I was talking with an entrepreneurial friend about a new web-based business she is preparing to launch. Without going into details—she wanted to promote the business to her target audience as a narrowly-defined community. Creating community is important, but don’t forget that any time you create a community, you tend to exclude others. That might be fine if you truly ONLY want to reach that particular community, but that’s usually not the case.

One way to maximize the size of your audience while you focus on a community is to define it in terms of a primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. For example, let’s say you want to design a website for female athletes and you want to promote it as a “community.” Your primary audience is female athletes. Friends and families of those athletes are the secondary audience, and the organizations or associations that cater to athletes is a tertiary audience. Often the effort to create content for these additional audiences is quite small in comparison to how much broader your overall audience will be.

Be inclusive rather than exclusive.

If you are creating a website aimed at a narrow audience and you want to instill a sense of community, try defining that community by what it is and what it includes, rather than what it is not or what it excludes.  Again looking at the website for female athletes, are you sure you want to exclude men? How about girls? How about school-age kids and their coaches and parents? Look at ways that your initial community idea can be broadened to include others who would also be interested in your core concept.

Broadening your audience not only increases the number of potential members of your community (as well as the number of potential customers), it brings a more diverse group of people together, which could end up as a benefit for everyone.

The moral of the story:

When you broaden your audience by being inclusive rather than exclusive, you not only increase the overall size of your community, but also the diversity and likely the quality of the community experience.

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