4-min read
Jul 27, 2022

Why Community Personas Are an Essential Community-building Tool

Pam Magwaza

Getting started with community personas plus a template to help you create one that works.

Building good personas is one of the first and most important parts of the community-building process.

Without a solid understanding of who your ideal member is — think their needs, goals, challenges, and more — you'll have a rough time trying to build a community your ideal members will want to be a part of.

But what are community personas, exactly? And why are they an essential community-building tool?

What is a community persona?

In community, personas are specific, fictional profiles created to help a Community Manager or team understand a typical member.

Personas are not unique to community — they can be incredibly helpful in many areas of a business. For example, a Product team may create personas to better understand their users, or a Customer Support team, to better understand their customers.

It’s important to flag here that personas are not the same as the target audience of a business or product. While a target audience is based on an overall group of users or members, a persona is focused on a specific user or member. Target audiences broadly consider factors like demographics and psychographics of a group, but personas represent a specific, fictional person who represents the attributes of the target audience.

Here’s an example of target audience vs. a lightweight persona for a women’s fitness app and community:

Target audience: Women aged 17-50 years old living in the UK who want to prioritize their health and fitness.

Persona: Ally is 25 years old, currently living in London with two other female housemates. She is a junior designer at a marketing agency, and often works long hours so she struggles to make time for exercise. Her goal for this year is to run a half marathon.

As the above example suggests, personas are generally imagined people (grounded in your research of course — more on that later), and creating them can be a lot of fun, too. You can give them names, draw or assign a picture to put a face to that name, and think about the goings-on in their daily lives. Who are they, really?

Still, it’s important to remember that your personas should embody the goals, motivations, needs, pain points, and behaviors of your community’s intended members.

Why is creating community personas so valuable?

Personas are a powerful community tool, as they can be used to effectively attract community members who will love and connect with your brand, as well as your community.

When it comes to building a community, personas can also map the way forward when it comes to the critical step of developing a community strategy. Your persona will give you valuable information about who you’re building for and help you choose a platform that can best suit their needs.

Considering the example above, the Community team working on this fitness app would be able to ask themselves questions like, “What does Ally need right now? What community experience would be most beneficial to her? Where is the most convenient tool for her to use?”

Personas are not only useful during the initial phases of building a community — but they can also be a valuable resource when you’re thinking about content, events, and even guidelines within both new and established communities.

Community personas: getting started

As with most community projects, it’s always best to start with your research. There are two great ways to go about this when it comes to creating your personas:

  • Surveys: A form of quantitative research. Larger data sets collected through surveys can help you make decisions with a greater degree of confidence.
  • Member interviews: A form of qualitative research. One-to-one conversations with members or ideal members that offer deeper insights into their needs, goals, and challenges.

Community user interviews guide

Both surveys and user interviews are important for painting a clear picture of your personas, but the latter can be particularly challenging. How do you know the right questions to ask?

To guide you, we’ve created a user interviews guide you can adapt within your own community. Scroll up to download the PDF.

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