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Find the purpose for your community. Not your purpose. The purpose. You have to satisfy both the needs of your brand and the needs of the participants who you hope to work with. It’s important to remember: almost nobody has enough time these days and in the digital space that lack of time is compounded by a consumer’s ability to access any content in the history of the world at the swipe of their phone. So, if you’re asking for someone to make a contribution to your brand you need to firstly and compellingly answer the why of your community. Why do you want do it? And why should participants give their time to your brand community? Why shouldn’t they click over to that cat video/twitter feed/sports score/Instagram story/etc. instead?

It’s often easier to figure out the value proposition for your brand. It’s usually clear what value you will get from a brand fan community. It could be research insights or marketing content or consumer brand advocacy or product feedback and co-creation or the direct ability to drive new sales or – in the cases of some high-functioning communities, some combination of all of these. Think through whether it’s a short term engagement that will satisfy your needs or if you’re looking to build something enduring that can create value over a long period of time.

Once you have your why you need to turn your focus to the harder (but also maybe the most important) part of the equation. What’s the why for the consumer, and what will they want from participating in your community?

So ask yourself: given my goals, who do I want in the community? What do these people care about? Am I sure that’s what they care about? How can I validate my assumptions? What could motivate them to make the contributions you’re hoping they’ll make?

As you work through these questions, some healthy skepticism is useful. Assume you’ll have to offer something for participant contributions beyond just the odd gift card or voucher (or the chance to win the odd gift card or voucher). Modern life is exhaustive and exhausting. Give your participants real human reasons and real value for contributing. When appropriate, pay them for their contributions to the value created by your community. If you calibrate things well, you’ll find your fans will overwhelm you with their passion and efforts. Your return on investment will be absolutely undeniable.

So who are your target participants and what is value in their eyes? What selection of incentives should you use? What motivational tactics should you use? That’s the next part of our series.

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