being something that can generate income for me?”
But things really shifted during the start of the pandemic. Moms were so isolated. Honestly, that was a big opportunity where I said, “Wait a minute, mothers are really struggling right now.” I decided to do something about it and began to offer free zoom sessions.
It was really just like, let's just check in on Friday at noon. Let's just talk and that was so helpful for them. But I think that also was the very beginning of this online community really forming.
How did you know your online following wanted a subscription membership for community?
I would go to my IG stories…really to just kind of test the market a little bit. What are they thinking about this? Are they interested [in a subscription membership]? I would post polls and track who expressed interest. Their feedback informed how I built the community framework, even down to hosting it on Mighty Networks.
If someone is interested in starting a subscription or community membership, what are the first few steps they can take?
- Build a connected audience by consistently showing up online. You can’t create community if you’re always on hiatus. You have to commit to showing up. Pick a lane and show up, whether it’s your newsletter, youtube channel, or Instagram.
- Survey your audience. Let them tell you what they need. There’s no need in spending months working on something your community doesn’t want.
- Research community membership platforms like Patreon or Mighty Networks. Find what works best for your community.
- Prepare content and events for your community in advance.
- Keep open lines of communication. Check in with your audience through quarterly check-ins and exit surveys so you can know what’s working and not working.
Building an online community isn’t easy. It has its challenges but it can also be a really great experience for therapists who want to make an impact in a non-traditional way.
Connect with Dr. Amber Thornton
Balanced Working Mama Instagram