How to use social sciences to build better branded communities

Most branded community managers only perform a tiny function of their role. They ignore what community builders have been doing for centuries. They ignore decades of proven research into what makes communities tick.  We can change that by using a community management framework that’s based upon social sciences (not online marketing!).

The role of the community manager can be broken into eight distinct elements: the community management frame- work. It’s a template you can use for managing an online community.

1)     Strategy. The community manager collects data on the community, analyzes that data to identify the community’s health, progress, and value. The health highlights immediate concerns (e.g. lack of repeat visits), progress highlights what you need to work on next to develop the community, and the value highlights whether the community delivers a benefit to the organization. You then use this data to establish objectives and convert this into a week-by-week action plan.

2)     Growth. The community manager increases the number of active members in the community. This is via direct marketing tactics (including direct invitations), word-of-mouth tactics, and outbound promotion. The community manager also optimizes the newcomer to a regular conversion funnel.

3)     Content. The community manager is responsible for creating, editing, facilitating, and soliciting content. This content will involve creating a content calendar and mixing informative content with content that’s persuasive, entertaining, and satisfies the social needs of members (through giving recognition to members).

4)     Moderation. You need to be removing the obstacles to participation (spam, negative/off-topic posts, poor structure) and encouraging members to contribute (initiating discussions, remove obstacles to participation, steering discussions).

5)     Events and activities. The community manager needs to be creating regular and irregular online/offline events for the community. These help stimulate activity and build a stronger sense of community. 

6)     Relationship and influence. You need to build relationships with the top members in the community. This helps you gain influence within the community, recruit volunteers, and develop an insider group for support.

7)     Business integration. As community manager, you build support internally and work to integrate the organization with the community. You help integrate the 4Ps, place (distribution), product, price, and promotion and develop tremendous value exchange opportunities for the community.

8)     User experience. You need to optimize and improve the community platform. This includes maintenance, scanning future platform changes, and dozens of miscellaneous tweaks and activities.

If you want a cheat-sheet, you can use the table below:





Collecting Data

Direct invitations


Creating calendar

Analysing data


Social density

Informative content

Establishing goals


Initiating discussions

Entertaining content

Communicating goals


Resolving disputes

Persuasive/inspiring content

Ecosystem scanning

Converting newcomers into regulars

Steering the community

User generated content

Soliciting responses




Business Integration

User Experience

Personal participation

Online and regular

Engaging employees


Cultivating volunteers

Online and irregular

Tremendous value exchanges

Future scanning

Befriending key members

Offline and regular



Offline and irregular



 Content and Discussions





The amount of time you spend on each component will vary. To use a simple example, in the early stages of the community lifecycle, more time might be spent on growth and less time on business integration. As the community matures, you might spend more time on the user experience.

Generally speaking, the more mature the community, the more time you spend on macro-level activities that affect as many members as possible.

Each of these elements has a goal that benefits the development of the community. Each of these elements can be quantified with numerical data to measure the success of the effort. You can use proven data and theory to optimize each of these elements.

Richard Millington is the Managing Director of and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online communities.

  • janeleonard

    really great framework, thanks for sharing