So you’ve decided to build a community. Woohoo! That’s exciting news.
In order to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot, you need to begin by establishing exactly what it is you want to achieve with this community and understand why you are creating it.
It’s all well and good to have the idea, but without a real purpose to back it up, it can very easily fall flat on its face.
In this article, we’re going to cover a few tools and processes that can help you define the purpose of your community:
Let’s dive in. 👇
What is a value proposition?
Our favorite way to understand this is to write up a value proposition.
A value proposition pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin: it proposes the value of what you’re offering to your customer, so they can understand why it’s necessary.
In order to get buy-in, your customers need to understand exactly what makes your product or service so special, how it can solve their problems, and why they need it. It’s about articulating how the customer will benefit.
“Some companies seem to forget that their consumers are actually people, with unique interests, needs, and personalities. A community engagement program builds loyalty not by driving sales or generating leads, but by helping customers meet their needs. Marketers must understand that robust communities are built not on brand reputation but on an understanding of customers’ lives.”
- Noa Ohayon Bab, Employer Brand Marketing Lead at Shopify
As Noa says, communities are about meeting the needs of customers. So, with a well-thought-out value proposition, you should be aiming to understand exactly how you are solving problems and adding value for the customer. This is about them, what they need, and why you’re the one to provide the answers.
Creating a value proposition
There are a lot of ways to format a value proposition. This comes down to what works best for your company, it’s not a one-size fits all situation.
However, we’ve found that most companies follow this basic format:
- A headline
- A sub-headline
- Key benefits of the product or service
- An accompanying image
Just like in any engaging piece of content you’d find online, the headline is especially important. On average, 80% of people only read the headline. That means you’re only getting 20% of people to read the actual content. So, at the very least, you need to make your headline clear enough to articulate just what you’re doing. But, ideally, you’ll make your headline enticing enough to get people to keep reading.
You can break it down by asking yourself the following questions:
- What problems and/or opportunities are you addressing?
- Why is it worth addressing?
- Why is it a high priority?
- What needs to change now?
- Why isn’t the current situation acceptable?
- What effects will this have?
- What makes you different?
- Why are you the best option?
Defining and measuring goals
In order to measure if your community is going to be hitting its goals, you’ve got to set some targets, to begin with. Common ways to do this are with OKRs or KPIs. But, hang on - what are they?
Objectives and key results (OKRS)
OKR is an acronym for Objectives and Key Results. They’re a goal-setting framework that outlines high-level objectives and notes measurable key results that articulate what it means to have achieved the objectives. They’re open-ended and aspirational, designed to push you to be the absolute best.
Essentially, with OKRs, you figure out what your best-case scenarios are, and then explain what it would look like to have achieved that.
Using OKRs within your community-led growth strategy can help you to measure your goals, track growth, and illustrate your community’s ROI back to stakeholders.
For each objective, you should aim for three to five key results to track whether it's successful.
Here’s an example:
Make sure you stick to the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) method when creating these objectives, so you don’t end up with entirely unachievable goals.
It’s more common to measure OKRs less frequently as they’re often quite ambitious goals, so it would tend to take a bit longer to see if you’re on the right track to meet them. For example, quarterly check-ins.
With these check-ins, you can see how close you are to the goal you set out and adapt what you’re aiming to achieve with the knowledge you’ve gained in the time since setting the goals, or since the last time the goals were reviewed. These are good opportunities to adapt or adjust your goals, so they match up better with the direction you’re heading in.
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
If you’re familiar with sales, marketing, or tech, you’ll probably have a fairly good understanding of what a KPI is already. If you don’t, it’s all good - we’ll explain what these look like.
Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are performance metrics designed to measure the success of a project, activity, or business. In this case, you’ll be using them to measure the success of your community.
When it comes to community, there are several things you should probably be looking for. However, these will differ based on the type of business you are and the kind of community you aim to build.
Here are some things you may want to measure in your community:
Number of community members
- This will be your most basic unit of measurement to assess your community’s success. It indicates how many people in total are or have been interested enough in your community to join.
Number of active community members
- In contrast to the above, this is not simply how many people you have in the community, but rather how many are active participants. So, a community member who has joined and then gone dormant will not count, only those who are regularly online and engaging will be an indicator.
Number of new member sign-ups
- This is a great way to keep track of whether you’re doing enough to get new people into the community. When you keep an eye on how many new members are joining each month, you’ll be able to see when there’s a rise and, in turn, reflect on what you’ve been doing right. Or, if there’s a dip, you can assess where you’ve gone astray and look at new ways to increase that growth.
- There are a number of ways to measure engagement in your community - through shares, reactions, comments, and more.
- One of the most important things will be comments. Through the number of comments generally being made, comments in reply to content you’re sharing in the community, or the number of discussions being had, you’ll be able to see the extent to which people are truly engaged in the community.
- Beyond this, reading into comments will be useful too, as you’ll be able to understand what people are enjoying from your community, or what they’re not seeing enough of.
Referral traffic and conversion
- It’s great to keep an eye on website traffic that’s coming directly from your community. If you can prove a correlation between your content and an increase in site traffic, then you’ll be able to show the efficacy of your community.
- You can do this by checking where traffic is from in Google Analytics, or by creating specific landing pages geared towards your community members or UTM links and measuring how many visits there have been.
Unlike OKRs, you’ll want to check your KPIs a bit more frequently. These are more about continuously improving and making sure you’re staying on track, rather than setting a goal and waiting to meet it. So it’s much more common to assess KPIs on a monthly, or even fortnightly, basis.
It's good to remember that these goals are flexible. As with any strategy, the goals may not look the same in the early stages as they will look in a year's time.
Create them based on what you hope for and what you think will be important to look at, but take them with a pinch of salt and be prepared to review and adapt these goals as you continue to grow and scale your community.
Wait, but what’s the difference?
The main difference between OKRs and KPIs is the type of goal that's being set. As we said, OKRs are high-level and aspirational - they’re much more aggressive in nature. While KPIs are generally much more achievable and measured as the process continues to unfold.
If you’re wondering which one is better to use, that’s for you to answer based on what you’re looking to measure and achieve. A good rule of thumb is to use KPIs as a way to continuously track and improve your community-led growth strategy, while OKRs are for establishing a long-term vision and to be measured and adapted sporadically.
Establishing a user persona
User personas are a great way to develop your customers’ experience with your product/service, or in this case, with your community. Each person involved in developing the community should understand and be invested in the personas, from community managers to content creators. They provide powerful insights into your community’s target audience, as well as potential members’ behaviors.
However, it can be tough to know where to start. So, here’s an example of a stellar user persona.
|User Persona:||Jade Doe|
Jade is a dedicated, enthusiastic Community Manager.
Ambitious, driven, and eager to learn.
Now it’s your turn. You can use the above guidelines to form your own user persona!
These characteristics are adaptable depending on what's relevant to your business. If a field doesn't make sense to you, leave it out. If you think something's missing that you'll want to keep in mind, add it in.
As long as it provides your stakeholders with a comprehensive idea of what a typical community member looks like, it's doing its job.
Keyword research is the process of researching popular search terms people are looking up on search engines like Google.
In order to foster and spark conversations that your target audience wants to engage with, you need a solid understanding of what the conversation looks like already.
That’s where keyword research can come in handy.
With keyword research, you can start to get a good idea of the questions people are asking, what’s trending, and what’s been covered before. Using this knowledge, you can create relevant and enticing content that people will be much more likely to engage with. This way, you won’t just be diving in blind without any understanding of what your future community members will be interested in seeing.
With this, you - or whoever owns content at your company - should be able to start a content plan for your community. Make sure this plan is kicking off at least a few weeks before the planned launch date of your community, so you have a backlog of content for incoming users to take advantage of.
Let’s sum up
Before you get into actually building the community, it’s important to outline your purpose, the goals you want to achieve, and the audience you aim to reach.
Without these, you’ll find yourself going in blind and unsure about where to start and how.
So, establishing things like a value proposition and user personas can be a great starting point for understanding the overarching purpose and aim of your community - as well as helping to outline it for any key stakeholders.
Plus, setting yourself some goals at the very beginning, and conducting thorough research into your chosen topic or area of interest, can be key to knowing where to start and hitting the ground running.
Don't let the fun stop there. We've got even more actionable insights and tools for community building in our step-by-step guide, the How to Build an Online Brand Community Playbook.