The process of establishing an internal community begins with conducting a preliminary analysis of the challenges facing the organization and the people that work in it. This analysis aims to discover the needs that the community should address from both the organization’s and the employees’ perspectives. The second step of the process is designing a community concept that is based on the preliminary analysis findings. The community concept is comprised of four important elements that represent the foundations of the community.
The first element: What will the community be about?
When defining what will the community be about, it is crucial to focus on a strong common interest that unites the audience.
The common interest is usually related to the internal community type. For example, in the case of a community of practice, the common interest would be most probably linked to the role or a function within the organization, i.e. human resources, tech, cyber, marketing, etc.
Moreover, in some cases, usually in a large organization, it is worthwhile to conduct community research and to check if similar communities already exist.
This research aims to make sure that the need for a community with the same focus is not already fulfilled somewhere that is available to your audience.
Community research should focus on the pros and cons of each community, and on the opportunities that arise as a result. Finally, defining what the community will be about should be based on the needs of the organization and the community’s target audience, and what could work better in existing communities.
The second element: Who are we going to approach?
Outlining the target audience precisely is a community-building key success factor. Knowing who to approach will enable the creation of a community that provides its members high value. Therefore, when determining who the target audience is, it is critical to focus on a homogeneous group as much as possible, and preferably as niche as possible.
This may be done by creating a description of the target audience according to its demographics and by using various “filters”. For example, location, position, department, and seniority. Remember: do not include the majority to achieve the minority you are targeting. Focus on the target audience that was defined and gradually expand.
The third element: What is the purpose of the community?
Internal communities are usually built around a purpose that is, again, dictated by the community’s type. A clear community purpose leads to matching expectations between the community’s members and between members and organizers.
Moreover, it is essentially the reason a member joins a community, and it is an important aspect of building a strong and vibrant community. Deciding on a goal for the community to strive towards should not be a one-sided process. A collective purpose should be based on the organization and the potential community members’ challenges and needs.
The fourth element: What will happen in the community?
No one wants to visit an empty community. Therefore, a rule of thumb for building a successful community is to decide and plan which activities, discussions, or content will get their place.
To do so, it may be useful to connect with subject matter experts in the company (Support Engineers, Sales Engineers, Customer Success Managers, Developers, etc) to obtain relevant and engaging types of content.
In addition, information from a core group of founding members (the employees who will help you launch the community) about the content they’d like to find, can be useful as well. Based on the internal information that is found, and taking into account the community’s focus, target audience, and purpose, the “what will happen in the community” can be tailored.
A common method is to create a content plan that details the activities on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. In any case, it is recommended to have a decent cut of content in the stage of launching the community, as it will model successful contributions, and illustrate the promise of the community to early adopters.