A community strategy is essentially the emotion you wish to amplify to change human behavior.
Changing the platform, revamping social norms, launching a new event…these are all tactics. Sometimes very effective tactics, but tactics nonetheless.
What changes behavior over the long term is emotions. A good tactic might significantly amplify an emotion. But a good strategy will amplify the efficacy of all tactics (even the bad ones).
We so rarely consider what we want members to feel about the community and their contributions to it. When we do consider emotions, we default to positive-sounding emotions. (e.g. we want members to feel excited and happy).
But are these the most powerful emotions? I’m not so sure.
Ask members how they feel about the community and how they feel when they make a contribution to the community (this works better in an interview than a survey). The data here will always surprise you.
The answers will be more nuanced than joy, happiness, and excitement. Really push for people to explain how they feel when they make a contribution. Now translate this into an emotion you can amplify.
For example, members might say they want to be seen and recognised by others, see how other people react to their posts, or appear as an expert. These are motivations, not emotions. They might feel lonely and want to be accepted by their peers, anxious that no-one will respond or excited when people do, and jealous of the top experts.
This gives you some pretty interesting strategies then. You might amplify loneliness and build the sense of community to overcome it. You might focus on the excitement of getting a response and the surprise of a good idea. You might focus on the jealousy of the top experts.
This leads to some pretty clear tactics too. Let’s use a simplified example:
|Content||Interview experts who share the most tips.
Provide guest columns to top experts.
Solicit the opinions of top experts on regular news items.
|Moderation||Provide top experts with moderation rights.
Add a ‘star’ or ‘recognised expert’ next to those who collect the most likes on their tips. Turn tips created by top experts into sticky threads more frequently.
|Influence||@mention the top experts more frequently in discussions.|
|Events and Activities||Invite top experts to attend and speak at relevant events.
Host webinars with top experts.
|User Experience||Feature the top experts on the front of the site. List the number of tips shared or likes received next to each contribution of experts.|
Notice now the tactics directly connect to the strategy and the research you gained from the interviews you conducted.
Right now we’re seeing a big search for more tactics at the expense of a sound, researched, strategy. Going mobile, hosting an AMA, or writing a roundup article without a clear idea of the emotion you’re trying to amplify is like throwing darts without a dart board to aim at.
Try to deeply understand how members feel when they join and participate. Now look at possible tactics to amplify that emotion. These are often cheaper, more effective, and easier to measure than what you’re trying today.