Designing Complex Communities for Multiple Audiences

Our larger projects typically involve building complex communities for multiple audiences; users of the product, resellers, consultants, partners etc…

One approach to these communities is to keep them separate. A better approach is to identify the value they each offer one another. Not every group supports every other group, but it’s usually possible to design a system which benefits everyone.

For example, a typical map of what each group wants might include:

  • Users want answers to questions.
  • Users want to learn how to use the product better.
  • Users want to avoid making costly mistakes.
  • Resellers want to attract more customers.
  • Consultants want to build a reputation and attract clients.
  • Partners want to sell more apps
  • Developers want answers to questions.
  • Developers want great documentation.
  • Developers want to know the roadmap.

Based upon this we might design a community where:

  • Only users can ask questions and share their current challenges in the community. Users who ask questions with the most views get special VIP status at events and possible discounts on the product.
  • Consultants can apply to be experts which allows them to submit long-form advice/content and provides special status when they answer questions from members in a community (i.e. their responses are more visible). These consultants appear in a ‘recommended consultants’ page and are invited to speak at conferences.
  • Resellers can answer customer questions related to products and appear on a leaderboard of top resellers. They are also the only members who can have links to their companies in the signature of their profiles.
  • Partners can respond to user questions and reviews of their product in the community. The speed of a response is a factor in where/how the apps appear within the community. Members who receive a good response are allowed to adjust their rating of the apps accordingly.
  • Developers who provide the most advice/add the most documentation are given early access to the roadmap and staff within the company they can ask for help.

The goal is to create a dynamic where everyone benefits the more they participate. The best dynamics ensure the most one group participates, the more value they provide to another group too.

Sometimes it makes sense to create a completely separate group for each audience. But it’s usually far better to structure a community with different profiles, permissions, requests, and tasks for each member which benefit the entire group.

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