Developing A Community Platform: 5 Approaches

March 12, 2012Comments Off on Developing A Community Platform: 5 Approaches

There are broadly five approaches to developing a community platform.

1) The perfect community platform. This approach uses the wealth of information about online communities to develop the perfect design. This is the approach taken by most enterprise platform providers. 

2) The needs-driven community platform. This approach assess the needs of the target audience and develops the community to those specifications. A lot of bespoke communities follow this route. It's the classic of user experience literature.

3) The objectives-driven community platform. This approach assess the goals of the organization and develops a community platform to match. If the goals are to solicit feedback, facilitate advocacy etc.., then the platform is orientated around these elements.

4) The emergent-approach. This approach launches with the minimum viable platform to facilitate interactions and then develops to suit the growing needs of the audience. 

5) The platform-less approach. This approach neglects to use a platform at all. This uses existing platforms and connections to stimulate, develop, or facilitate a stronger sense of community amongst members. 

So which approach should you take? 

Assuming we're not competing against an existing community of fans, we generally advocate the emergent-approach. It's the least risk, least cost and has the highest probability of success. It lets you test and tweak at high speed. When members want something, you add it.

It's also easier for existing members of a community to tell you what they want based on their own experience in the community, as opposed to prospective members.

However, for organizations that lack resources to take an iterative approach to community platforms (or the authority to do so), the perfect community platform, or the needs-driven community platform can be more suitable. 

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