These strategic foundations will be the building blocks for your community’s success. The questions we explore will set you up to build a sustainable and impactful network program that serves your members and your business objectives.
Format & Length:
10 min video tutorial
Get the foundations for your very own community strategy.
By the end of this lesson you’ll be empowered to define your community purpose, clarify how you’re serving your members and your business objectives, and set clear metrics for success.
Director of Network Strategy
Alexis is the community strategy coach for Mobilize customers. Previously, she launched and managed communities for Asana, Dropbox and a host of other Silicon Valley tech companies. She holds an MA in communication with a specialization in digital communities from Stanford University.
Building an online community sounds like a mighty task — but it doesn’t have to be a hair-wrenching one.
So we’ve roped in Alexis Lustcoff, Director of CommunityStrategy here at Mobilize, to share this tried-and-tested framework for building a truly successful community strategy. (Full disclosure: it only sounds harder than it actually is.)
We’ve boiled everything down into easy steps in this guide for you. But you can always watch the accompanying video lesson where Alexis will help walk you through it, step by step. And don’t forget to download your Network Strategy Summary and Worksheet, you’ll need them both to work through this guide.
Ready? Let’s dive right in!
A great community strategy is one that folds together your business and company objectives along with your community objectives.
Meaning, a solid network strategy has to weave together these 8 items:
Now we’ll outline exactly why these points are crucial elements of a successful network strategy, and how you can work through them yourself.
You’re building this network strategy for a reason. It’s not meant to exist in a silo, separate in its own dreamy world. Because, at the end of the day, the goal of building a thriving community is to create direct business value.
Which is why you should identify at least 1 business metric that you can track as your network grows. That way, you can always be sure you’re connecting the success of your network with quantifiable business success. You’ll find it’s much easier to keep your stakeholders aligned when there’s shared business value, and there’s less headwinds when asking for more resources as your community grows.
So to help you clarify your business and program background, make sure you can answer the following questions:
And here’s the best part: simply writing the answers to these questions on paper will already help you get the clarity you’re looking for in terms of the right direction for your network strategy, and eventually, the community that you’ll go on to build.
Tip: One great way to clarify what your members will get out of the community you’re building is by including a statement that defines both the short term value and long term value your community has for its members, aligning with ‘why they would join’ and ‘why they would stay.’
Example: “Come for the webinar, stay for the peer-to-peer connections and access to ongoing, exclusive resources.”
Today you can no longer “build it and they will come.” Which means you need to keep your members’ best interests front and center as you flesh out your network strategy.
You have to know who they are beyond fitting into a specific persona or profile . You need to know what defines them, what they like and don’t like, what are their aspirations, needs and goals.
Truth is, you need to have a clear way of communicating what your members will get out of belonging to this network. Because if you want to create a space they keep coming back to, they need to find it just as meaningful as your organization does (or even more).
When members feel seen and heard inside your network, they’ll keep engaging. They’ll add more content and participate more, and in turn, add greater value to the entire space. This way, they’ll also feel more deeply connected to other members of the community and will naturally propel your entire network’s success forward.
Now that you have those first two points in place, you can combine both these elements into a clear network goal statement that will serve as your North Star.
Your goal statement will define your network’s purpose in a clear and succinct manner, showing the direct connection between your business goal and your network goal.
If you get stuck trying to pull these two goals together, try and think of your network goal statement as your elevator pitch for your community — how would you describe your community to, well, anyone really. And it’s simple, direct, and straight to the point.
Once you have this single statement, slap it on a slide so you can share it with your internal teams and stakeholders so that you’re fully aligned on your network’s mission.
And also, slap it on a separate slide that you can share with network members, so that everyone’s always on the same page, and you’re all clear on what you’re driving forward.
Opportunity: Get inspired and understand how other Mobilize customers set their community goals by checking out our Mobilizers’ Community!
It’s free to join, and there’s plenty of strategies and ideas to take in!
Check it out →
Tip: These guardrails aren’t just for the members of your network either. Think about your staff, managers and anyone who might be included in your distributed leadership program.
Not sure what distributed leadership is? Glad you asked, here’s a quick rundown.
Now that your network strategy is taking shape (how exciting!) your next step is to set guardrails and accountability for your network by defining what this network is, and what it isn’t.
And by “guardrails” we mean the basic elements that will define what your network actually is.
To get you started, think what are the kinds of things your members will do inside your network. What will be the themes of events they’ll be invited to? What will be common topics of discussion? And what will people talk about in subgroups or 1:1 messages?
Clarifying what members will be doing and what they will be discussing in your community will help set those guardrails to ensure your community stays on the track set by your network goal statement.
At the same time, you also need to confirm what your network is not by applying these same principles in reverse.
What won’t they discuss? And what do you not want members doing inside your community? Write those thoughts as they come to you to give your community clear boundaries.
Thinking forward is a crucial aspect of a successful network strategy because it will help guide your steps forward. Just like your network goal statement will help you stay focused on the day-to-day of your community, your 1-year and 3-year future visions of your community will help guide your strategic decision making.
Remember: the building blocks you set for your network strategy today are meant to last a long time. And if you keep your 1 and 3-year visions in mind, it will help guide your actions today to keep you inching forward towards those goals.
Even if these visions change over time, just having them in place will help keep you going in the right direction.
Explore: There’s a clear trend that private community networks present a unique opportunity for businesses to put community at the center of their entire experience.
As you think about the future, read our perspective on the human-centered tech stack. By putting your community at the center, we unlock a much better customer experience—and leading organizations are already putting this in motion. Interesting, right?
Tip: Make sure the success metric (or metrics) you choose is related to those top-level business metrics you clarified way back in the beginning.
Some examples: Here’s a quick post where we outline how to turn your community into business results, and share some tangible results
So your next step is to apply these 8 elements to your own network strategy by going through the Network Strategy Worksheet and Summary of everything covered in this article.
You can also join our Mobilizers’ Community to get instant access to our own experts and learn from other customers.
If you haven’t already, make sure to complete the video lesson above. It includes an example we created of a (fictional) company network strategy, which might help give you the push you need to get started.
Now that your vision for your community is clear, it’s time to draw the connections back to your intended business outcomes.
Think back to your first thoughts — the ones that inspired you to create this community. And then answer this question: what are you hoping to achieve for your business by building this network?
It will help you round out this point if you try connecting your program’s success with the business success you want to achieve as a result.
For example, do you want to drive greater customer loyalty, and therefore, higher lifetime value? Or do you want to increase customer satisfaction, and increase word-of-mouth referrals? Or are you looking to use the community to help convert prospects to customers, and reduce acquisition costs or shorten your sales cycle?
Try to make it as clear as possible what you hope to achieve for your organization by building this network.
Even though setting success metrics — especially for something as fluid and deeply emotional as a community — can be tough. Or even scary.
But just as defining your network goal statement, guardrails, and 1 and 3-year visions help shape the direction your community will go in, so will the relative success metrics assigned to your community.
Don’t think of them as strict as a sales or marketing quota that you have to fill. Rather, they’re merely to help you gauge how well you’re doing, so you can take steps to adjust your trajectory if things start going off track.
Mobilize is made up of community experts who have launched communities for the likes of Dropbox, United Nations’ SDSN, Dermalogica, and more. We work with you to align your business goals with a tailored community strategy to ensure its success.
Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to improve outcomes with your existing community — we have strategies and industry-tailored programs to help you get things done. Schedule a demo for a personalized walk-through of our technology and learn about our expert-led strategy services.