This article first appeared on Guild. It has been lightly edited and republished with permission from the author
A Periodic Table is a simple way of getting the fundamental elements of a community strategy onto a single page.
Hopefully, it is helpful to those of you getting started with a community. It is also a useful reference and teaching aid for those of you who have been doing communities for decades. It was also a great excuse for creating something colourful and beautiful to share. Let’s take a look at the table, and I will explain my thinking along the way.
How to use the periodic table of community strategy
I have focused on 10 elements of community strategy, as follows:
All communities should support some kind of measurable goal.
If you are investing in community as a brand or organisation, community should support your primary business goals - whether that is to generate ideas and insight, to sell more, to get closer to your customers and prospects, to increase brand awareness, drive meaningful change, to power customer support, co-create things....and the list goes on.
I have focused on aligning community to goals that apply mainly to business and organisations. Hopefully, this can help people more easily make the connection between organisational objectives and how community might help you achieve them.
Of course, you may just have a very simple set of objectives for your community - for example, to learn more, to have fun and to connect to amazing people around the world.
Community management roles
Depending on the size and complexity of your community strategy, your budget and the platform you choose, there may be a number of different community roles.
From community sponsors to community owners, community admins, community hosts, community moderators, community analysts etc.
I have also cheekily added chief community officer as many of us believe that it is time to recognise just how strategic community specialists are - and the powerful role they play creating value in organisations today.
In truth, most communities are devised, built and run by a single community manager. If that is you, at least this element of the table highlights just how many hats one person has to wear. Perhaps you can ask for a raise and show those who need to know that community managers are multi-skilled professionals.
Community membership roles
Communities are not homogenous. They are collections of many individuals - all with different needs, behaviours, motivations and roles.
Some of these member roles may be defined or bestowed on them by the community hosts, such as community VIP or community beta tester.
Some are naturally created through a desire to support the community, e.g. community advocate or community champion. Some roles simply evolve over time - from community newbie to community elder for example.
I have purposefully not included community lurker - ideally, that word should be banned. There are much better ways to describe someone who is not actively engaging in a community - for example, community member, reader, learner or explorer. More on that here: 'Why we need to ban the word 'lurker' in community strategy'.
Ok, this is where I know that there will be some debate and discussion. I have decoupled social media platforms from community platforms.
If you are really serious about building a community, it is high risk to only consider ad-funded social media platforms. So, I have separated them out.
Most community strategists do not recommend building a community on social media if you respect member data, and are looking for sustainability, longevity and value...and certainly not if you want community content and discussion to be visible rather than battle daily with social media algorithms.
So, in here you have Guild (of course) alongside other platforms built specifically for different types of online community, or which measure insights from community data, e.g. Orbit.love and Commsor.
There is not enough space to add them all, so I have spoken to other community strategists to get a shortlist.
Note: inclusion does not equal a recommendation. You will need to do your homework. Start by joining other community strategists on this community for community managers.
Social media platforms
See above. There is not enough space for all social media platforms or sub-categorisation of these platforms into messaging/network/aggregator etc. So I have added six of the most popular platforms where community building takes place.
Community engagement techniques
I really had to hold back here. These elements are the content formats, the triggers, the rituals, the currency in communities. And what works in one community may not in another.
Whether it is AMAs, guides, meet-ups, video, audio, frameworks, polls, mind maps or simple questions - think about the emotional drivers behind what engages people in your community. What drives them to open up, collaborate and share? Make sure the community you build and the techniques you employ makes people feel valued.
These are based on the engagement techniques and tactics that work well in Guild communities. I would love to hear from you if you have an engagement technique that is successful in your community but not listed here. Remember, this is an iterative model.
Community member motivations
The most successful communities create a culture of "we" and understand what broadly motivates people to join, engage and stay. Advanced community strategy looks at distinct individual motivations and how to meet those needs.
There is a lot of behavioural and social science behind successful community building and management. Community Science has its roots in anthropology, psychology, linguistics and social psychology.
Just asking yourself "what do my members want to achieve and what are their motivations?" is a great start.
The community member motivations elements include intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, collaboration, incentives, recognition, driving change and even good old customer service.
Community governance checklist
These are some of the very basic elements that will ensure the smooth set-up, launch and sustainability of your community. Very few communities become successful without pre-planning.
Again, what you focus on will depend on the scale and complexity of your community, what your goals are, and the budget available to you.
At the very least, your community should have a purpose, guidelines and you should have a clear idea of what membership will require from people (e.g. is there a cost, a commitment, a barrier to entry?).
Organisations and businesses will need to spend more time on community governance than more informal communities. Most professional community managers will need to align their communities to business goals and data governance, internal and external communications, tech stacks, budgets, business intelligence, business measurements and much more.
This is your go-to checklist for a successful community strategy. For those of you who do not like detail, focus on answering the 13 points in this section.
- Define your community goals/aims/objectives
- Define your community category/type
- Define your audience/s and their motivations
- Define any member requirements to join the community
- Define the role of your organisation/brand
- Define your community timeline and key milestones
- Define your community resources
- Define your community budget
- Define your moderation model and process
- Choose your community platform
- Define your community measures and KPIs (key performance indicators)
- Create a measurement framework
- Define governance requirements (e.g data, safeguarding etc.)
Caveats: There will be obvious omissions on the table. I may have possibly duplicated symbols. And this in no way diminishes the great work of Dimitri Mendeleev, inventor of the Periodic Table of Elements and the countless scientists who assembled the chemical elements into the modern format - I am simply paying homage by using their brilliant visual format.
There will be future iterations, so if you have suggestions, spot any errors or just want to give me some feedback, please connect with me on Guild and DM me.
Michelle Goodall is the chief marketing officer of Guild, a platform for professional communities and networking. She has more than 23 years of experience 23+ years of experience in marketing, digital and communications client-side, agency-side and as a consultant.
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