Last week I used a symbol some people didn’t know ‘CoP’.
It meant a community of practice, essentially a community for people that participate in the same activity together. By using that symbol I excluded a large % of readers in exchange for the specific people I wanted to reach.
If you recognized the symbol, you were more likely to read the post. If you didn’t, you were less likely.
Community efforts are usually targeted at a specific segment of the total audience. Your community might live in the automobile ecosystem, but your target audience might be 40+ drivers.
To attract this audience, you need to use symbols that have a specific meaning to that audience. This means identifying words, events, activities, objects and anything else that has a specific meaning to this group.
To learn the symbols you need to speak to the audience. You need to identify the language that comes up (phrases/expressions used), the events/activities they discuss, the cultural, the specific interests and motivations they have. Look for the specific things they mention that you have no idea about.
To reach any specific audience you need to flood your community with symbols that appeal to the group you’re trying to reach. Embed these symbols in community. Refer to them in the website copy, the confirmation e-mail, news posts etc.. Name areas of the community after these symbols. Let members use them in their profiles. Even use a symbol in the name of the community itself (Element14).
The other important lesson is exclusion. You have to exclude the majority of the audience you want, for the minority of the audience you can get.
Some further reading material: