How to Create Your Community Commitment Curve

How to Create Your Community Commitment Curve

This is part 2 in a 3-part series. Go back and read Part 1 if you missed it and read Part 3 when it becomes available.

Once you understand how the Commitment Curve works in theory and have some examples to draw from in your work, it’s time for you to create your own.

Before The Commitment Curve: Understanding the Common Member Journey

Before creating a Commitment Curve, you have to put yourself in your members’ shoes. It’s very easy to write out all the things you need from members, but what do your members need from your community? To answer that question, we start with an Empathy Map.

 
 

The purpose of Empathy Mapping along a community members’ journey is to understand the emotions experienced at each step of a community member’s journey. This is something UX designers do in order to create cohesive experiences. This creates space for you to think about what asks will be meaningful for members and what asks will make them feel overwhelmed, confused, or annoyed.

Above is a generalized, linear member journey, from discovering your community to leading it, with some sample emotions that your members may feel during those stages. You can create your own version of this map for your community as it exists today. There may a range of positive as well as negative emotions that can be experienced throughout this journey, and we want to amplify the positive and mitigate the negative.

Why bother doing this? Once you know how members are feeling, you can begin crafting directed calls to action for them that help amplify their positive emotions and mitigate the emotions that people often come to communities to try to resolve.

The Template for Your Community Commitment Curve

Now that you understand how you want members to ideally feel and what emotions you need to help them navigate, it’s time to map out all the possible asks in each phase of the member journey to get members to engage positively. We need to define the asks that will spark positive reactions: get people excited, stoke curiosity, share their pride, and so on.

As a reminder, here is the basic template that we work from, before adding in our asks:

 
Community Commitment Curve - Blank Template
 

A Step-by-Step Guiding to Filling in Your Community Commitment Curve

Let's put this framework into action by filling in your community commitment curve. 

There are two ways to do this activity: 

  1. If you’re visual, you can draw out a curve and map the asks directly on it (or use the template I've shared)
  2. If you’re a list-maker, simply list these out of order (or you can use the brainstorming sheet I've shared)

Be ready to re-arrange the asks and place them into new areas of the Commitment Curve based on this brainstorm. We start just by brainstorming all the asks we could make of our members to engage them (steps 1-4). Later, we gut check the amount of effort each ask takes and rearrange if necessary (step 5), and finally, we put all of this work into action (steps 6-7). 

Step 1: Create Asks for Members Who Are Discovering Your Community

The first phase of building community engagement is to drive awareness of your community’s existence. This may be done through an automated email that goes out to your entire user base. Or by inviting non-members to consume public forum posts. Or by prompting folks to read a public community manifesto. It’s important even in private communities to have some public-facing materials, so prospective members know what your community is all about. If your community is extremely exclusive, these asks could be done secretly and by word-of-mouth only. 

This part of the Commitment Curve helps you envision your community marketing funnel - it can be as simple or complex as you’d like it to be. At this stage, people are consuming what you and your members create; they are curious but not yet part of the group.

Some example asks to get you started:

  • Sign up for the email newsletter
  • Read blog posts
  • Read about the community in an article
  • Click on the landing page
  • Schedule a call with someone on your team
  • Join a public Facebook Group
  • Attend a free event for non-members

Step 2: Create Asks that Onboard Members into the Culture and Features of the Community

At its best, the onboarding phase in a community is marked by lots of passive consumption, listening, and being ushered into a crafted experience before diving in head-first. This is the first time you’re asking your members to work, and you need to do it slowly. This phase is the “first impression” phase and it’s vital to future engagement.

Some example asks to get you started:

  • Create a username
  • Read welcome message
  • Share your name/pseudonym and other non-identifying details
  • Like a post
  • Add a profile photo
  • Write your name on a nametag

Step 3: Create Asks for Ongoing Engagement 

The third phase of community engagement is where the really pivotal groundwork for sustainable membership is laid. This phase is about engaging members in taking more active roles in the community (though it's okay if not everyone has a linear path here and if some members just lurk). To create asks that increase engagement, you play with the four factors for a sense of belonging and include actions to drive belonging as members work their way up the Community Commitment Curve.

The four factors that create a sense of belonging suggest that you:

  1. Instill symbols of membership through member actions (fill out their profile, claim a badge, add their membership to their LinkedIn profile)

  2. Be influenced by and influence other members (be interviewed for/write a blog post, comment on other members’ contributions, participate in a shared project)

  3. Allow members to get their immediate needs met (receive a reward for their help, get introductions to more influential members, meet a collaborator, find a new client, receive invaluable advice)

  4. Participate in shared experiences on a regular basis (solving problems together, planning meetups together, attending meetups)

Some example asks to get you started:

  • Post a reply to a thread
  • Post a thread
  • Invite friends and colleagues
  • Attend online workshop
  • Co-create a document
  • Participate in a survey

Step 4: Create Asks that Engage Members in Leadership Roles 

Finally, you ladder up into the big asks: Asking members to take on leadership roles. Sometimes, these roles are clearly defined as “leadership” roles, e.g. when someone becomes a Meetup Organizer or runs a subcommunity. Other times, these are just “the big asks” that need to be made to reach a goal: vote, attend a rally, support a crowdfunding campaign.

As Stephen R. Covey says: Begin with the end in mind. It makes sense to outline this goal first before filling in all the middle asks on the curve.

Some example asks to get you started:

  • Lead a meetup group
  • Attend a rally
  • Become a super-moderator
  • Train other members
  • Talk to our team on the phone to give feedback

The goal here is to begin to offboard growth and engagement to the community itself or reach a shared goal. That’s how we scale a community effectively.

Step 5: Check to Make Sure No Gaps Exist 

Now that you've brainstormed all the asks you could be making in each phase of the member journey, you can step back and assess the level of effort and vulnerability each ask requires of your members.

Why effort and vulnerability?

Community is about trust, and trust has two key components related to engagement: First, in order for someone to take an action, they have to trust that your community is worth the amount of effort they're putting into it. For example, if they've just joined, they have no reason to trust that spending two hours writing a report on behalf of the community or sitting in a council meeting would be met with any kind of gratitude or acceptance. Second, building trust requires vulnerability and sharing. But psychological research shows that people don't typically disclose vulnerable details about their lives until they have been disclosed to. That means that we can't ask for vulnerable details about people until much later (if at all). 

I like to think of this piece as more art than science. You can rank the asks on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most effort and vulnerability), debate internally if you have a team, and rearrange the asks where necessary. 

In the process of ranking the asks by amount of effort, you may discover that you're asking for engagement way out of order or that major gaps exist in your engagement strategy. For instance, if right after you've asked a member to fill in a profile (say, a level 2), you ask them to share a story of a time when a family member was in crisis (say, a level 7), and you have no asks in between, you now know that you need to go back to brainstorming more asks that would be between 2 and 7 in terms of effort and vulnerability. 

Once this is complete, you should have several asks in each phase and perhaps even several asks in each level of effort & vulnerability. 

Once you're done, here's what a simple Commitment Curve might look like: 

 
Commitment-Curve-Example-v2.png
 

Step 6: Apply the Curve to Product Design, Content, and Community Programming 

It's time to put all this mapping to work. You can now use the Community Commitment Curve to design community products and features, launch new programs, or fill in your content calendar. 

Product Design: The product your community exists on should usher them smoothly through each phase of engagement.

Content Strategy for Community Building: The content strategy you put in place for your community should now reflect all the ways that members need to engage in order to build a meaningful community. Each ask will need some form of content created around it, such as an email notification, push notification, weekly thread, video, or online event. 

Programming: Each program you design can, in turn, have its own Commitment Curve (inception!) and member journey. For instance, if you're designing a meetup program, how will you help individual attendees go through the phases of engagement at the event? If you're creating a leadership program for community chapters, how will new leaders get trained in order to be most effective and engaged in sustaining the program with you? 

Step 7: Measure & Adjust 

This is not a set-it-and-forget-it project. In the next part of this series, we'll discover a basic framework for measuring engagement. Of course, as you learn from measurement, you'll need to adjust the asks you make and the strategy you want to use going forward. 

For now, just take a break and congratulate yourself on finishing a big strategic project! 


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