Plan 3 Month’s Of Community Activities In 10 Minutes

Too many people are guessing what discussion, item of content, or activity to work on next.

You don’t need to guess in 2016.

Let Google guide you. Google knows more than you about your audience. You can do 10 minutes of research and put together a big list of discussions to initiate, content to create, and activities to host.

Step 1: Enter the Basic Topic Search Terms Into Google

Let’s imagine you want to build a community about surfing.

That’s quite a broad topic with a lot of competitors. So you might slice a niche for yourself…perhaps surfboards…and decide to build a community around this concept.

You need to figure out what audience to target (beginners, experts?) with what format of content (guides, blogs, pdfs, videos, images?), and what type of content (discussions, news, resources etc..).

Our first step would be to put surfboards into Google and look carefully at what comes up:


Note: Answerthepublic is also a useful site for relevant questions.

What do you notice here? Knowing where to buy a surfboard takes a lot of the top places, but the other categories (images and news) are really interesting.

This gives you some immediate discussion ideas for the community.

Discussion ideas based upon first search

  • Where did you buy your surfboard from? And would you buy from there again?
  • The ultimate surfboard photo thread – share your board!
  • Your favourite surfboard design (share photos!)
  • Do you think ‘competitor’s board’ helped ‘competitor’ ?

This feeds into other activities too. You might invite a top design expert for an interview, interview someone close to the competitor to ask about their board etc..But these questions are still far too vague for our liking.

While this is better than what 90% of community professionals do, you can still do much better by diving slightly deeper.

We want our discussions and content to be as specific as possible. So let’s look at the related searches.

Step 2: Using Related Searches To Get Specific Discussion Questions, Content, And Ideas for Activities

If we scroll to the bottom of the page, we see this:


This is really useful information!

While some of this audience wants to know where to buy them, a large number clearly want cheap surfboards, others want to know how to get the right size surfboards for them.

We can also see ‘beginners’ ranks highly here.

If we click on ‘beginners surfboard’ we soon see the exact terms and questions people ask to help us refine our discussions:


Step 3: Compile Unique Segments and Engagement Activities For Each

We can probably see 3 distinct types of beginners here.

  1. Beginners who only want the cheapest surfboards.
  2. Beginners who want to know the best surfboards for beginners.
  3. Beginners who want the best surfboards possible (cash-rich beginners!)

If you like, you could dig further into each of these.

For now, however, we can begin to create a few categories and drop the discussions, content, and activities into relevant places.

For example:

(click here for full image)

Audience Discussions Content Activities
Beginners who want cheap surfboards What is the least you would spend on a surfboard?
Where did you buy your surfboard from? Would you recommend it?
Selling your surfboard? – post it here.
How to negotiate a great surfboard deal
Survey results – how much members would spend on their first surfboards today
Surfboard price list – get the latest prices that members paid for their boards
#surfboardgraduation day. Sell your old surfboard to a newcomer today.
Interview with a surfboard scout – how Joe Smith got an [xyz] surfboard for $350!
Beginners who have money (but not knowledge) to buy the best surfboards If you could have any surfboard you want, what would it be?
Can beginners custom-design a surfboard?
What size surfboard should I get if….
Just bought your first board? Share the picture here..
The top 5 surfboards as voted by you.
And the surfboard brand of the year is…
5 Members describe their dream surfboard if price wasn’t a factor
ASK the experts: What surfboard would you buy for … ?
AMA with a surfboard manufacturer – get tips and tricks to get the best surfboard
Beginners who want to know how to be good beginners What advice would you give to a newbie buying his first surfboard?
What size surfboard should I get if….*
What board are you thinking of buying? Get advice from experts.
Should all newcomers begin by using foam surfboards?
What was your first surfboard and why?
What our top 10 members wish they knew when they bought their first board.
What’s changed about surfboards in the past 3 years?
15 warning signs of bad surfboards.
Surfboarding for beginners induction. Join our monthly live discussion to help newcomers get the best boards for them!

*there’s some natural overlap in these.

This is all activity to target to increase engagement among a specific segment with a unique need you can satisfy.

But beginners was just one of the key stakeholders interested in surfboards, now consider which other segment of surfers might have a unique interests in surfboards?

Step 4: Research The Second Biggest Segment

If we go back to the first results, we noticed that images ranked second.

Clearly images are important to a big segment of the audience…but who is this audience and what do they want?

If we click on images, we notice that design is the number one result….

Surfboards.003 (1)

We can probably assume that designing surfboards and customising surfboards is a big segment (we probably all knew this already, but the process matters).

We can also safely assume two things here.

  1. There is a group of surfers who love to customise their own boards.
  2. This group loves sharing images of customised boards.

We can infer that their motivations are impressing each other (why else share the images?)

Let’s do a proper search for terms like surfboard design and customising surfboards to see what comes up…



We can assume that the average level of knowledge of this group is quite low (note: the danger of this process is always appealing to the newcomers/beginners who are most likely to search for knowledge).

Now we have a good list of potential engagement topics:

  • Basic knowledge & discussion of the basics.
  • Theory of surfboard designs.
  • Sharing your design.
  • Findings and seeing the designs of others.
  • Video guides on designing surfboards
  • Get to know the big names in surfboard design.
  • Learn the software involved in design.

We can start to make some further educated guesses about the different groups here:

1. Design beginners. They need to know the basics. What software to use, how to design, what products to use, what’s in style etc.

2. Design experts who want to impress others. They want to take images of their boards, share images, and build their reputation.

3. Performance enthusiasts. They care less about aesthetics and more about how the design affects the performance. They want to get every edge for the top performance.

You can drill deeper into any of these if you like to get more specific questions and discussion topics.

For example, if we dig deeper into surfboard design theory we find:


Now we have 8 potential topics we can initiate discussions (within design theory alone) and create content around which we know are going to be useful to a large number of this audience.

We’ve also discovered a potential competitor term to our own community efforts (shaping forums)..

Likewise, if we dig deeper into surfboard anatomy (for the performance enthusiasts) we find:


I haven’t surfed, but Dave Parmenter might be a good person to interview.

Discussions about fish foot boards might be interesting, discussions on insight surfboards and rails would also be quite popular.

Once again, we can start making educated guesses about what each of our 3 new audiences might want here:

(click here for full image)

Audience Discussions Content Activities
Beginners designing their first surfboards What is the least you would spend on a surfboard?
What colours fade and which colours last for life?
Where can you buy a blank board to design?
How did you pick a design for your board?
The ultimate list of resources to design your first surfboard.
The basics of design theory. Avoid embarrassing mistakes in your surfboard design.
Five enduringly cool surfboard designs
Hands on workshop – our expert will guide you through designing your first surfboard
Correct your mistakes. Join our team in a live panel discussion to help you correct those design errors.
Design experts who want to impress others Who’s your favourite surfboard design expert?
Favourite surfboard design of all time…go!
What design would you love to create but can’t?
Struggling with a design? Post it here and get feedback.
Should you be culturally sensitive in your design?
Which designs for which location?
Most embarrassing design mistake…anyone?
The best designs from our Instagram this month.
Nominate your favourite design from these favourites.
What’s trendy in design today?
The story behind ‘xyz’ design (background, templates, and resources to use)
Design of the month competition.
Interview with the design of the month winner (how he selected, designed, and created this month’s top design)
AMA with the world’s top surfboard designer
Performance enthusiasts Is your board salvageable? Post pictures to get feedback.
How to solve the ‘xyz’ problem?
What is the most innovative design change you’ve seen this week?
Lift vs. drag – which do you prefer?
Speed benefits from fish foot surfboards?
Repairs a surfboard
How [person] created the [innovative performance] surfboard.
15 warning signs of bad surfboards.
LIVE DEBATE: [xyz] surfboard vs. [xyz] surfboard…which gives you the cutting edge?

You can design a much better table than this I’m sure.  

Now we have 2 core segments (beginners and designers) each comprising of three distinct groups of people we can target with dozens of messages, content, and activities

…and we’ve only been researching potential engagement activities for 10 minutes!

Step 5: Project Planning

From here you can begin eliminating groups you don’t want to target, focusing on the activities you feel will get the best return and start delegating who is going to do which of these (and when).  

This could easily be 3 months of community activity all mapped out.

What we’ve done today is to give you a really simple process to begin developing your engagement activity in a community.

You can use this to drive activity in an existing community (cater to new segments) or launching a new community (or sub-group).

In practice you probably want to supplement your research with interviews, surveys, studies of existing communities in the sector and similar communities. This helps you overcome the focus on beginner problem. Test relevant search terms, explore, see what comes up and use that within your community.

You should be amazed at just how quickly you can put together 3 month’s of activity on any topic you like.

Also see:

p.s. Workshop in New York next week, sign up here if you want to use psychology to build better communities.



  1. SLTy Admin says:

    Ummm… your article makes recommendations about using Google search based on what you saw in a search:

    You noted that:

    • The top answer is either a place to buy, or a definition
    • The second entry has images
    • Then there are more places to buy
    • Then some news items

    A hint: try searching for ANY popular topic. Depending on the category (in this case, looks like sports equipment, so we could try “running shoes” or “bicycles” or “skateboards”) and the amount and quality of sponsored advertising, it will give a certain sequence of responses. A set sequence. Not dependent on queries.

    • First, the “top” sponsored (“Ad words”) results. Those who pay more, and create a top-of-page ad, get listed at the top.
    • Then some canned answers, plus other sponsored results. Depending on the topic, this may include a definition and/or images and/or news items.
    • THEN we get to the actual search results.

    It pays to understand that the first pile of “search results” in Google are often not based on audience preferences at all. In fact, the first search in the article produced ONLY sponsored results. Nothing from a normal website. The second search had much less sponsored content, so we did get to see some of the top actual search results.

    Bottom line: the methodology described in this post will produce essentially the same “3 month activity plan” for any subject at all. :smiley:

  2. Richard Millington says:

    Hey @SLTy_Admin,

    You’re right about the google ads. But I worked on the assumption that people in our audience are smart enough to spot ads and not include it here. I could have been clearer though.

    I’m not sure you’re right about the set sequence though. The order is different for each one and some things show up whereas others don’t. For example, images, videos, latest news, definition, descriptions, maps, show up in some topics but not others.

    I don’t follow the leap from going from this to the same 3 month activity plan for all though. I’m not with you there.

  3. Suzi Nelson says:

    Came here to tell @richard_millington that from a copywriting viewpoint, the title of this post is kickass. Great job.

    Also great post in general! Wanted to add to this that we (read = the company I work for) goes through similar process when we are looking for new blog content. We certainly go through this process with Google, but we also use a site called BuzzSumo. You can enter in any topic and it will pull the most viral content around that topic - its a great way to see what people are passionate about! It’s a paid tool, but it does have a free version - might be another cool resource to add to your list :slight_smile:

  4. Richard Millington says:

    I haven’t tried BuzzSumo in the past. Might give it a go though.

    The only downside of this process is it doesn’t allow for the ‘breakthrough’ idea that no-one anticipated. It’s a reliable process to generate activity you can predict will be popular…but doesn’t easily let you knock something out of the park.

  5. Suzi Nelson says:

    If you have something of value to give, those moments of inspiration, of “knocking it out of the park” are going to come. But it will be MUCH more powerful if traffic and eyeballs are already on your content when that happens.

    Using tools like Google and Buzzsumo will feel weird if you approach content from a pure artist perspective (that every piece of content produced should be a brand new idea… that’s tough). This process will, if done correctly, get traffic to your content so they are already on board when that moment of inspirations hits :slight_smile:

  6. Richard Millington says:

    That makes sense, think I agree with it.

    Which would you say is the best piece of content you’ve produced using BuzzSumo as a guide? I’d love to take a look.

  7. Suzi Nelson says:

    Definitely this:

    We found a viral piece of content from the folks over at Buffer, linked to it, then had members of our team and industry experts give their take on it. It was super quick and easy to put together, gave us authority on the topic, and we knew that it would work because people already loved the original content.

  8. Joel Rangelle says:

    This is such a neat and clever tactic. I checked out Google Trends and BuzzSumo and it’s given me a dozen trending topics that I should capitalize on.

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