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Competitive Landscape Analyses Through the Community Lens

4 minute read

June 1, 2022

If your community is just starting out—or if you’re auditing an existing community—you may be tasked to create a competitive landscape analysis: a tool that examines other communities in your industry or niche. This can be a fun task and an exciting time of discovery that guides you to deliberately and thoughtfully invest in launching a unique community experience (rather than hodge-podge things together). 

Simply put, competitive landscape analyses help systematically monitor and compare the activities of competitors. The process of creating a competitive landscape analysis for a community is simply the process of evaluating the other communities in your niche or industry as well as communities that inspire you and identifying how you can strategically position your community to be successful in a noisy marketplace. 

To complete your analysis, You can take either a quantitative approach like the one described in “Mapping Your Competitive Position” by Richard A. D’Aveni or a more qualitative approach like the one outlined by SurveyMonkey.

But do not simply copy-and-paste competitive landscape analyses and practices from other departments, such as marketing, brand, or product teams. They alone will not help you. Community is a different focus; it requires different lenses. 

In order to get the best possible insights—and therefore the biggest bang for your buck in terms of time spent researching—make sure to avoid these common mistakes when conducting your community’s competitive landscape analysis. 

Mistake #1: Seeing the competitive landscape as competition.

When conducting a competitor landscape analysis, it’s easy to lean into the “competitor” angle. But it is not about being competitive; your community exists in an ecosystem. As such, make sure to view the landscape as objectively as possible when doing your research. Know that your goal is not to “crush” the competition, but to find unique ways to serve your community. You may even discover that you can partner creatively with so-called competitors. 

There will be things that your community does that others would never dream of. There will be things that other communities do for which you simply don’t have the resources, and vice versa. 

You exist in an ecosystem. Instead of trying to dominate others, look for potential ways to partner, supplement, or strengthen existing options. 

Mistake #2: Not looking outside your niche. Staying in your bubble.

You will find inspiration for your work well outside your niche or industry. That’s why it’s important to take a look at a variety of similar communities in totally different industries. Use those as inspiration and have a section of your landscape dedicated to outside inspiration.

Aim to find 3–5 communities outside your niche that can help motivate you to raise the bar for your own community. You can view these communities as “aspirational”. You can even reach out to their community leaders to develop relationships with potential career role models. 

Mistake #3: Ignoring the vibe and values of the programs.

One way you can differentiate your work is to focus on the values that set your community apart from others in the ecosystem. Oftentimes communities offer very similar activities (e.g., webinars, tutorials, Q&A sections) but their approach is different—and that distinction makes one community a better fit for some members than others. 

For example, Drift’s community feels cutting-edge—but friendly and simple. Mural’s community feels light, creative, and vibrant. The two communities would be difficult to confuse even from a quick glance. 

Mistake #4: Not looking at what is said about them on unofficial channels.

Don’t just take the creators’ word for it that their community is awesome. Take a look for yourself if you can. Often the experience does not live up to the hype around a community. 

Other times, it goes well beyond the hype. But you’ll never know until you do some sleuthing. For instance, if you look up how the Amazon Heroes community feels about their interactions with the brand, you’ll find: 

Try searching for community names + Reddit, Community, or Reviews to find the really good stuff. 

That will give you a real behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be in the community. Make sure to include insights from this research in your competitive landscape. These insights often surprise and inspire members of your team who don’t have the capacity to do this kind of in-depth objective digging. 

As you work through your own competitive landscape analysis, be careful to avoid these four mistakes. The detailed insights you compile will help you with both long and short-term decisions and will ensure that your community stands out in the crowd.

Find out more about how MURAL built their outstanding community in just a few months via our live case study here!

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Community

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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