So you have or want to build a community. You want to collect like minded people around an idea, product, or something else. You know that these people need to know and learn from each other and you can’t wait to connect them.

This is great! Creating a community like this can be life changing, not just for you but for everyone in the community.

However, a lot of effort goes into creating a community and far too many fail because there was not a solid strategy in place. It is essential to spend time as early as possible identifying what you want your community to accomplish and what steps you will take to get there.

Before you spend time thinking through what features your community should have or what it should do, you need to figure out WHO the site is for and WHAT their needs are. You can have a feature set as long as your arm, but if you are not meeting the needs of your community, they won’t use your site.

To put it simply, if you do not know who your audience is, you will not know what to build.

Who are your stars?

Creating a new community is a lot like writing a story. When you write a story you need to figure out who your characters are, what they are going to do, and why they are going to do it. You need to spend time getting to know your characters so that you will know how they are going to respond to the things happening around them.

In many ways the community you are building is like the plot in a story. There is a need that you are trying to fill and there are people in need of your solution. So you need to create a few characters who are in need of your community. Be as specific as possible. Define their family life, social status, hobbies, etc. The clearer you are here, the better you’ll be able to create something effective. When it’s time to launch, your story will have a happy ending because you developed the right solution for the right problem for the right people.

In the business world, this is called a “Buyer Persona”. These buyer personas will be critical in all of the decisions that you’ll make with this community and will help you stay focused and relevant.

What are their needs?

Now let’s talk about the needs of your community. Keep those Buyer Personas in mind because we will be using them over and over again.

So what are the needs of your community members? And not just something they would like, what is the URGENT need they have that they need your help with?

Think for a moment about your buyer personas. What are their goals? What are their dreams?

Now, how does your community address that? How does your community change their life?

That may seem like a crazy question but the reality is that every new thing we try is potentially life changing in some way. And if it isn’t, we tend to not use it very long.

Perhaps your community is about raising awareness for a cause. TypeOneNation is an example of this. They wanted to create a community where people with Type 1 diabetes could gather, encourage each other, and participate in events.

Perhaps your community is for a private organization. You may be looking for new ways to improve communication and streamline processes.

Whatever the need is that you are addressing, be clear about it. Make sure that it is a compelling need for your buyer personas.

Next time we’ll look at how to go about defining a solution that will attract people to your community.

If you need help defining your target audience, let us know! We love working with people to help them build successful communities.

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