Community Design: What’s the Right Kind of Community for Your Authority-Based Business?

February 7, 2018

Turning followers or connections into a community is an integral part of the Community Design Process – and it’s not intuitive until you’ve done it.  After reading this you’ll know the type of community you should build to support the growth of your Authority-based business.  In a follow up Blog we will discuss HOW to build the community.

The Problem

When deciding if we can help an Expert up their game to become an Authority – and from there build an Authority-based Business, we research their presence on social networks.  The expert typically tells us that they have built a community – but research shows they have attracted (or invited) followers…but NOT built a community.  Turning followers or connections into a community is an integral part of the Community Design Process – and it’s not intuitive until you’ve done it.

The Process

Authority-based businesses should focus their community building efforts on attracting community members that are actively engaged in using the solutions and information that the authority has shared.  Or as we describe it – those that are participating in the uptick that they have experienced in their careers and lives resulting from engaging with the information and/or product.

Community building work varies greatly by the type of community. The Community Design Process will identify the most efficacious type of community for your business. Read that word “efficacious” again – its important.  We want the type of community that has the power to produce the desired engagement and participation impact that you’ll discover if you use the guide available at the end of this blog.  We want to design an efficacious community.

Let’s start by identifying the three most common types of communities.  This is important groundwork – because if you understand what type of community you’re building you can align everything you do to leverage the value of that community for the members and the business.

The most common community types are:

  1. Support (or Q & A) communities.
  2. Education (or idea-sharing) communities.
  3. Peer groups (or exclusive) communities.

Let’s take a look at each:

Support (or Q & A) Communities

This is where customers bring their problems to get solutions from staff or other members in an environment that’s designed to remove confusion, frustration and fill knowledge gaps. In an efficacious Support (or Q & A) Community it’s not enough just to provide an answer, you need to provide an answer with the speed, clarity, and empathy that helps members feel welcome and appreciated.

If interacting with the community causes frustration or embarrassment you’ve blown the relationship…and dis-satisfied customers tell more people about their experience than satisfied customers…so you’ve not only created bad-will, you’ve set yourself up for the bad will to be spread through work-of-mouth.


Users perceive they are getting lots of value. From your perspective as an Authority-based Business, these communities cut support costs. From the customer perspective – it increases satisfaction when problems are resolved quickly and with the right approach (empathy).  They’re also a great source of honest, timely feedback.


You need a large base of members to succeed. A rule of thumb – if you have less than (according to experts) 100k customers you don’t have the critical mass to be successful.

Education (or idea-sharing) Communities

Education (or idea-sharing) communities range from Pinterest, Goodreads or Reddit to technology-specific communities to communities of enthusiasts. These communities are built around members proactively sharing resources, insights, experiences, and links. Membership is attracted to the community because of the enjoyment and value received from participation.  These are communities where members come for content – but stay for the camaraderie and shared experience.


Scaling the business. Education (or idea-sharing) communities help people use products and technologies more skillfully, attract new business (via word-of-mouth and search traffic), inspire innovation, and become the central gathering place of their category.


Very difficult to get started. By far the biggest problem is getting started. For our purposes (supporting the scaling of an Authority-base business) it takes a category leader with an audience whose interest in their content will be amplified by participation in the community.  Becoming an Education (or idea-sharing) Community is usually the second phase of the community evolution for an Authority-based business.

Peer Groups/Exclusive Communities

This the easiest type of community to start. It’s the type of community that we typically start for Authority-based businesses.  The people who join are those who are already connected to, and interested in, the content that the Authority-based business is generating – and they are interested in sharing their experiences, knowledge and curiosity with others who have found the content valuable. In these peer group communities members identify with each other and share common interest and desires (or in our lexicon, wants).  The value of participation centers on the advantages and benefits that the members are getting from interacting with the services and content that the Authority-based business provides – and the collaborative enhancements to that value that the community members share with each other in the community forum.


Easier to launch. When you don’t have a large audience, the easiest way to start a community is to target invitations and invite only those that are interested in, or currently using your products and services.  These types of members connect with each other on a deep, personal, level – providing each other with “hacks”, the benefit of their experience and emotional support. An exclusive community effort brings together people with a very strong shared identity and creates a sense of belonging among them. These communities tend towards broad-ranging discussions and are eager to participate in real-world meetings.


Getting active support to get the community started.  You need to have relationships with influencers and get them to commit to participate in the community.  In addition, these influencers will need to invite others to the community.  Without active participation from influencers it’s difficult to get the community started. Understanding the influencers’ wants and reasons to commit to the community is imperative to designing an efficacious peer group community.

Next Steps

Download the Pre-work Guide To Starting A Peer Community. After you complete that it’ll be time to go to work building your community!


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