Generally speaking, building a brand community serves two entities: its members and the business or organization, and whatever you build needs to provide value for both. In order to prove the value of your community, you need to begin by determining what the value or purpose of your community is.
At CMX, we have developed the Three Level Strategy Framework. This framework breaks down the process into three levels: Business level strategy, Community level strategy, and Tactical level strategy. As a community manager, you need to always think about how you are going to prove the value of the work you are doing. And each strategy level will come with its own set of metrics and reports.
Let’s break it down by each level.
1. Business Level Strategy
Business level strategy is the first fundamental when we talk about branded communities. Why does this come before anything else? Because you are building community for an organization, and that means you have to understand the goals of the organization in order to create clear value.
You have to be able to answer the question: Why does community matter to this organization? If you don’t have business alignment, it will be nearly impossible to get internal buy-in.
Using the SPACES Model, we are able to determine which business goal your community will be driving value towards.
- Make sure to choose a letter that:
- Represents a priority to your business and teammates
- Your members will be motivated to contribute to
- You can measure the success and/or failures of
2. Community Strategy
Once we know what overall business value we are going to drive with the community (aka, have chosen a letter from the SPACES model), we can start planning out what content and programming needs to be put in place so you can achieve your business goal.
Content provides resources, and/or education to your members to read and digest on their own time. Content is typically one-way engagement, meaning you deliver it to your audience, and they engage with it on their own.
- Awards and recognition programs
- Blogs and knowledge bases
- Training and education, certification courses
- Video content (recordings from events)
- It is important for every community strategy to include both Synchronous and Asynchronous programming.
Synchronous programs are ones in which members connect in real time. These programs can take many shapes, but the key is that the conversation is happening live. Synchronous programming typically includes events, both in person and virtual.
- A Community-led events/chapter program
- An HQ-led annual conference
- Live AMAs
- User Groups
Asynchronous programs are ones in which members can connect, typically online, and don’t expect an answer immediately. These programs often take shape in forums and online groups.
- Online forums and community-contributed knowledge bases
- Public online discussion space (Facebook group, Slack Workspace, Discord, etc.)
- Privately owned online discussion space (Mighty Networks, Vanilla Forum, Chaordix, Khoros, Discourse, Private Discords, etc.)
A large part of managing a community is tracking success and proving the value of the work you are doing. At the business level strategy, we choose metrics that prove that we are providing value to the business (and our letter in the SPACES Model). At the community level, we need to determine the metrics to track in order to prove the success of each program. These often go hand in hand with your business level metrics.
Your overall business goal is Acquisition, and your business level metric that you are tracking and reporting on is the amount of Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) influenced. One of your community programs is a community-led events program, where advocates from your community volunteer their time to host events on your organization’s behalf. The success metrics you track should focus on how this program is contributing to the business metric. Such as, how many people who attend your events become customers, how many sales are influenced by your events, which chapters and event topics drive the most sales.
3. Tactical Strategy
The tactical level strategy is about the day-to-day work that goes into making your above programs successful. This is where community moderation and engagement comes in. What are the actions that you (and your community team) will take in order to make your programs successful?
- In your online discussion community, you have a weekly new member welcome post, in which you tag all your new members and ask them to introduce themselves
- You build an engaging onboarding experience with multiple touch-points for new members into your online forum, so they are more likely to engage when they first join
- You have a recognition/rewards program for your advocates who are running yort community-led events program, so members are rewarded for behavior you want other members to emulate (video recordings from their events, most event attendees, highest event Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc.)
Every community program needs to have guidelines. Determining your community’s guidelines is vital to its survival. With no rulebook in place, trust can’t be cultivated between a community and its members. And with no trust comes no loyalty.
Guidelines in your asynchronous programs set the expectations for members, both for how you want them to interact in the space, and how they can expect to be interacted with. With guidelines come consequences, so be sure to include what happens when a member violates the guidelines.
Example: CMX Slack Community Guidelines:
- No Self-Promotion Outside of Dedicated Promotion Channels
Please only share your events, links, or articles created specifically for the CMX community in dedicated promotion channels (#events, #resources, #random). Do not use Direct Messaging as a channel of acquisition. If anybody sends you a message with an intention of acquisition, or inviting you to join their brand, please send Beth a DM and let us know.
- Context and Relevance
Please don’t make a post with just a link to something, or a thought with no context. We encourage you to focus on starting a conversation (always make sure to explain why you’re sharing a link, image, or thought, and what other members can learn)!
- No Job Postings or Events Outside of Dedicated Channels
Please only share posts about job openings in our #job-opportunities channel, and posts about upcoming events in #events. Job opening or event posts outside of these channels will be removed. You can also submit jobs to our CMX Job Board!
- Give More Than You Take
What makes a community amazing is when members are more focused on helping each other, than on helping themselves. Be as helpful as possible and everyone benefits!
- No Hate Speech or Bullying
You should respectfully challenge ideas, but never attack the person. Help us make sure that everyone feels safe in the CMX community. Bullying of any kind isn’t allowed, and degrading comments will not be tolerated.
As in the business and community level strategies, there are metrics in the tactical level as well. These metrics tell the community manager if the program is successful and providing value for members.
- In an online discussion space, one might track the Conversation Rate. This is calculated as (Total # of comments + Total # of Posts) / Active members
- For an events program, whether community-led or HQ-led, you can track the number of attendees, the number of events hosted each month, and overall attendee Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Want to get more hands on with your business strategy and proving the value of your community? Check out the Community MBA course on CMX Academy. This course is perfect for beginner to intermediate level community and marketing professionals, and for business leaders who want to better understand how community can help accelerate the growth of their business.
After taking this course you’ll have a deeper understanding of how community fits into your business, key business outcomes community can drive, how to design a hyper-focused community strategy, and how to set up systems for tracking core metrics and outcomes.
The lessons and models shared in this course are based on months of research conducted with companies who have successfully scaled their community strategies, as well as David Spinks’ 12+ years of leading community teams and advising businesses of all sizes on their community strategy.
Community is the future of business, and this course is the foundation you’ll need to be positioned for success.