Building community: The 9 components you must consider

Communities take shape in various types and are managed on various platforms. Communities in Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, communities that have their own platform, communities that meet face-to-face and hybrid communities.
They may be user communities, internal communities, those that promote a brand, professional communities, or any other type.
How many people make up a community? Communities might start with small groups of people or can scale up to ten of thousands of members and even beyond.

So how should you build your community so it will create a connection between its members and prosper in the long term?

By using the 9 components shown in the illustration below and by asking the right questions. No matter which community you are building, this post will help you take into account all the necessary ingredients for preparing the strategy that fits your community.

Community building

Before we start

These are the vital steps in building a community strategy. You can apply this strategy to create a new community, develop an existing one, or rethink your community’s future.

In each step you’ll find guiding questions to help you understand the community. Additionally, you’ll find examples from the Super Space community. A completely imaginary community that was invented for this post.

Super Space company has an app in English that gathers all the information needed to travel to Mars. The company is interested in creating a community to support the app.

Mission

Mission is the community’s big, long-term picture.
Before we start building the community or planning the future of an existing one, we’ll ask ourselves:

  • Why does our community exist and why is it needed? 
  • What will the community look like in the future?
  • What is the value of this community to its members?

The Super Space community will gather the necessary information on traveling to Mars, in an accessible and fast way and in one place.

Goals

Goals are the actions or tasks that will help us execute our mission.

  • What should happen within the community to realize its mission?
  • How will the community answer its members’ needs or problems?
  • What will a successful community look like?

Tip: It will be easier for you to build a strategy and a relevant work plan if your goals will be as specific as possible and defined in a structured time.

The community members will share their own tips on traveling to Mars in a defined, virtual platform, where they could advise one another. If they post at least 15 tips per week in the first 3 months, that will be considered as a success.

Building community
The community members are the community’s beating heart | Photo: Fauxels

Target audience

Our target audience is the community’s beating heart: the community members.
The community might target multiple audiences. However, in order to know how to reach them and maximize our efforts, we have to define the members, understand what motivates them and identify the differences between them.

  • Who is in this community? And who’s not?
  • Who are our community members?
  • What are their demographics (age, geographical location, gender, etc.)
  • What is the potential members’ motivation to join the community?
  • Which problems do the community members deal with?

When we define the target audience, it is common to create “personas.” In other words, build a whole identity around your target audience. The identity should be as detailed as you can. That way, it will be easier later to decide how we’ll communicate with our community members, which content to offer them, and so on.

Super Space community members could be people from all across earth who travel on a usual route to Mars, occasional travelers who are looking for information before their travel, and services suppliers in the travel industry. 67% from the permanent travelers and the suppliers are from the US, and therefore the community will use English as their primary language.
Both travelers and suppliers would like to get updated about travel news: websites, weather, flights, etc.
The suppliers would like to advertise themselves in the community to expose to new audiences.

Not sure what all of the community terms mean?

Take a look at this guide

Platforms

The platforms, or the places, are the space where the community gathers, whether physically, virtually, or both.

  • Is there a physical or virtual space where the community members gather? What works there and what doesn’t?
  • How often would we like to gather community members, communicate with them, and in which ways?
  • Which communication channels does the community use?

When we consider the space where the community gathers and the communication platforms, it is important to pay attention to their availability and usefulness among the members. In addition, the community members should feel safe in this space. In virtual communities particularly, we have to make sure that the members feel comfortable with the different technologies.

Super Space’s goal is to attract more users to their platform. That’s why it will create a feature in the app that ranks services and allows contact with other users. In addition, the company has found out that 80% of Mars travelers are looking for advice in Facebook groups when organizing their trips. That’s why it will create a Facebook community that will support the app and can serve as an added-value space to the app. The company will use its Instagram account to advertise the app & the group and attract more users.

Content & activities

The content and activities are those which in fact design the community’s character. These can be face-to-face meetings, web events, discussions in the communication platform, recurring posts, and more.

  • Which activities occur in the community that give value to its members?
  • Which content will motivate participation among the community members?
  • What would we like the community members to experience following their participation?
  • Which rituals are there to apply the community values and encourage connections?
  • Which activities in the community will support achieving the community’s goals?

The Super Space app will include useful content for the travelers, such as 5 destinations you shouldn’t miss on Mars, visa and travel pass information, and recommended equipment lists. In the Facebook group, the company will share selected ranks of the app users, and among others, conduct live events with experts in the field. Moreover, Super Space will send a survey once a month to both channels, where users could submit ideas for additional features to the app.

Policy

We decided what the community goals are and what occurs there. We should also organize the ways the community acts and navigate the community towards our desired destination. When the members will know what they are expected to do in the community, and what doesn’t fit to its nature, one of two things will happen: their commitment to the community will increase, since it will be clearer what’s going on in the community, or they will understand that the community is not a fit and leave it. Either way, it will be for the benefit of the community, since we aim for members to feel they belong and contribute to it.

  • What are the community rules? What can we do in the community and what can’t we do?
  • How is the decision-making process conducted in the community?
  • How do we enforce the community roles and who will enforce them?

Super Space believes in sharing reliable information to promote the travel culture on Mars and it has the right to remove users or block them from the app and the Facebook group. In order to ensure that the app is trustworthy, suppliers who are interested in collaborating with the company will identify themselves as suppliers when creating a new account in the app. In the Facebook group, suppliers should share full disclosure about their services while commenting on posts.

How to make decisions in your community?

Read what we can learn from open-source communities

Roles

The community roles include leading the community and its day-to-day management, as well as the roles that the community members take in the long term.

  • Who leads the community?
  • Are there different roles in the community? Which roles can the community members take?
  • What do we want to happen to the community members over time?

Super Space has a 3-person community team. The team leader will be responsible for the community strategy in the app and the Facebook group, as well as managing the team. Team member A will track the app content and enforce the policy. Later, the company will develop an algorithm to identify specific words and automatically notify inappropriate content to the team.

In the Facebook group, at the first stage, team member B will manage the group (and will receive Admin authorizations), and both of the team members will be active. At the second stage, the team will recognize active community members who share valuable content, according to Super Space data. At the third stage, the team will create an exclusive plan to preserve these community members and encourage them to continue and create content.

Resources

Usually, in the community’s early days, we act alone or in a small team. With time, the community grows and requires more and more attention to maintain it and continue to provide value. That’s why we should think about what are the necessary resources. Resources can be money, time, team members, and more.

  • Which resources do we require in order to keep the community stable?
  • Which funding resources exist and which can we create?

Super Space’s success is based on an increased number of users. According to its calculations, the initial cost of the community team (3 freelancers), including operating the Facebook community, graphic design etc., is 75,500 USD per year. The company can create partnerships and sponsorships with airline companies, travel suppliers, and others, as well as advertising income, in order to increase the community budget resources.

Measurement & Evaluation

Tracking the community’s success will help us understand whether we are indeed on the way to the desired destination, or if we should make changes. Moreover, we could get new ideas for relevant content or interesting directions for growing the community.

  • Which objectives should we apply to measure the community’s success?
  • How do we track the objectives over time?
  • Where does the data exist in real time and do we have access to it?

Super Space will follow the app and group’s number of new users per week, the number of return users per week, and the correlation between the new and the return. The community team will also track the active members rates and the content.

Super Space will use Google Analytics to get insights on the app. It will use its special program “Super Cal” to extract the statistical reports from the Facebook group. The community team will have access to view the data, but only the team leader can edit and conduct changes. Once a month the community team will present the Super Space CEO activity report, and once in a quarter the team will gather into a strategic planning meeting, with improvements and recommendations brainstorming.

With this Community Canvas you could prepare your community’s strategy (click the photo to download):

*The model is based on existing models in the industry, such as Community Canvas and CMX 7 P’s.

And what’s now?

Community is dynamic and we should have our hands on the pulse. That’s why the model is circular. We should always check whether the community fulfills its goals and if it answers its members’ needs. A community that neglects the inclusion of interesting content, new members, and flow — will simply die.

Did you go over all the components and build strategy? Excellent.
Now you should go and check all your assumptions.
How?
Through a survey, conversations with the community members, or in other words — community needs’ mapping. Here you can further read about methods for community needs’ mapping.

Interested in building the strategy or receiving feedback together? Let’s talk.

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