The Community Content Matrix

Introducing a tool for Community Managers, to plan, analyze and understand their communities.

In the work of a Community Manager, the content planning part is always a pain in the neck. Let’s be clear: creating random content is easy and fun and mostly useless. The real problem is:

How can I be sure that my content drives the community into the right way?

It’s not easy to answer. Most Content Managers simply decide not to do that. But how can you reach your goals without driving the right public into the right way?

We were looking for a method to analyze how different contents create different moods (thus influencing different people in different ways), when we realized that someone had already done it. Somebody was looking for the same solution in a different field: Content Marketing.

The first concept of a “Content Matrix” was developed by Smartinsights, to analyze contents for marketing campaigns. It was 2012, but their work is still on point in 2019. It was not difficult to understand the value of this idea applied on Community Management.

So, with really little adaptation, we built the Community Content Matrix.

Community Content Matrix

What’s the Community Content Matrix for?

As a Community Manager, my mood reflects the mood of the community I’m talking to. If the community is a serious, professional community, i’ll be professional and serious. If it’s a entertaining, easy place, i’ll be a funny joker.

Do you recognize yourself in this statement?

If yes, well, you’re probably doing a good job. But what if you have to decide the mood?

Maybe because:

  • You’re building the community and you’re not really sure about the atmosphere it’s going to take.
  • The community is filled with mixed content and it’s difficult to understand the mood.
  • You want to create a specific sub section of the community with a different feeling.
  • You want to analyze a specific community/subsection to understand the mood to know if you want to change it.

To analyze, plan, understand the contents and to react in the best way we created the Community Content Matrix.

How to use the Community Content Matrix

There are two ways, both involving the Editorial Plan Template to calculate the matrix positioning of your community:

  1. During the content planning phase, you can write all your content in the Editorial Plan and it will automatically calculate your positioning in the Community Content Matrix. In this way you’ll understand what mood are you creating by posting those contents. Also you’ll have a plan ready to be used. In case you plan more than 1 content per day I suggest you to post the MAIN content on the plan.
  2. You can use the Editorial Plan also to register everything you posted. Don’t mind the dates just put the contents in. The data are going to be analyzed anyways and you’ll get a response on the mood you created on the community.

Community Content Matrix

This is the analysis created for a Community.

It’s possible also to analyze only a part of the community, like a subsection or a single topic.

The axis

First criteria to position a Content in the Matrix is pretty easy to define (but less easy to apply). How much emotional is the content? Or vice versa how much is it rational?

This sounds easy to answer for some kind of content (like comic contents – highly emotional, they make people laugh – or like guides -highly rational, people look at them to understand topics). For other contents, though, it gets tricky.

How much emotion involves a survey, an event, or news? It depends, obviously. The right question is: why do typically people look for those contents?

So why do people look at surveys? Why do they participate? So why should i post it to my community?

Typically a survey implies a certain level of discussion, of debate and interaction between members, which involves emotions more than rationality. Now you know that posting a survey will leverage on emotions more than many other different content. That is one way to put things at their place in the Matrix.

Second criteria its harder. On the original Matrix (which was marketing-related) it was a way to explain the deepening of the Marketing funnel. In other words: how much the member (the lead in their case) was skilled on the matter. Content must adapt themselves to users. Because a newcomer, a freshman, cannot understand inside jokes. He doesn’t know what happened in the last event and he’s probably not ready to apply for a job. On the other hand a veteran knows what everybody is talking about. His level of knowledge makes him hold little interest for petty things like the virals and he already read the guides a while ago. So he’s into other things.

Think about this: if I had a community made mainly by a certain kind of posts, would I attract someone who’s relatively a stranger? Would instead be interesting for someone who’s an expert, maybe someone I’m inspiring myself to?

The zones

This brings us to the 4 segments of the matrix.

We added one – the balanced zone – because when building a community, moving slightly out of the center doesn’t mean that you’re taking a clear trend and talking only to certain people. You are just slightly off the center but fine for everyone. If you find yourself there, no worries.

A note on the balanced zone: it’s better to have a balanced community because of different, opposite zones than to have it because you’re avoiding “extreme” content. Just think about the perfectly balanced content: the news. Do you post only news? They are neither too emotional nor rational. They are for everyone. Yet your community is no more a community. It’s a content site. So be careful.

1. Fun zone.

Concentrating on contents in this zone means having an entertaining place for the members. They come here looking for simple fun and easy relaxing activities. A notable example is the 9gag community.

If you want to build here, concentrate on currently trending topics, and explore the fun stuff, for example memes, reaction gifs, comic stripes, but also flaming topics that easily heaten up the discussions like the surveys (to set some balance).

Obviously you can build a super successful community in this way but it won’t give you an aura of trust and reliability. I generally do not suggest to an enterprise to build such a community.

2. Inspire zone.

This place is for people who looks for the bravery to take next step. They are looking for references, for leader who can drive them. This is a place where decision are taken through the strength of an emotion.

Discussion tools, which help people bond with each other are useful to create the right environment. People will create a social ladder and inspire others. Community managers should be the main creators of the content in this place.

The fun zone will drive new members into the community but this is the zone where they are going to take action. The members here can be considered your fan club.

3. Learn zone.

People get in this place to be educated. They are interested in the topics because they are looking for solutions or opportunities. They have passions and they want to explore and grow their knowledge.

Any resource or help is valuable here to explore the topic in a wider sense. For example this piece is about a visual (the matrix is a visual content) so it talks to educate people to a new concept. It is good because helps also to understand what everybody is talking about in the community.

4. Trust zone.

People is here to endorse topics. They know their stuff, they are experts and want to participate actively (such as job offers) or to explore and confront themselves in a deeper way. For example by looking other people’s works and experience. They can also look at resources to validate their ideas and explore them further. Any company should have an elite group of professionals meeting in their community, giving information and teaching the others.

Where should my community be on the matrix?

The answer is simple: it depends by your objectives.

Try to answer those questions:

  • Why did you build the community (or you want to)? You believe that this community could help you to achieve precise results. Let’s call those results “your objectives”.
  • What kind of members will help you reach your objectives? Are they newcomers? (i.e. a marketing community to find new leads must be attractive to newcomers) Are they veterans? (i.e. a community of volunteers need at least a group of trustworthy members)
  • What those members are looking for? To learn? To have fun?

Different answers lead to different conclusions. So please, find what you’re looking for. A community is a powerful tool only if it’s well tuned on the objective you choose!

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