• Sarah Robinson

Alias: The Secret to Understanding Your Community


Do you understand your community members? Do you truly “get” what a member regularly experiences? Are you dialed into their wants, needs, frustrations and successes in the community that you’ve built?

When I work with my clients, our early discussions center around these questions. usually they quickly answer “Oh yes, we understand them.” When I press them for how it is they understand their members so well, I usually hear words like “surveys” and “data” and “measurements”. And while those are great tools, they aren’t going to give you a true idea of what it is actually like to be a member of your community. And without that knowledge, you cannot build Fierce Loyalty.

So how do you come by this highly valuable understanding and knowledge? You develop an alias. Much like the television show “Undercover Boss”, you become one of them. And I mean truly become one of them. Develop a full identity as a member. Fill out the profile page, participate in a discussion, register for an event. Better yet, attend an event as nothing more than an attendee.

Do exactly what everyone else does and do it a lot. And do not, under any circumstances, tell your team what you are doing. You must become your alias on your own. And if you are unable to do it, find a colleague who can and be relentless in understanding their experiences. This is the only way to truly understand your community members and their experiences inside your community.

INTEGRITY CAVEAT: This is not a way for you to go into a community and try to control or manipulate anything. Your job is only to listen and participate as a member. PERIOD.

For example, if there is a log jam at event registration, you don’t jump the queue or go find someone to fix it. You stand there in line just like everyone else. You listen to what others are saying. You commiserate. You watch. You experience it. After you done this many many times, then you sit down and debrief with your team so they understand as well.

The success of your community depends on your deep understanding. Adopting an alias will give you that deep understanding. It may be challenging, it may feel awkward. Do it anyway. It will transform how you view your community and it will transform the experience you design for them.