While in the trenches of community management, it’s sometimes challenging to take a step back, evaluate your efforts and determine strategic next steps. Being heads down in our craft is certainly respectable, however, sometimes a step back and a fresh perspective is all that’s necessary to recognize a missed step, spot a new opportunity or take our work to the next level.

While there are tons of tools for building community, there are simply no band-aid solutions that will magically create or grow a community overnight. That’s why community needs a process-driven approach. Specifically:

1. Every Community is Different

What works well for one community, cannot be exactly replicated for another. Each community has its own values, purpose, goals, demographics and cultural norms. The success of an ambassador program for one community may be poorly incentivized for another. As such, the specific tactics, tools and approach for each community should be unique.

2. Community is Both Strategic and Tactical

Community is well known as a jack-of-all trades execution role, but it’s strategic, too. At some companies, such as Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Etsy, community is core to the product and even built into the business model. As such, community efforts are centralized around more strategic approaches with complementary execution rather than strictly social media and support. This requires a higher-level view point than one that can only be seen from the trenches.

3. Measure, Iterate, Repeat

If you’re always heads down and reactive, how do you know what’s working? Taking a more process-driven approach allows you to define measurements of success upfront, evaluate progress against concrete benchmarks and then iterate both your strategies and execution accordingly.

At Loyal, we look at building community as not so different from human system design. As community folks, we’re structuring and enabling ways for people to engage with each other within specific product, platform, budget and time constraints to reach specific business goals. And, as such, we approach our work with a process not too different from design processes. This is what our process looks like:

  • Understand the vision for success

  • Define the problem or challenge

  • Determine the goals

  • Understand the constraints

  • Research -- What does the data tell us? What do we intuitively know? What do users say?

  • Set the strategy with the above in mind

  • Execute

  • Test, Measure, Iterate Repeat

While community might not be repeatable from community to community, this process is repeatable and allows us to tailor recommendations for our clients accordingly. Internally, community managers can also use this same process for project sprints. What’s your community process?

About the Author:

Sarah Judd Welch is the Founder // Head of Community Design + BD at Loyal where she designs communities for startups, brands, and Fortune 100s. Find her on Twitter at @sjw.

Read more stories like this one at http://loyal.is.

Image via iStockphoto.

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