Here are the most important considerations in online community strategy distilled into a quick reference visual - the Periodic Table of Community Strategy.
There are great resources out there for Community Builders, including the free community resources that we develop and publish here on Guild.
Surprisingly, nobody has created a Periodic Table for Community Strategy, so I thought I’d have a go. I've got more than two decades experience in community strategy, community building and lecturing about community...so I thought, why not?
A Periodic Table is a simple way of getting the fundamental elements of a community strategy onto a single page.
Hopefully it's helpful to those of you getting started with community. It's also a useful reference and teaching aid for those of you who have been doing community 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’ll explain my thinking along the way…
Note: This is a low resolution version of the table.
To access and download the high resolution version of the Periodic Table of Community Strategy join Guild Community Collective - the free online community for community and social media professionals.
- There will be obvious omissions on the table - I've aimed to keep it simple, manageable and to a single page
- I may have possibly duplicated symbols 😬
- 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'm simply paying homage by using their brilliant visual format. It doesn’t contain any of the science or weighting behind the original table.
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.
How to use the Periodic Table of Community Strategy
I have focused on 10 elements of Community Strategy, as follows:
Types and Categories of Community
I believe there are broadly 10 categories or types of community. Of course, many communities can straddle multiple categories.
I wrote about the 5 types of Community, or the '5 Ps of community' - Practice, Purpose, Product, Play, Place - which seems to resonate with many.
Extend the 5Ps of community further and you can have Social, Learning, Networking, Brand and Support communities. These 10 categories should capture the different types of communities out there.
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’s 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've 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've also cheekily added Chief Community Officer as many of us believe that it's 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's 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're 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've purposefully not included Community Lurker - ideally that word should be banned. There are much better ways to describe someone who isn't 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've decoupled social media platforms from community platforms.
Here's the reasoning. If you are really serious about building a community, it's high risk to only consider ad-funded social media platforms. So, I've separated them out.
Most community strategists don't 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's not enough space to add them all, so I've spoken to other community strategists to get a shortlist.
Note: inclusion does not equal a recommendation. You'll need to do your homework. Start by joining other community strategists on this community for community managers.
Social Media Platforms
See the note above.
There's not enough space for all social media platforms or sub-categorisation of these platforms into messaging/network/aggregator etc.
So I've added 6 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's 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'd 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's 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 don't 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 (and if you've got this far and have got any value from the model and this post, please do consider Guild 😎!)
- Define your community measures and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Create a measurement framework
- Define governance requirements (e.g data, safeguarding etc.)
Anyway, I hope this community strategy model is useful.
If you have comments, feedback or just want to say thank you, please message me on Guild.
Even better, come and join me and other community strategists on Guild Community Collective where we're discussing the Periodic Table of Community Marketing... and everything else that helps us collectively to build and manage thriving online communities!
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