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Inbound Marketing Blog

    How to write a community plan (not social strategy) for your business

    Posted by Bill Faeth

    Your Plan For Building an Online Community

    We have come across many community development plans over the years and to be honest most of them are either impractical, irrelevant, or do not exist.  If you plan on building an online community you must have a plan.  This is not a strategy, but a community plan. The list below will help you develop your plan and improve the growth and experience of your community. 

    You can use this plan for your social communities, blogging, email marketing, and just about anywhere else online.We recommend that you create one online community plan and then segment each category with their own responsibilities.

    Include the following elements into the development of your community plan:

    1.  Who runs the community.   Every team, business, or community needs a leader. Choose one person who will have ultimate control of managing the online community.  You will need to have this person in place prior to launching the community along with a clear job description of what they can and can not do and their deliverables.

    2.  Build community persona.  You need to build the community personas with your community manager so everyone on the team has a clear understanding of who you are targeting to join.  You will want to include as much information as possible like demographics, habits and attitudes, vehicle types they drive, education levels, average annual income, marital status, number of kids, etc. This will help everyone developing the community clearly understand the community personas and narrow the target audience.

    3. Early targets.   Now that you have community personas you can start to target them.  This is very simple as you want to target 20-50 people that fall into your persona descriptions to join immediately.  Try and target the people with the most online or social influence first.

    4.  Why should they join?  Just like any other sales process, you need to be prepared to explain why these people should join your new online community. Do you have a value proposition to offer them?  Is joining your community going to increase their stature in the off-line community?  Give them increased visibility or fame?  Your value proposition needs to be written as you develop your community personas so you are prepared to answer these questions.

    5. Retaining new members.  Once you have recruited a new member to the community what is your plan to get them engaged and to retain them?  You need a clearly defined process to get new members engaged immediately or they will lose interest.  Start by assigning a dedicated member to mentor each new member that joins the community.  The mentor program should last about 3 weeks and provide the opportunity to engage, ask questions, recommendations, etc all within the community to get the new member engaged.

    6.  Community happenings.  What is the purpose of being in the community?  Answer this question and then set a short-term and long-term plan of the activities that your community will take part in. It is very difficult to get your community members to engage if they don't why they are there and what is coming next.

    7.  How will you grow the community?  Is your community going to be exclusive and only accept direct invites or are you wanting to grow a massive community?  This needs to be determined and documented so you and the members have a clear vision of how to or not to promote the community for growth.

    8.  Platform selection.  This is a big one! When you choose you will need to explain why.  The platform will greatly depend on the type of community you are building, but typically starts with forums, mailing lists, newsgroups, etc.

    9. Content creation.  You must have a content calendar and plan for content creation at least 4-6 weeks out when you launch.  Try to stay at least 30 days ahead of publishing. You will need to assign responsibilities for management, creation, editing, and publishing of the content for the community.

    10.  Value.  How are you measuring the value of the community for you as the founder and for the members? Ask the members what metrics matter to them and include them in your analytics.  Have a plan in place for how you will handle both positive and negative metrics.

    Your community plan must be very detailed and specific if you want it to work.  Think of this as a small business plan which is totally different than writing an online strategy.  Having a community plan in place prior to launch will make managing the community a lot easier and help with growth as new members will see the value in joining.

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    Topics: Inbound Marketing