7 Themes to Guide Community Content & Programming

2 minute read

October 5, 2022

7 Themes to Guide Community Content & Programming

Brainstorming new community content programming and ideas is one of the most fun parts of this work. But it can also feel random, arbitrary, and like a guessing game. That’s why a structure or framework for brainstorming is so helpful. 

If you’ve been brainstorming ideas without any structure, you’re likely aware that it’s not a long-term solution. It leads to a constant search for something new and fresh—or to following trends instead of leading with confidence. 

Right now, I want you to think about an online community that you’re part of or one that inspires you. Consider what makes it so special to you, specifically in these areas:

  • What kinds of content gets shared in this community? 
  • What kinds of events and programs are hosted or shared? 
  • What makes the content, events, or programs appropriate or effective for this particular community? 
  • In what ways do the content, events, or programs serve member needs? 

Most likely, you’ve noticed that there are some common themes among the most effective content and programs within the community. In my work, I generally break these down into seven main categories of content and programs, which you can play around with in your own community. 

  1. Educational: helps participants grow toward deeper mastery of a subject
  2. Stories: reminds or introduces members to the story of how the community came to be and who the important people are to its foundations
  3. Debate: holds space for tough conversations that apply specifically to your community members
  4. Welcoming: inviting in new members to interact with the “veterans” of the community
  5. Celebration: recognizes the achievements, changes, and milestones of members and the community as a whole 
  6. Friendship cultivation: provides a space for members to get to know each other in a personal context
  7. Co-creation: organizes members’ collaboration toward a common project or goal 

These seven types of content and programs must be applied within your specific context, but they can provide endless ideas for meaningful interaction.  

What posts, events, activities, programs, and rituals align with your community’s unique purpose and values? How can they be created to meet your members’ needs? 

Challenge yourself to brainstorm at least 10 ideas for your community within each category mentioned above (and, yes, there will be overlap), even if you have to come up with something that seems silly at first. Sometimes the zany ideas you come up with when trying to push yourself end up being the best ones. 

This is a simple structure that can guide your brainstorming, bringing clarity to an otherwise random process.

Want to know more about building community? Check out this post on must-read books for community managers.


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Carrie Melissa Jones

Written by Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie Melissa Jones is a community leader, entrepreneur, and community management consultant who has been involved with online community leadership since the early 2000s. As the founder of Gather Community Consulting, she consults with brands to build and optimize communities around the world.

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