Is your online community losing momentum? Here are some quick tips for getting your community back on the right track.
Be active in your own community
Don’t expect activity in your community if you can’t be bothered to get involved yourself. Your input is critical, especially in the early stages. Even as your community grows and becomes stronger, you still need to be around. You need to be visible and you need to understand your community and its members. Go the extra mile for your community members, and you’ll get more of them active and addicted.
Share information about yourself
Communities really come alive when members start to really share information about themselves. This won’t come from day one. You’ll need to earn the trust of your members before they start talking about the real highs and lows of their lives. The more open your members are, the stronger your community becomes. You need to lead by example and share information about yourself. If you aren’t comfortable sharing information about your life, why should your members feel any different?
Interview your members
Your members are all that matters. Without them you have no community. Make sure the spotlight is always on them. Don’t let your most active members hog the limelight – they are already converts. Show your community that you value every single member by interviewing quieter contributors in addition to those power members.
Foster community away from your community
Having trouble getting that group of people you really want in your community away from Facebook? Stop trying – build a satellite community in Facebook, instead. The physical location of your community doesn’t matter. Over time, you may find members of your satellite communities making the transition to your community’s main ‘base’ anyway.
Analyse site stats
I would hazard a guess that this is overlooked by the majority of community managers. Some won’t even have access to this information. You should, though – it’s invaluable.
Look for bottlenecks on the site. Do certain pages have high bounce rates? Why? What pages are people spending time on? What landing pages lead to the most pageviews? How loyal are your members? Is there any relationship between loyalty and how those visitors found your community?
I could go on but I think you get the message. Spend a day, or even a week on this if you have to. Go through your site analytics with a fine-toothed comb. Learn, adjust and improve. It’s a continuous cycle.
Delegate and empower
The more influence your members have within your community, the more loyal they will be. Be careful with this one, though. You don’t want to give the wrong members more influence and power. Your most popular members may not be the right people to pick.
Find members that encompass the qualities you want in your community. You don’t need to make them staff members – just give them additional responsibilities and your ear. The more your members put into the community, the more interest they have in its success.
Get rid of the features that people aren’t using. Get rid of the forum categories that aren’t being used – you’re just emphasising how quiet your community is. If your community is drowning in noise thanks to a huge memberbase, divide your members into groups according to their passions, interests and areas of expertise. Keep your community as small as it can be – even if it is huge. Your members don’t want to know, listen and befriend everybody!
Give your community a cause
Make a stand. Get your community to rally behind a cause. You’ll attract new members and make your existing ones more passionate. Again, be careful here. Don’t choose a cause that will be so divisive it risks tearing your community apart – unless you are really brave!
*** Now, let’s bust some myths ***
Don’t add features
The more features you add, the more your are diluting your community. You want to make it stronger, not weaker. Remember – community is based on people. Not technology. Not bells and whistles.
Don’t add discussion categories
If people aren’t using what they already have, don’t add more categories. Don’t make the mistake of thinking if you add discussion topics, people will suddenly feel inspired to engage and generate content. Don’t think people are holding back talking about something because a category doesn’t exist. That’s not how it works.
Don’t redesign the site
Community members hate change. There may be some initial momentum that comes with a redesign, but it doesn’t solve the fact your community is weak. Your efforts are best invested elsewhere.
Don’t run glitzy competitions
As soon as you give away big prizes and money, you have community mercenaries – not community members. Be careful.
Don’t hire paid posters
Yes, you’ll be adding content but you aren’t guaranteeing quality. In the early phases of community building especially, your content sets your community’s norms, culture and personality. That’s worth a lot more than a few cents per post.
Don’t get desperate
Don’t ask members to post. Instead, ask them why they think activity seems to have dropped off. Don’t ask members to invite their friends. Instead, ask them why they would want to invite friends. As soon as you point fingers or become demanding, the fun has gone. Get feedback, ask questions. Don’t go crazy, though.
Don’t start advertising
Why would you want to advertise a weak community? Adding brand new members to a weak community will only make it even weaker. Strong communities start small and feel intimate, regardless of their size. Fast growth is a great ego stroke – you’ll probably be known as a community building legend, but those in the know will see through this – as will your members.