The Online Community Joining Process

Marketing graduates are well-drilled in the buyer's decision making process. It goes something like this…

  1. The customer identifies a need.
  2. The customer searches for information to satisfy that need.
  3. The customer evaluates a set of products which claim to satisfy that need.
  4. The customer purchases the product
  5. The customer evaluates the product.

Most marketing is geared to intersect a customer at one or more stages of this process. 

Joining a community is nothing like buying a product. Members don't weigh the pros and cons of joining a community against its competitors. They don’t try to make a rational decision. They don’t identify a missing need and look to fill it.

The member joining process is far more complex and will be closer to this:

  1. Member hears about the community.
  2. Member visits and browses
  3. Member identifies something they want to participate in.
  4. Member registers.
  5. Member participates.
  6. Member returns to see reaction to participation.
  7. Member gradually builds relationships and continues to return.

Your community efforts should be orientated to help membes at one of these stages.

Personally, I suspect a lot of members are lost at stages 1, 3 and 6 through shoddy growth efforts, limited exciting activites for people to participate in and an inability to persuade members to return. 

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