Building valuable, long-lasting, online communities takes time, commitment and understanding. In a recent webinar Rob Howard, CTO/founder of Telligent, shared some great insights into how successful communities grow, and the importance of understanding and managing the different stages of their development. He started with…
The 3 cardinal sins of running a community:
- If you build it they will come. Probably the most common online community fallacy. Too many organisations believe that simply rolling out a given technology (blogs, forums, wikis, etc.) will be enough to attract and engage users, who will then go on to form vibrant communities. This can be attributed to the lure of “social software”, companies jumping at an application or platform rather than looking to extend or create value for their audiences.
- Once it’s launched, we’re done. Many communities launch successfully, only to fade out and disappear. This is due in large part to a failure to take-on or secure ownership of the community and to have a strategy that lasts past “launch.”
- Bigger is better. It is often assumed that the overall size of a community is indicative of its success. However, a community’s value to its members is more about the quality and relevance of engagement and content rather than numbers. This can be challenging for most community managers and businesses to understand, and is often contrary to what they’ve usually been told.
All 3 sins can cause a community to fail, and there are plenty of examples. So, understanding the way a community develops can play a major role in helping avoid these mistakes.
Four Key Stages of The Community Lifecycle;
- On-Board: The starting point of any community; potential members are looking for content, most of which is created by the community’s founders, and for help in gaining access to it.
- Established: The community is becoming self-sustaining, with the members increasingly creating and contributing content, although some reliance on the founders is still necessary. It is the established phases of the community where analytics can be used to understand user behavior and value.
- Mature: The community is self-sustaining, and clear relationships between individuals are being formed. Users can be recognised as particular types (influencers, seekers, moderators, originators, etc.) and are participating fully. Little or no supervision is required by the founders, who can now simply become credible participants able to interact as equals.
- Mitosis: Over time, core community members can become distanced from new participants who don’t share the same values. These core community members seek more focus on specific topics and relationships. Successful communities enable this and allow the community to split into smaller nodes, thus returning to an Established phase and repeating the life cycle process.
The better an organisation understands this community lifecycle and then develops specific strategies to make the most of each stage, the more likely it is to develop engaged, long-lasting communities that provide real value to the business.