How to Find Out What Your Community Wants


In our previous post, Architecting Community, we discussed exactly how we think you should go about architecting your awesome community.

In this post, we talk about discovering the wants and needs of your community.



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Find Out What Your Community Wants

Before you go too far in architecting a space for your community, you’d better find out what they want. Of course, if you’ve following along with our posts, you probably have a decent idea based on your listening and engaging. But there’s no substitute from actually getting the input from your prospective community members.

As we’ve mentioned before, you can use Social Media Performance Group’s free Social Media Readiness Survey™ in our book to gather information about your community’s preferences. And your leadership should take an assessment such as the Social Media Directors Entrance Exam from Examiner.com,[3] online or in the book as well. We’re assuming you’ve done all this preliminary work and are ready to really find out if you can provide some value to your community by creating a community site.

While these general surveys can help get you started, consider doing a more in-depth survey to determine what kind of site your community wants. There’s a dynamite post by Jim Cashel on the Online Community Report site entitled, Back to Basics: Want to Know What Community Members Need? Just Ask,[4] that has some great ideas about conducting member research. We’ve adapted parts of it below.

The three most important questions you need to answer by asking your community are:

  • What do community members need from you as the host? What are the member expectations about your level of participation, your effort in developing content, in fostering participation and your commitment to hosting the community long-term?
  • What do community members need from each other? Explore what community members want to get from interactions with other community members
  • What can community members contribute? How are community members prepared to participate?

In addition to these key questions, ask demographic questions to provide context and a basis for analyzing members’ answers. Once you’ve determined your objectives, create a survey and ask prospective community members to help you design the community experience.

Here’s a sample list of questions:

  • Name, organization, title, a brief role description
  • What information sources do you rely on to find out more about the product category?
  • What groups (online or offline) are you a member of related to the product category?
  • What products or services do you use related to the product category?
  • What is the biggest challenge related to the cause you face in your day to day work?
  • How satisfied are you with the level and type of communication you have with [your organization]?
  • Do you currently participate in any of the following social media activities: [list relevant sites]?
  • What information, insight or content do you want to share with other community members?
  • What kinds of information would be helpful for other community members to share with you?
  • If we were to offer the following content or features, please rate how useful each would be to you: [list items you are considering providing such as discussion forums, expert Q&A, video previews, blogs, etc.]
  • Would you be interested in connecting with other members at local, in-person events?

However you get input from your community, you should definitely take what they say to heart in designing your community space. In fact, it would be a good idea to create an advisory board that you can bounce ideas off of as you make design decisions.


Find Out What Your Community Wants is the 158th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’ve been doing this since 2011 and we’re just past page 397. At this rate it’ll still be a while before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2Infinite Pipeline book cover

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[1] Social Media Performance Group’s Social Media Readiness Survey: bit.ly/smpgsurvey

[2] Social Media Performance Group’s Mobile Social Media Use Survey: bit.ly/c48q61

[3] Social Media Directors Entrance Exam: bit.ly/bDIsrx

[4] Jim Cashel’s Back to Basics: Want to Know What Community Members Need? Just Askbit.ly/dmoDvA

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About Social Media Performance Group

Social Media Performance Group is a premier enterprise social media consulting company that offers a unique approach to integrating social media into the enterprise — forget about the tools, it's all about the strategy! Rather than focusing on the tactics (do this or that on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube), first we work with you and your senior leadership to comprehend your corporate strategy. Once we understand your strategic objectives and goals, we show you how a comprehensive social media strategy can integrate with and support your corporate strategy. We take an enterprise-wide view based on our unique Enterprise Social Media Framework, which maps social media to all appropriate touchpoints in your enterprise. We go beyond the obvious quick hits — sales and marketing — and help you achieve social-media-driven results in areas such as product development, customer service, and employee engagement and retention. As a result, social media is not just bolted on; it is integrated with, and provides support for, your company's existing strategy and operations, yielding unprecedented results.
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