Content is an essential ingredient for growing and maintaining a healthy online community.
If your online community is going to be successful, it needs a clear vision supported by a coherent content strategy. As the community grows, the vision must be communicated again and again. The right type of content will help grow the community, engage members, re-affirm core values, strengthen the brand, nurture a strong sense of belonging, and ultimately mobilize your community when needed.
Creating a Content Strategy for Your Online Community
To constantly deliver the correct type of content, to the right people, at the right time, a well-thought-out content strategy is required. Meaningful content requires clarity on the messages to convey (value, mission, priorities,...) and a thorough understanding of members' expectations, needs, and interests.
So, where should you start?
Who Exactly Are You Talking To?
Creating marketing personas is a helpful technique to understand members better. Personas are fictitious users that represent the needs of larger groups of users in terms of goals and behavior. In the context of alumni communities, user personas could be a graduate, a recent graduate, a volunteer, a donor, a student, or a group administrator, for example. Personas help define the value proposition, the communication strategy (contents and channels), and the user journey.
Personas can be created through research, surveys, and interviews on both existing clients and prospects. Once the data has been collected, it needs to be analyzed to identify commonalities and patterns to identify personas. A list of demographic information, communication preferences, goals, challenges, and how the community helps need to be listed for each persona. Based on this, it should then be possible to create three to four main content topics relevant to each persona.
Brand Voice: How Are You Going to Talk to Your Audience?
So, now you know who you're talking to and the best way to reach them, how are you going to talk to them?
Using language and style your audience understands is key to building a connection.
There are several ways to define your brand voice. One of the most common methods is based on the following four dimensions:
Funny vs. serious: Do you want to be humorous? Or do you want to approach the subject seriously?
Innocent is an excellent example of a brand with a funny voice!
Formal vs Casual: Do you want the writing to be formal? Or would you prefer a more informal approach?
Mailchimp takes a more casual approach.
Do you want to approach the subject respectfully? Or do we want to take an irreverent approach?
Gillette tends to communicate respectfully with a caring voice.
Enthusiastic vs Matter of Fact: Do you want to be enthusiastic in your communication? Or do you prefer the content to be dry and matter-of-fact?
Brilliant Noise takes an enthusiastic approach.
Ask your stakeholders to vote on the above dimensions. This will give you the foundation for your brand's voice.
Whether it's funny or serious, enthusiastic, or matter-of-fact, your brand's voice needs to be decided from the very start, and it needs to be consistent across all channels.
Organizing Your Content Creation
An ad-lib approach to content creation won't cut it in the long run. Producing quality, well-researched content takes time.
A content calendar enables you to plan and organize future content (not to mention spares you the pressure of coming up with a topic right before a publication deadline).
A content calendar will ensure that your content publication stays consistent and on track.
Are there any special dates for your community? Earth Day, Giving Tuesday, Pride Day… Harness the buzz around dates that matter to your community and plan and create a dedicated content campaign!
A content calendar will also make it easy for you to spot gaps in your content creation. You will be able to more easily see if you're focusing too much on one topic while neglecting another. Mapping out topics can also inspire other content ideas!
Your content calendar should include the following:
- Publication frequency (how many times a week, month, etc are you going to share content?)
- Content topics
- The assigned owner of each content piece
- Publishing dates
- Content distribution and promotion channels
You can also add in any processes for validating content, plus links to content drafts. Google Sheets is a great place to keep your calendar. It allows multiple people to access it and update it in real-time.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Content Creation
If you don't evaluate your content's effectiveness, you won't know its value.
How you evaluate your content will depend on your community's overall goals. Email open rates? Post engagement? Form completion? Social shares? Whatever your metrics, be sure to evaluate your content efforts at least once a quarter.
Create Content That Will Get Your Community Excited
Get creative. Create content that people will want to consume. Tell the community's story. Interview remarkable people (entrepreneurs, change-makers, staff, donors, faculty...). Bring up key challenges and promote successful milestones. Pack the communication with passion!
Experiment with different content formats and see what gets the best results from the audience: bite-sized videos, curated content, longer written content formats, punchy Q&As, etc. Imagination is the only limit! Don't forget to leverage user-generated content. Are members discussing the latest event, sharing photos, and feedback? Repurpose this content into a blog article.
All in all, the key to success lies in aligning every piece of content with your overall community strategy and creating a well thought out content strategy and well-organized schedule.
Hivebrite is a leading provider of branded community management platforms and helps institutions of all sizes grow and engage their community. Schedule a demo if you would like to know more.