Community needs’ mapping: A must in your strategy
Prosperous communities are those that give value to their members; such a value that encourages them to be involved and stay in the community over time.
Even if we think that we built the most detailed and precise community’s strategy, if we won’t ask our members what they think, we won’t know if all our ideas, intentions, and the activities that we plan to execute in the community, are indeed feasible.
In order to know what the community members think, we use a tool called community needs’ mapping.
In this mapping process, we collect information about the community members and examine their needs, viewpoints, and perceptions.
When should we conduct a mapping?
♦ In a new community’s building process, when we want to check our strategy’s assumptions with the potential community members.
♦ When we aim to develop the community, by including new content, for example. Mapping will help us make sure the contents fit, before we invest time and resources in developing them.
♦ Regularly, when we want to make sure that the community is answering our members’ needs.
♦ When the community stands at a crossroad and we consider a few strategies. For instance, when the community grows and we weigh the benefits of opening a new sub-community. Or when our online community migrates to a new platform.
Before we choose a method, we need to define the mapping’s goal and which insights we would like to receive. Additionally, we’ll define which community members will participate.
A survey is a very useful tool when mapping the community needs. Sometimes we think that we know what the community members need, or how their community experience looks. But it’s not always the situation. That’s why through a survey we can easily reach out to a wide distribution of the community members and collect many insights. If we build the survey wisely, we can analyze the data in a useful way.
According to the mapping goal, we can collect information about the community members through the survey. For example: demographics, habits, preferences, their engagement, and more.
In addition, the survey might include a more freestyle space for answers. We can ask the community members to offer topics for improvements, perseverance, additional information we should know, and so on.
Through a survey, we might reach a large number of community members. However, in-depth interviews, as defined by their name, will help us to receive a deeper look at the members.
The interviews, or the personal conversations, are an open communication channel with the community and will give the participating community members the feeling that we are listening to what they say. The participation itself might create or strengthen a feeling of belonging because they are actually representing their community when answering the questions, and serve as their ambassadors.
Focus groups, similar to in-depth interviews, are another way where we can deep-dive into the topic and receive insights from the members. Here too, the participants get to serve as the community ambassadors and they have the responsibility to do their “job.”
However, unlike the interviews, the focus group can help us more when the community members represent a few target audiences or members’ varying personas. The group’s interpersonal meeting might result in innovative solutions to complex challenges, through a discussion process that may not be achieved in a survey or 1:1 interview. We can implement these solutions in the community following the mapping process.
A community meeting
A large community meeting is another tool to receive a larger view on the community and hear from the members themselves.
The meeting’s goal should be clear to the community members, before it starts.
Similar to in-depth interviews and focus groups, the variety of the participants in the meeting is important, allowing different opinions. You can divide them into roundtables of specific topics. You can also divide them into groups that will discuss the same topic, or even vote on particular preferences that are related to the community.
Following the meeting, analyze the discussions to get insights. You might even share them with the community members to keep their engagement and receive their feedback.
Each community has its own DNA. That’s why there’s no one method or “must-ask” questions. We tailor the mapping according to the community type, the topic, the target audience, and so on. Usually we’ll combine a few methods: a tool such as a survey to collect large data, as well as a personal discourse with the community members, to receive the full picture about the topic. Communities are dynamic, and that’s why it’s good to periodically conduct mapping.
Not sure which method is the best for your mapping? Looking for help in writing the questions? Let’s talk.