How to create focus in a community
Imagine you have a community focused on matching founders and investors, but some members spend most of their time sharing content about business management, which causes other members to either lose interest, disengage, or seek out more helpful communities. Over the long run, this is very damaging to your community. In a scenario like this, what your community needs more than anything is focus.
Creating and sustaining focus in your community has two major benefits. On the one hand, you ensure that members receive the kind of focused value (relevant content, connections, events, and so forth) that keeps them engaged and active on the platform. While on the other hand, as the community grows over time, you’re able to keep it from evolving into something that doesn’t align with your core objectives. Investing time and effort into ensuring sustained focus in a community pays for itself over the long run; for you as the Community Manager, as well as your members.
Below, we look at several strategies for creating and retaining focus in a community with practical examples and methods that you can apply to your own community.
1. Build member and brand personas
A member persona is one of the most important strategies for assuring you have a core focus when trying to create focus in your community. Creating member personas for your community can help you find a common thread and therefore the focus your community needs to address the types of people you want in your community.
A brand persona is equally important but goes beyond a simple ‘about us’ description. Rather it should clearly encompass who you are, what you stand for, what you’re setting out to do, and perhaps most importantly, what that all means for your members. That is, it should speak directly to your member persona. You should create a brand persona in order for your members to understand how they’re aligned to the community, what is expected from them, and what they in turn can expect from the community.
Let’s say you have a community of professionals seeking to connect with one another for funding, mentorship, or knowledge-sharing. Lately, however, the community has lost a bit of its focus, and members are promoting themselves and their content more than building meaningful connections.
In this particular scenario, address the core needs and desires of the members (through a post that reminds everyone ‘why we’re here’, for instance) ahead of sharing links, setting up discussion groups, or creating events. This will help create a strong and relevant narrative to contextualize the actions you’re taking. Applied consistently over time, this will create a clear idea that everything happening in the community is done for the members.
2. Share human stories
It’s important to use a ‘real’ and authentic voice at all times. Often Community Managers or elected representatives ‘disappear’ behind the voice of the brand or community, but this runs the risk of creating an anonymous and impersonal feeling. Rather, members need to feel there are real people behind every post, interaction, and event.
The presence of personal and authentic voices can assist in building focus in a community because they embody why the community is there in the first place: for like-minded people to come together and connect on a shared interest or goal.
If your community has become somewhat impersonal (with content being shared without context or thought, and generally less meaningful engagement), first try incorporating step one - member and brand personas - into your communications going forward. Additionally, share just enough information from your side to convey the idea that there are humans involved in everything happening in the community. For instance, instead of just sharing content on its own, share why you think it’s valuable or what you gained from it. Another approach is to share testimonials or feedback from willing members. These actions can go a long way in creating a personal online environment for your members.
3. Tap into the power of hyper-local opportunities
Even in large communities with members dispersed across the globe, Community Managers can still take advantage of location by creating hyper-local opportunities for their members. In other words, opportunities that speak directly to members based on their location and access to resources. Tapping into hyper-local opportunities requires a close examination of how your community is dispersed... From there, you can create focused discussion groups where people in the same areas can come together to connect and explore possibilities of in-person events or even location-relevant webinars.
Facilitating this correctly benefits all parties: members feel that the content, events, or updates are relevant and tailored to them, businesses can reach new markets, and you as the Community Manager can increase focus and engagement.
Let’s say you have a community focused on entrepreneurship, with members based across the globe. Outside larger events, try to identify smaller groups of people that share a location, language, or background which will enable you to create focused discussion groups, as well as the possibility of facilitating in-person events. This makes even the largest communities feel intimate and tangibly beneficial.
4. Choose the right community platform
Once you have determined the goals of your members and what it is they would like to take away from the community, it’s important to consider how you will meet those goals on a practical level. You should also consider if and how you plan on scaling the community, and what you want it to become over time. This is where choosing the correct community management platform becomes vitally important.
Let’s take a community that was established in order to match mentors with mentees at a university, for example. If your community platform doesn’t enable or facilitate what the community promises (to match mentors with mentees), it will be difficult to retain members since they will look elsewhere to fulfill their mentorship needs. A community platform like Slack for instance (which is set up to be content-first, people-second), has many great benefits, but for your goal of connecting mentors with mentees, it might not be the best option. Rather, you would need to investigate alternative platforms that are people-first, and that is set up in a way that empowers you to facilitate matchmaking. Find out more about the various types of community platforms in our blog.
Creating focus in a community can take time. It requires a close examination of your core mission and the value your members are looking to get out of your platform. It requires attention from every angle, from content and events, all the way through to which platform you opt for. In the end, it’s important to stay true to your goals, your members’ goals, and to maintain consistency at all times.
How have you maintained focus inside your community? We’d love to interview you. Have you struggled to create ongoing and sustainable engagement inside your community? If so, read more on how you can drive engagement in our blog How To Improve Community Engagement.