MaRS Library How to design a high-value community
Who should read this?
- Growth/scale ventures.
- Entrepreneurs who have built an MVP and have a user base.
- Companies that have a product/service with a social component, whose users would define being part of an associated community as a value-add.
Designing a high-value community
Nowadays, it seems like everything, even your salad, has an associated “community.” This word is so ubiquitous that its meaning has become unclear and its use has become redundant.
As important as it is for startups to understand the value of building community, it is equally important to distinguish between a community that is high-value and one that is low/no-value.
While a high-value community can build customer loyalty, a low-value community can detract from brand confidence and turn otherwise satisfied users off.
If you decide to make community a focus, make sure you co-create with your users and listen to their needs so you avoid building a stale, boring or (at worst) damaging community.
Step 1: Should I design a community?
- A high-value community exists first and foremost to benefit its members. While it will ultimately benefit your brand to have a high-value community, it will be immediately obvious if you are creating “community” for a sole, self-serving purpose.
- Your users need to be investing time and energy in using your product in order for them to want to invest more of themselves by joining your community. If you offer a “convenience good” (purchased often with little thought), it is unlikely that your user base would be interested in a community.
- Talk to your users to identify whether they actually desire to be part of a community. Find out what unmet needs this service could address.
Step 2: Design your community using the Community Canvas
The Community Canvas details the key aspects of your community in a simple one-page document. It is designed to be ever-changing, so you can always go back and refine it as you learn!
Examples of high-value community elements: resource-sharing, networking, expert advice
Step 3: Experiment, get feedback and try again!
Stay in constant communication with your users. Keep them at the forefront of your mind when designing new community initiatives.
Interaction failure occurs if a member posts something in a group, for example, and gets no response. A person who experiences this would become discouraged from participating further and would eventually abandon the platform. If you design a community, it’s critical you have the resources to actively maintain it.
Consistency is vital. Members should feel that their time will not be wasted and that this community will continue to exist in the future.
The value of building a high-value community
Keep in mind that it’s easy for someone to be a passive member of multiple communities, claiming value using a “consumerist mindset.” This is the default state that many people adopt when joining a community.
However, multihoming costs ARE a factor. These are the intrinsic costs for members of maintaining a presence in multiple communities at the same time.
Multihoming costs are low in a low-value community. But they are far costlier when an individual spends time as an active community member. Thus due to high multihoming costs, a person will be highly active in only a few communities.
And the advantage for you is this: If you succeed in creating a high-value community, your user base will be incentivized to stick around.
Where do companies get stuck in building a community?
- Not knowing how best to engage and connect with the user base
- Forcing a community on a group that is not looking for one
Strategic tactics to NOT get stuck:
- Get out and talk to your users to learn about their needs and how you can support them.
- Design your community using the Community Canvas.
- Experiment with new ideas and gain feedback from your users.
by Louise Pichette
- The Customer Development Model (CDM), product development and technology startups.
- Buyer motivation: What moves your target customers to purchase your product?.
- Sales 101: Create a successful sales process at your startup.
- Salesforce.com: Lessons in building a customer base.
- How to meet and engage an investor for your startup.