Last year, Michael Schrage asked a great question of organizations; 'who do you want your customers to become?'
This same question drives to the heart of community strategy too. Who do you want your members to become? What do you want your members to achieve? What do you want them to be able to do differently as a result of being members of your community?
The answers vary. You might want them to be smarter, more informed, and thus be able to make better decisions. You might want them to be happier, healthier, or wealthier. You might want your members to have more friends and a better social life. You might just want your members to no longer feel alone and isolated.
But, fundamentally, there must be something you want your members to be able to be (and thus do differently) as a result of regular participation in your community.
Take Community Geek, for example, we want our members to become smart social scientists. We want them to apply proven, reliable, science to build successful communities instead of always grappling for a technological solution. We provide our best resources to help them, invite the best people to join, and keep discussions at a more advanced level.
Mumsnet wants mums to be more vocal, more activist, more eager to lend support to one another.
A few questions then:
1) Who do you want your members to become?
2) What will they do differently as a result of the above change?
3) How do you orientate your target members, the discussions you prioritise, the content you create, and your promotional messages to align with the above?
One problem, your members might not want to be what you want them to be. If that's the case. This means either persuading them (selling benefits, showing examples, targeting the believers and expanding gradually) or finding something they do want to be. Both have their pros and cons.