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Shared Purpose: The Key to an Effective Community

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Great communities are intentional: they are carefully considered, built on the exchange of social objects around a shared purpose that unites its members. Community success in large part is predicated on the existence of a shared purpose. Shared purpose answers the question “Why would anyone invest time in this community?”


Shared purpose is the bridge between the brand promise and brand purpose, ultimately it is what the brand and customer aspire to create together. 


Creating a healthy branded community requires an investment in aligning the community participant, or stakeholder, values with the established brand values.


The social web is littered with online community ghost-towns. In fact, Analyst Jenny Sussin from Gartner, in her report The 3x5 Approaches to Peer-to-Peer Communities for Social CRM, predicts 70% of these will fail by 2014 after generating little or no return for their owners. Innovative brands design communities of shared interest and empower participants as co-creators of engaging experiences within these communities.


What does shared purpose look like?

blog_sharedpurpose_avon.pngAvon Beauty Connects is a community with a strong sense of shared purpose. With a rich 128 year heritage, Avon is a leading global beauty company as well as one of the world’s longest standing direct selling companies.


In 1886, direct selling at Avon represented a means for women to earn their own money at a time when not many women worked outside the home. It connected women, who were otherwise isolated and immersed in domestic life, in what the company calls “the original social network.”


Discovery and identification of a shared purpose that aligns member aspirations and commitments from the brand is a necessary first step to building a long-term, self-sustaining enterprise social customer experience strategy.


5 questions to help you define shared purpose:

To define the shared purpose of a community and how it maps to your social customer experience, ask yourself these five questions:


  1. Who will be a part of your community? There are many member types (aka stakeholders) who may benefit from being a part of your community, and you need to identify them [employees, loyal customers, consumers, etc] up front.
  2. What’s in it for them? … what value do these different member types bring …
  3. What will they individually contribute? … what value do they contribute …
  4. How do each of these member types relate to or interact with one another?
  5. What is your role, the brand’s role, as primary stakeholder? What should you do to support or empower the best experience for all member types involved?


blog_sharedpurpose_think.pngWhy go through all this work?

Shared Purpose is you community’s “reason for being”, and is critical to creating a guiding point of view and vision. Once you nail this, you’re ready to move on to building your experience: Here are some of the ways our customers have used this work in their community design strategy:

  • … customer journey development
  • … wireframing, UI and UX design efforts
  • …. Success criteria and KPI identification
  • … guide/prioritize features and functionality
  • … guide preparation of employee / partner playbooks and training


As you think about developing a branded community, consider your communities shared purpose and how you will go about discovering what it is. Putting your community team through its paces on this exercise will help your community reap the benefits of long term sustained engagement from your customers, employees and the empowered consumer that represents long-term growth and the future of your business.


xav.jpgXavier is Director of Social Strategy at Lithium. His time at Lithium is spent focusing on building digital transformation and long-term customer engagement programs and solutions for our enterprise retail, marketing and media customers. Xavier has been a featured speaker on topics including web analytics and digital branding, CRM and customer loyalty at, eMetrics, The Word Of Mouth Marketing Association and the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.

Tags (1)
Khoros Staff
Khoros Staff

Great post Xavier.


The deeper you commit to exploring and defining community shared purpose, the better the chances are that your community will share stories that invite participation and create shared experiences. It is within these shared experiences that purposeful connections between the brand and consumers can take shape. 


Without shared purpose, brands run the risk of falling into bad habits like referring to and thinking of the people in community as an audience or users; implying that they are passive viewers instead of engaged participants. When this happens, we see brands struggle with wanting to control the conversations in community and declare points of view.


Ultimately, shared purpose can create the space for people to define, create and share their story through the acquisition and application of your brand's products and services. Ideally, they will become people who interact and transact with your brand in meaningful and immersive ways.


New Commentator

I think this is key and you can tell the communities that work from those that don't based on this. A community without a shared purpose doesn't build a sense of belonging or a good atmosphere for its community members.

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

@KevinK  -  thanks for the notes. Glad to hear we are all speaking with one voice here. 


@paddysteen - I like the term you used "sense of belonging" i'm going to use that more frequently when speaking oin this subject as it seem to more fully express the collective emotive nature of what happens when a community comes together, which after all is the whole point of having a community.





Esteemed Contributor
Esteemed Contributor

Well done Xavier,

I particularly argree with these 2 sentences:


"Shared purpose is the bridge between the brand promise and brand purpose, ultimately it is what the brand and customer aspire to create together. 


Creating a healthy branded community requires an investment in aligning the community participant, or stakeholder, values with the established brand values."


No matter a business or personal community, there must be a defining theme or purpose that brings the membership together.