A lot of organisations do prospective member interviews prior to launching a new community, but most either do them badly or fail to analyse them to get the insights they need.
Audience research for clients takes up a huge chunk of my time on any project.
On one project right now, a team of us are interviewing around 30 prospective founding members. We work from a shared set of interview questions, but each interview allows the interviewer to probe deeper into any specific answers.
Each interview is then transcribed. I browse through every transcript looking for insights and the right survey questions (the survey helps us validate any hypothesis with a broader group). This has probably taken 10+ hours in the past two weeks.
In these interviews I’m looking for five things:
1) How did they become interested in the topic? What were their early experiences like? These stories provide us with ideas of where to insert the community into the newcomer experience to generate a constant source of new members. It’s also good for search terms to optimise for.
2) Assets members can contribute. What have been their successes and failures so far? What have they learned? The answers to these questions help us identify how best each founding member can contribute to the community. We don’t leave anything to chance – when we launch we know exactly what we want each founding member to contribute (and our outreach reflects that).
3) Passion. Is this just a job or are they truly passionate about it? What specifically within the topic are they passionate about? When we launch, we want to create discussions and activities based around these passions. The most passionate members are also the most likely leaders of the community when you launch.
4) Challenges members have yet to overcome. Nothing draws people to a community quite like having a common challenge they can overcome today. The biggest win is to connect people with the right assets to help members overcome an immediate challenge. I try to identify some quick wins here and then some longer-term goals for the community.
5) Common recurring themes. These might relate to technology, past experiences, or topics that keep coming up. Most interview processes tend to show 3 to 5 common themes which we can build into the community.
These interviews aren’t just a tick-box exercise to ensure members feel listened to. They guide everything we do to create and launch the community.
Everything we do when we launch the community is based upon insights derived from these interviews. Once you have this level of insights about your audience, it usually becomes really easy to create a community concept you know will take off.
Almost inevitably, when a community flops it’s because the organisation either didn’t do interviews or didn’t align their actions to insights generated from those interviews.