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How to Transform Personas into Engaged Communities

Doug Miller
#Digital Marketing, #Inbound Marketing, #Community
Published on June 20, 2016

What does it take to turn your marketing personas into engaged communities?

Recently, I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about community and the role that it plays in having a successful content marketing (or Inbound) strategy. We’ve explored in depth how an understanding of what adds value to a particular community can be an essential tool in designing content that connects with the right people at the right time. Dennis Kardys, my colleague here at Diagram, has also taken the time to write about important differences between marketing personas and design personas. But what does it take to turn your marketing personas into engaged communities?

Honestly, most of what what it takes to build engaged communities is time, research, and a lot of effort.

Luckily, when it comes to research, we have more access than ever to a wider array of data points about what modern digital humans engage with and where they do so. The trick is in being able to look at that wide array of data and determine which data points will give you the most information about what content will provide the most value to your targeted communities. This can be a lot of work, but it is something we help folks with every day.

Learning About Your Communities

We begin by having our clients answer questions about their targeted communities like:

  • How do they self-identify?
  • To whom do they turn for trusted advice about which products or services to choose?
  • What platforms do they use to communicate with each other?
  • What are their unique goals and obstacles?

Once these questions have been addressed, a few important tasks remain to make sure your efforts at being involved with these communities are successful. First, it is important to determine if the communities you are serving with your content already have digital gathering places, or if there is an opportunity for you to serve the community by providing a place for it to thrive.

If these gathering places currently exist, then it becomes necessary for your organization to find ways to participate in those communities in meaningful and authentic ways. That can mean anything from joining existing forums or IRL meetups and events to participating in the process of organizing content through community hashtags or chats. The trick is to do so in a way that is appropriate for that community and that context. Anything else will simply not be well received.

If they don’t already have a hub for community online, this gives your organization the opportunity to facilitate a place where your targeted communities can thrive. Again, that can mean anything from digital forums, to IRL meetups or events, to social media groups or hashtags. The trick is to listen to the community to find out what is the best, most natural fit.

Engaging With Your Communities

Digital communities are certainly not new, and in many ways, they are what the internet was made for, but that doesn’t mean facilitating them is easy. Mostly, that’s because everybody is taxed for time and attention. Aside from the digital complexities that come from building and maintaining engaged digital communities, there is the struggle to get those communities to be engaged - and that struggle is real.

One benefit to the ubiquity of modern digital tools in this situation is that you don’t need to feel pressure to run out and build a huge brick and mortar digital forum from the ground up just to support your community. With the right tools, such as workflows in marketing automation platforms, even email can serve as an excellent place for ad-hoc community to thrive.

Micro-communities are emerging and dissolving every day in social platforms around things like hashtags. A successful application of this technology can provide for meaningful engagement with any community in a place they already are, like Instagram, Twitter, or a multitude of other platforms.

Your participation in social media platforms, as an organization, should be about serving your community with content and interacting with them, not just about blasting your sales material. Empowering your blog with community-focused (and even community-sourced) content can be a great way to take your personas and activate them into engaged communities around your content.

The mentality of the community manager is a super important asset to any organization hoping to be effective in content or Inbound marketing. If you don’t have someone on your team who can effectively stir up conversation by seeding it through posts, comments, and email requests for engagement, find an organization who can help you do just that.

four great resources for finding excellent examples of these principles in action:

1. Inbound.org is a community of marketers so it should be no surprise that they understand what it takes to seed conversations in their digital communities to increase engagement organically. They have folks who reach out to individual directly over email to invite them to participate the in the conversation.


2. Paper.li manages a community online via Twitter and Google Hangouts using the tag #bizheros. They take the time to call out engaged past participants to remind them to come and be engaged.


3. #cmgrHangout, of all the examples I could provide about engaging a community, is probably one of the most useful as a community of community managers. This meta org does a great job of adding value and building community and, aside from being a good example, the value they are adding to their community is about - wait for it - community! It’s like a delicious taco, wrapped in another taco! 

4. Telescope is an interesting tool for communities. When building their platform (like an open-source ProductHunt), the folks behind Telescope came up with the nine “bricks” to building awesome communities. In this guide, they explore each of the elements mentioned above in detail, and they share a number of lessons that they have learned in the process. We’ve found much of what they’ve put together very valuable reading and we hope you do too.


How do you turn your marketing personas into engaged communities? With luck, these communities already exist, and all you need to do is engage them where they are. If you find yourself with the opportunity to build a digital place where the community your content is designed to serve can thrive, we urge you to keep these nine things in mind - and don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help you along your path.

Image credit: created using vector designed by Freepik