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Co-Community #1: Building the Value Proposition
Welcome to Co-Community! I'm Brad, and I'll be … well, I don't want to say your instructor. More like your partner. I'm here to share the knowledge I've gained from running communities for the past decade, along with doing it professionally for the past three years.

In the first issue of what will hopefully be a decently long series, we'll be discussing the motivations and "value proposition" of a community to potential users.

It's fair to say that for most community administrators, communities are created in order to please one's self. This does not mean that there are not genuine intentions of pleasing a larger audience, but when doing something without the intent to profit, there has to be some sense of self-satisfaction present to motivate the owner to continue.

However, many new admins tend to pretty much stop -- unintentionally -- at pleasing themselves without consideration of their potential audience. This is because they haven't taken the time to formulate their "value proposition" properly.


A value proposition is literally the value you are proposing to a potential "customer" (in the case of a non-profit forum, your users are not really customers, but it's important to think of them as such -- especially if you decide you want to monetize later). What value are you able to offer to enrich the user's life? What are the problems and/or needs of your user that you are able to address?


Richard Millington wrote something very prescient in his article, Identifying and Articulating The Benefit Of The Community:

Quote:The common mistake is to only identify the interest. e.g. 'If members are interested in roasting their own coffee, let's make the community about coffee roasting. We will tell members to join if they want to learn about coffee roasting.'
A strategy like this is destined for failure, because a subject is not a value proposition. You have to be especially careful if the genre you wish to create a community within is already highly populated by high-level players (e.g. gaming, graphics design).

Most community administrators create communities based around their own interests. This is the primary reason why there are so many gaming and technology related communities -- the overlap between people interested in those things and people with the interest and capacity to operate forum software is quite large.

Because of this, there are certain subject areas where the forum "market" is already oversaturated. In this case, it is simply not enough to say, "If members are interested in video games, they will join our video game community." They won't, because there are countless video game communities out there already, more mature and more fully-featured than yours.

Let's go back to the coffee roasting example presented by Richard. What kinds of topics and features could we incorporate into this hypothetical coffee roasting forum? Well, firstly, home-roasting is a tight niche as it is and may not meet the needs of enough people -- a forum about coffee in general would be good enough. We could include a section where users can post their roasting techniques and users can discuss and suggest modifications, and mark them as their favourites to add to their "Recipe Book". We could also do a similar "rate and discuss" section for pre-roasted coffee beans and coffee-making products. Some example threads could include:

Coffee of the day -- what are you drinking?
Best chain cafés
French press Vs. Drip Filter

Our value proposition for this community is:

"We are dedicated to coffee in all of its forms. Whether you roast your own beans from scratch, or simply prefer to get your coffee on the go, we will provide the resources to not only get the best coffee possible no matter how you are getting it, but to work with other coffee aficionados to create great and interesting coffee."

The needs being met? An outlet to discuss coffee, of course. But most importantly, the goal is to maximize our user's enjoyment of coffee, and for them to associate those good vibes with our community, and continue to visit in order to continue maximizing their enjoyment of coffee.


I've long subscribed to a philosophy relating to every single project I've done: "do it first, or do it best." If you're going to show up late to a party, you better be the best dressed person there (or at least the most interesting). If you're entering a niche that is already heavily populated, you need at least one stand-out feature that will lift your community above all of the others and make it enticing to users who are likely already invested in another community's "ecosystem". So before you make the world's trillionth video game forum, ask yourself: what potential needs can I address that my competitors aren't addressing already, or sufficiently?

That's it for this issue. So let's talk about it; let me know your questions and comments, either about this article or about communities in general!
This a true, every single word.
Great thread brad-t.
Good read. I'm looking forward to the next article.
Good read. It's helpful for up-and-coming forum creators, definitely. Or for those who are looking to start new communities. Value proposition might be something that plenty of people overlook, so it's a good place to start.
Once you have an idea (e.g. coffee forum), you need to do a value proposition and a competitive analysis before building it out. Otherwise you're investing a lot of time into something that could be a doomed project. This will be bitter news to a lot of new admins, I think.
Awesome thread. Looking forward to reading the rest. I was going to start posting some of these myself but I don't think I have the effort to present them as well as this.
(05-30-2012, 07:19 PM)brad-t Wrote: Once you have an idea (e.g. coffee forum), you need to do a value proposition and a competitive analysis before building it out.

Hah, I didn't do any of this for Otaku Space. I just created it.
Great read brad.. I look forward to the next one! I should of applied this a bit more to my most recent project(s) and will do so in the future.
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(05-30-2012, 08:14 PM)Odin of Aesir Wrote:
(05-30-2012, 07:19 PM)brad-t Wrote: Once you have an idea (e.g. coffee forum), you need to do a value proposition and a competitive analysis before building it out.

Hah, I didn't do any of this for Otaku Space. I just created it.

And how is that working out for you? I can't tell if you are bragging or what.

Glad to be back here and hopefully I can do a new one soon. What kind of stuff would you guys like to know?
Great thread brad, nice job with this. Smile

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