3 Levels To Think About
The first level relates to engagement tactics. You see a lot of discussion about social media tools and how to use each of them effectively. A minor change by a big platform is huge news to this group. You see plenty of discussions about how to measure activity. What tools and metrics do you use and look at? You see funny stories of brands getting it right. You see discussions about how to remove bad people. Perhaps unsurprisingly, you will see plenty of job-hunters/job advertisers in this group too.
In the second level, members talk about how to measure and persuade others of the value of their community. Members talk about developing coherent content and member recruitment and conversion strategies. They talk about how to launch a community from scratch, grow a community team, migrate to new platforms, and increase their search ranking. There is an overlap with the first group, but there is also a fairly clear separation too.
You don’t see the third level. This is where complex and unique challenges are discussed in very small groups (perhaps just one on one). This makes sense. More complex problems (as naturally happens as people progress up the career ladder) require more information to solve. Sharing more information takes more time and requires more trust. This weeds out those with shorter attention spans and precludes public discussion.
These discussions can range from team management, internal persuasion, complex data problems, scaling a global team etc…
The community space is far from unique here. Most sectors will have a similar sort of implicit or explicit hierarchy based upon the complexity of the problem.
Three points here are important to note.
1) If you follow data to maximise growth and engagement you will inevitably attract the most junior people with the lowest attention spans. This looks good on paper but is terrible to create value for most communities. This group has low spending power and no decision-making power. This leads to the second big problem.
2) If you let people create or do whatever they want, the trend will ebb towards more junior-level content. This attracts more junior people and drives away the senior folk. You don’t just need to prune the bad stuff, you need to clearly define what kind of discussions you will and won’t accept. We don’t allow job adverts in our community because we don’t want to attract job-seekers.
3) The more senior the person you’re targeting, the more you need to offer privacy, trust, and exclusivity. Senior people want small groups with no search traffic and to know/respect the people they are talking with. This means the most valuable communities are often among the smallest.
Here’s a bonus point, decide what level you want to be at and act like it. If you want to work at the tactical engagement level, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want to move up, then see what issues concern those at the next level and get smart about solving those issues.