Lately we’ve been helping a client answer a pretty crucial question: What exactly is a digital community?

Rather than succumb to what I call the Turnstile Syndrome — obsessing over how many fans walk through the turnstile of your Facebook page regardless of their value — this client is focused on a far more important goal:  getting business value out of the community it already has.

Here’s how Campfire helped the client visualize its online audience:

The goal of this graphic is to remind clients that an online community is diverse.  Not every member is ripe for the hard sell. Different members have different motivations for joining.  Naturally, the farther you travel down this funnel the smaller the community gets.

Having a sense of how your members flow through this funnel – or whether they flow through it at all – will give you far more clarity about your community than most companies have. More importantly, it should inspire you to treat members at each level of this funnel differently. Doing so will put you miles ahead of those competitors still afflicted by the Turnstile Syndrome.