Your Roadmap to a Successful Online Community

Before you risk your time, money and reputation to build an online community, invest in the groundwork to position yourself for success.

Research shows that online communities that have a clear vision about five very specific questions start down a proven path to success. With the right work and effort, they are able to grow and thrive.

Without proper preparation and active management, Gartner says “be ready for the community to fail.” During the discover phase we help you focus your online community, base it on sound research, and make certain you have the support and resources you need for success.

Here are the six questions we help you answer before you start.

What problem will my online community help me solve?

An online community is a significant, long-term investment. What fundamental problem do you face today, or will you face in the future, that can be solved by an online community? How will your online community help you solve that problem?

What is the unique position of my community?

This is where 70% of the work occurs. A clear answer to this question is based on research, interviews with potential community members, and analysis. You need to develop a clear understanding of who would join the community, how would they join, and why they would join.

Even more importantly, why would a community member participate? It’s not enough simply to join a community. It’s active participation that influences behavior and leads to results. What compelling benefits does this community bring to the patient, caregiver, or family member that he or she can’t find somewhere else?

What are the target community’s biggest problems, most common interests, and most important hopes for the future? And what opportunities will the community provide to meet those problems, interests, and hopes?

Where else could my patients go for this experience?

Complete an environmental scan or competitive analysis to find what else is available. Is there already an existing online patient community that will meet your patients’ needs? If so, how successful is it? Are many of your potential community members already involved there? What will you offer that other communities do not? 

What are my expectations for my community?

From the beginning, it’s essential to identify specific, measurable outcomes and timelines for your online community.

Are key stakeholders on board?

This question is also answered by interviews with key stakeholders to find out the depth of their commitment and level of their support for your online community.

What resources are necessary to help my community succeed?

Now that you understand what problems your community can solve, the size and breadth of your community, what measurable outcomes you can expect, and whether your stakeholders are on board, what resources are you willing to commit to the success of your online community? What time, money and staff will you commit?

Will you need providers or medical experts to monitor the site? Educators? Health coaches? Community managers? Specifically who will be involved, and how will they be involved?

Deliverable: Your Roadmap to Success

When we complete the discovery stage, you will have a Roadmap to Success that will lay a solid foundation for all the work you will do next. It will include:

Clear statement of the problem you face, and how an online community can solve that problem.

An online community profile. Based on the results of research and interviews, the profile will define:

  • A complete profile of your online community, including who should join the community, how they would join, why they would join, and what will keep them coming back.
  • Specific benefits to your hospital or health system, patients, caregivers, or family members.
  • Specific marketing strategies to drive awareness of and enrollment in the community.
  • The quantity and type of content that will be created in the community.

A list of specific, measurable community outcomes.

A resource plan, including specific people and budgets that will be committed to the community.