You did it! You landed a new gig running community! Congratulations!
Now… where to begin.
The first 90-days in any role is equal parts exciting, overwhelming, and confusing. It’s also really important as it’ll set the tone and direction of your role for years to come.
The most common mistake new community pros make is skipping right to tactics: launching forums, sending emails, hosting events. As a result they spend months building community, but spread themselves thin and struggle to prove their value.
The 10-step process I lay out here will help you avoid that fate. This blog post was inspired by a Twitter thread.
Here’s exactly how I would spend the first 90 days in a new community role.
The first 30 days of your new role should be focused on sponging in as much information as possible, and starting to build relationships internally with team members and externally with community members and leaders.
1. Set up meetings with every executive leader on the team
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being successful in a community role, it’s that it never happens in a silo. Community is the kind of role that must work closely with teams around the org in order to be successful.
This is true for two reasons:
- You’re going to need other teams in the company to contribute to, and support the community
- The community team’s business goals are going to be aligned, and even co-owned, with the goals of other teams
You’ll also find that most people in the company probably don’t know exactly what community is, or they have different perspectives on it. It’s helpful to get everyone aligned.
Questions to ask in your executive interviews:
- How do you define community?
- What are your team’s top three goals?
- How do you think community can help you achieve those goals?
- How would you like to be involved in the community?
It’s important at this step to determine expectations – both your expectations of other teams, and what other teams expect from you and the community. Make sure you all understand what is possible and what is not possible, so there are no unreasonable expectations set on anyone.
2. Set up meetings with 20 current and/or potential members
Next up is getting alignment with the members of your community. This is something you’ll do for the entirety of your time leading community but in these first 30 days, you want to spend a significant amount of time getting up to speed on your members’ identities, needs, and hopes.
If the company doesn’t have a community up and running yet, then speak to customers and anyone who might potentially be a member of the community. If there’s already a community, make sure to speak to a range of different kinds of members, and make a point to get on a 1-1 call with every community leader you can.
In your member interviews, aim to understand:
- What is their experience with the community today (Pros and Cons)?
- What is their hope for community?
- How can you help them?
3. Audit all of your community spaces and channels
Now that you have an understanding of what your team and what your members expect from the community team, you’ll want to get an understanding of what the community stack looks like today.
Established community programs can get quite complex in terms of the different tools that are used to host and manage the community. Even if there isn’t a “formal” community program in place, there are likely a lot of channels that are being used to communicate with and connect customers. Get familiar with all of it.
In your research, aim to learn:
- Where are member’s gathering today?
- What channels are being used to communicate with members?
- What tools and technology are we using to build community?
- Who’s responsible for managing each channel?
For some extra audit help, check out how the CMX HQ team audited the CMX Slack Community
4. Audit analytics and reporting systems
You’ll also want to get a full understanding of where all the data lives for your community today, where that data is stored, and how it’s organized. In some cases there may already be some systems in place. If the community program is brand new, there won’t be anything set up yet.
It’s important to get started on understanding the data situation as soon as possible because in my experience, it can take months to get a new system in place. You’ll have to determine if you have the right tools, you’ll have to get other members of the team to dedicate hours of their time to help you, and you may need to gain access and permissions for different data sets.
In your research, aim to figure out:
- What community data exists today?
- Where does data live?
- How are we reporting community health and business impact
- What tools are we using to organize, analyze, and report community data?
Once you have a good lay of the land in terms of where the community programs are today, you should take the next 30 days to start putting together your proposed plan.
5. Create a v1 of business goals
After speaking with leaders in the company and community members, you’ll be able to put together your initial ideas around what the goals of your community might be.
They don’t have to be perfect, but they should be as specific as possible so that other members of your team will be able to give you clear feedback.
I recommend using the SPACES Model to determine what goals and metrics your community program will focus on.
6. Bring the rough draft of your proposed goals back to executive leadership
Go back to all of the executives that you originally spoke to, and share the V1 of your goals with them. Ask for their feedback on whether the goals align with their own, and if they have any idea for how you can make your goals more specific. You’ll especially want to get confirmation that your goals are the right ones from your boss, the CEO, and anyone else that ultimately decides on your budget.
You’ll probably have to go through three rounds of feedback with executive leaders before your goals are in a good place to lock-in. So start as early as possible. Get feedback, adapt your goals, then come back and ask for feedback again until everyone feels good that the community team is focused on the right things.
This step is critical. Don’t skip it. Don’t rush it. If you don’t have clear goals in place, DO NOT move forward with strategy because you might end up putting together a plan for all the wrong outcomes.
7. Create a V1 community engagement plan
Once you have your goals locked in, you can start planning out your community programs.
This will be the actual programming, experiences, events, spaces, and anything else you’ll create to gather your members, bring them value, and drive toward your business goals.
I recommend using the 7Ps of Community to design your community programs.
If your company already has a community program running, then this is a great opportunity to audit the program. Go through the process of joining the community, onboarding, and engaging. Review the rituals and recurring experiences. Put together a report with your recommendations for how you might be able to improve the programs.
8. Get feedback on your strategy
Now go back to your community members, and your leadership team, to ask them for feedback on your community plan. Make sure your plan aligns with their hopes and needs, and that it’s something they feel genuinely excited to participate in.
This can also take 2-3 rounds of feedback before you feel like the plan is in a good place.
But it doesn’t have to be perfect since community engagement will be an iterative process. This plan is your hypothesis and the next step will be to test that hypothesis as efficiently as possible.
The last 30 days will focus on beginning to implement your plan so that at the end of the 90 days, you’ll have something to show for it.
9. Get to work
Now you’re ready to start building community.
The key is to start small.
If you don’t have a community program yet, start by testing your “Minimum Viable Community” idea with a small event or group. You’re looking to find community-market-fit. Sometimes this can take months, but you can probably test out a lot of ideas in just 30 days.
I recommend using our 10-Step Process to Launching a Community from Scratch.
If you already have programs running, you can take this opportunity to start grabbing the reigns, and implementing the changes that you recommended in your audit.
10. Report on your progress
Internal PR is a critical part of every community professionals job. If you don’t tell people what you’re doing and what the results are, trust me, they’ll have no idea.
Your first 90-days was action packed and you want everyone to know what you did. Send out a report to your team about everything you learned, the audits you conducted, your plans, and the early results of the experiments and initiatives you’re running.
After your first 90 days, plan on creating a report that you’ll send out every:
- month: update on community programs and health metrics
- quarter: update on objectives and key results
- annual: reflect on all of your progress and accomplishments from the year
Revisit your strategy every quarter and set new goals based on what you learned. But try not to change your goals up too much within the quarter. At the least, your top-level business goals should remain the same unless there’s a big unexpected change for the business.