Audience research is too important to skip.
If you haven't got a community, you should do it before you start. If you have a community, you should do it again now. It will help you set the direction for your community.
You need to know your audience. Specifically:
- Identify why they have joined the community (or became interested in the topic)
- Identify the key issues they care about.
- Identify their hopes and aspirations.
- Identify their fears and concerns (both immediate and long term)
- Identify the language they use when they talk.
- Identify the common symbols they share
- Identify who they love and hate.
- Identify where they live and how they live
You can't do this research simply by using social media monitoring software. You have to literally talk with dozens of your target audience until you can draw some common themes in each field.
Then build content and conversations around these themes. Ask questions in around these topics, give advice around these topics, interview members about these topics, initiate discussions in these topics, challenge conventional wisdom around these topics.
Too many organizations skip this because it's boring. If you want your community to be as relevant to members as it needs to be, this is the crucial step.