How To Develop A Community Strategy

Selecting the tactics you’re going to use is a problem-solving challenge. For example, using the resource allocation in the previous chapter, if we have 26 hours per week, $8,450 per year, 6 emails we can send out, 1 programmer for a few days, and 1 designer for a week, what is the best way to use these resources to make members feel like a superior, exclusive group of insiders?

Also, how do we ensure members still feel confident enough (safe/encouraged) to ask questions with a budget of $1,950, 6 hours per week, 1 group email per month?

(also note that we don’t have to expend every resource, as these are simply constraints to narrow the range of possible tactics).

What’s Popular vs. What Achieves Results

Too often we try to adopt a clever idea we have seen elsewhere, instead of rationally thinking through whether the tactic connects to the emotion we’re trying to provoke. For example, you might see a successful ‘ask me anything’ discussion that has proven popular in another community and decide to incorporate it into your community efforts.

But this confuses what’s popular with what is going to stimulate the kind of emotion that drives the behavior you need. Ask me anything might stimulate some short-term activity, but does it make top members feel like an exclusive group of insiders? Does it help newcomers feel safe to make their first contribution? Perhaps, but there are better tactics out there.

This happens very often. You might see a weekly working out loud discussion and incorporate the idea into your community. If you’re trying to increase self-disclosure to build a stronger sense of community, then this idea can work extremely well. If you’re not, then you have to carefully consider whether this is the best tactic for your strategy.

It can be really difficult to separate the tactics you’re used to using, and see often, from the tactics that are within your strategic framework.

Shortlist Possible Tactics

There are three simple methods to identify possible tactics you might use to fulfil a strategy. These are all based upon the idea that tactics should be proven to provoke the emotion you’re trying to amplify. You first want to identify what situations have provoked this emotion in the past.

  1. What makes you feel that emotion? It’s usually a bad idea to use yourself within your data set. This is a rare exception. Begin by thinking of a time, for example, where you were feeling jealous of another group? What, specifically, triggered that emotion? Maybe it was seeing them get access to something you didn’t? Perhaps it was seeing the level of respect they get, etc. One of the easiest ways to identify possible tactics is to identify what has made you feel that emotion in the past. You don’t need to translate this to a community context yet, just identify the situation.
  2. What makes your audience feel those emotions? This is a useful question to ask in the initial interview. What specific situations have prompted these emotions in the past? Try to identify a really specific trigger here. What happened to them? What did they see happening? If you’re targeting jealousy, ask the audience what has made them feel jealous in the past. This will give you a list of situations we will use later.
  3. What have you seen in other communities? This is less useful, but can generate some testable ideas. Go through other communities and identify what ideas others have used to provoke that emotion. Look to see if the same emotional component is there. Remember again, the tactic itself isn’t important (e.g. “we hosted an AMA, increased engagement by 15%”). What you’re looking for is evidence that it stimulated the emotional response you are looking to provoke in your audience. Look in the comments for signs of that emotion.

Create a list of these situations below. We can convert these into specific community-based tactics next. At this stage, you do not want to talk about tactics. Gamification, welcome emails, anything that takes place within a community is a tactic. Focus solely upon the broader situation. For example:


Cited Situations

What makes you feel jealous?
  • Not being invited to an event but seeing acquaintances that were.
  • Not getting the same level of access as others.
What makes your audience feel jealous?
  • Seeing other people get things that they don’t.
  • Feeling the top group don’t know who they are or believe they are at the same level.
  • Believing those believed to be at the same level are getting more attention.
What ideas have you seen elsewhere?
  • Seeing others get awards.
  • Seeing top people get more attention than others.
  • Feeling others are about to get your share of limited resources.

There might be a small overlap here. You don’t need to worry about that for now. Next, we need to turn these situations into community tactics.

Converting Situations Into Tactics

Now you can begin converting these situations into possible community tactics. This is the area where you usually need to be a little creative and test what works.

Here is an example of possible tactics to achieve a strategy.


Strategic Objective 1


Increase customer satisfaction Persuade existing members to create useful content about the product Make top members jealous of the top content contributors and want to join the elite group by sharing more content of their own

Situation That Provoked Jealousy

Possible Community Tactics

  • Not being invited to an event but seeing acquaintances who were.
  • Organize exclusive events where only top members are invited.
  • Publicize the attendee list and mention the event in the community.
  • Not getting the same level of access as others.
  • Provide top members with unique access and ensure other members know they have unique access and power within the community.
  • Feeling the top group don’t know who they are or consider them inferior.
  • Build a strong camaraderie among the top group and publish membership of the top group list.
  • Seeing others get awards.
  • Create awards that can be given to top contributors.
  • Seeing top people get more attention than they do.
  • Invites to speaking events / to address the executive team from the community perspective.
  • Write content that highlights what the top members in the community are doing.
  • Feeling others are about to get your share of limited resources.
  • Create limited resources / positions which are given to top members.

You’re not going to implement every one of these tactics. However, this does reveal a shortlist of possible tactics you can explore shortly.

You also need to create similar tactic lists for your other strategic objectives (below):


Strategic Objective 2


Increase customer satisfaction Ensure the number of newcomers asking questions stays within 15% of current level Make newcomers feel confident about asking questions for the first time

Situations That Provoked Confidence In New Environments

Possible Community Tactics

  • Knowing who some of the other people in the group were.
  • Create a list of current members the newcomer might already be connected to / know through social accounts.
  • Being told exactly what to do and what not to do (including the unwritten rules).
  • Create a clear guide about asking for help for the first time. Highlight what not to say and what to say.
  • Being in a warm, friendly, inviting environment.
  • Enforce a strict don’t bite the newcomer policy, even for the really obvious/most repeated questions. Ensure first contributions get a warm, positive response.
  • Having a single person who was happy to help the newcomer out and make introductions.
  • Recruit volunteers to reach out to newcomers and ask if they have any questions. If they do, say where they can post them and connect them with people they should meet.

Finally, you need to shortlist possible tactics for the final strategic objective.


Strategic Objective 3


Increase customer satisfaction Ensure the level of participation per active member remains within 15% Ensure participants feel respected when they do ask and reply to a question

Situation That Provoked Respect

Possible Community Tactics

  • Being told by someone that the contribution was useful.
  • Model ideal thank you responses and nudge original posters to reply similarly.
  • Acknowledgement of the effort it took to create the contribution.
  • Personally message members who reach out and acknowledge the effort they went through to create it.
  • Being asked for my opinion on future issues / called into a discussion for my expertise.
  • Create a list of people by expertise and tag them into future relevant discussions.

Your list might be far more extensive than this. At this stage, you simply want to draw up the biggest possible shortlist of tactics you might use based upon situations that have been shown to provoke that emotion in your audience. You are not deciding your tactics now, instead you are shortlisting possible tactics.

By now, you have a shortlist of possible tactics to stimulate the emotion you want to amplify. The next step is to figure out which of these tactics we should execute. To do this, we need to prioritize these tactics by their level of impact.


  1. Distinguish between tactics which are popular and tactics which drive results for you. Do not be tempted to pursue what others are doing. They do not have the same strategic objectives (or, frequently, any strategic objective).
  2. Identify situations which made your audience feel the emotions you wish to amplify. You can also think about your own experiences or similar examples from elsewhere.
  3. Translate these situations into potential tactics you can use. Make sure you do this for all of your strategic objectives.



 LinkedIn LinkedIn

 Google Plus Google+