#TipTuesday: Using SPAN

PiperWilson HLV Staff
edited May 2023 in Talk Community #1

You're building your community, or you already have one. YAY! Online communities are fantastic! They help you reach your customers, let members collaborate and network with each other, allow you to provide support, and so on.

In a community for community managers (isn't that a mouthful?), someone presented this dilemma:

Our company is newly exploring the idea of a community related to our SaaS platform. We've hit our first roadblock in the who, what, and why the community will exist - our leadership team is divided:

One half wants to see a community of customers. Goals are customer success, retention, brand affinity, and product feedback.

The other half wants a community of practice. Goals are industry clout, brand awareness, lead generation, and SEO.

I show this not to start a debate on which type of community is the best choice but to point out the sheer number of goals the leadership team wants to accomplish. That's a lot.

"Beware of the "kid in a candy store" tendency to want it all…." The Community Manager's Playbook: How to Build Brand Awareness and Customer Engagement – Lauren Perkins

Discovering the right problem your community will fix protects you from becoming that kid in a candy store. That's where defining the primary purpose of your community comes in. Today, I'm going to focus on using SPAN. We generally use this framework when spinning a community up, but it's an excellent tool to use at any time. (Note: Don't rest on your laurels. Always analyze and adjust.)

Support – A place where members ask for support, offer help to others, and where the company can step in and provide official support.

Product – This community is based around the product, giving ideas, sharing feedback, and espousing the virtues and uses of the product.

Ambassador – The community has a focus on a small subset of users who are highly valuable, influential, or active.

Network – A community based on networking or creating connections by sharing knowledge to support a cause, mission, or circumstance.

From these four items, do everything in your power to choose ONE purpose to focus on. It's not easy. All the candy looks so good! Can't I just have a taste of each? Pretty please??? Nope!

Communities, by nature, are exclusive, and you must honor that. For example, in a community for blacksmiths, it wouldn't be reasonable to create a category for knitters, even though both are creative and work with their hands. (Communities also evolve. Someday, expanding the community to welcome knitters might make sense; but that's another conversation.)

Back to choosing one focus – consider why members want to come to your community, including but not limited to their pain points and the problems they need help with. The same questions apply to your organization, plus business goals, departmental responsibilities, etc.

Say you decide that your SPAN choice is Support. Your measurable business goals could be to reduce support costs and achieve ticket deflection. Another benefit, although more challenging to measure, is customer goodwill.

The SPAN focus you choose drives the purpose and goals of your community. Let’s talk about it.

  • If you used SPAN as you planned your community, did you find it useful? Why or why not?
  • What was the first focus of your community?
  • Did your focus change or evolve?
  • Have you added another focus since your community began?


On March 14, @Shauna hosted a brilliant HL Vanilla Connect Session about this. I highly recommend listening to the recording - HL Vanilla Connect: Strategic Community Planning Framework. The passcode is – eZUm1b7.

There is more information about SPAN in our Community Strategy KB article. In addition, here are a couple of resources for you to use.