Given the social nature of the internet, online communities offer a very rewarding experience to customers, to the extent that they’re among the most valuable of marketing tools . In fact, having a thriving community to complement your product or service is a key selling point in and of itself.
As a place where customers connect with each other and have direct access to your team, a community serves as a one-stop informational resource to help people get the most out of their purchases.
On the other hand, a community that’s no longer carefully managed or regularly updated has the opposite effect, becoming a liability that detracts from your brand’s image.
What Does an Abandoned Community Look Like?
Both consumers and business customers head to online communities to share their experiences, ask for help, provide feedback and connect with others. Just look at the enormous popularity of Apple products, which is by and large the result of a lively community of fiercely loyal brand advocates.
An abandoned community is the exact opposite. Without constructive participation from members and representatives of your organization, an online community will quickly find itself populated by spammers and trolls. Any kind of constructive conversation ends up being diluted by junk, turning people away for good. Moreover, abandoned communities give customers the impression that the brand behind them has given up support for its products and services – and that’s hardly a good thing from a sales perspective.
In many ways, abandoned online communities mirror real-world communities that have been deserted. Whereas deserted towns and buildings are often targets for scavengers, abandoned online forums are targeted by spammers who use the lack of moderation and brand involvement to their advantage. This might involve posting junk links or – even worse – links to malicious downloads and websites. If a potential or existing customer visits your community only to end up with malware on their computer, your brand will lose all credibility with them.
Abandoned online communities also attract trolls. Without moderators leading the discussion and motivating people to post constructively, it doesn’t take long before the community is overrun by unsavory types wanting to take advantage of the lawlessness.
How to Reinvigorate a Dead Community
There’s no doubt that maintaining a healthy and active community is a challenging task. That’s why a lot of brands fail to nurture their members, despite investing in a community platform and designing the site. Oftentimes, they make the grave mistake of assuming it will look after itself.
If your community lacks constructive participation or has become a hangout for trolls and spammers, act quickly to stop it from further damaging your reputation.
The first step is to run an audit to uncover the issues and set your priorities. Depending on its current state, you may need to start over by rebranding your community to reflect your new vision. This is a good opportunity to choose a new community platform that can be better tailored to meet your specific needs.
The next step is to clean up your existing forums by removing spammers and trolls and getting rid of any threads they’ve either started or hijacked. Again, this might involve starting from scratch, especially if the magnitude of the problem is so great that it’s practically impossible to manually remove all the bad content.
Once you’ve cleaned up your community or started afresh, it’s time to advertise that you’re back in the game by apologizing to your existing members and making them aware of the changes. From then on, you need to implement and maintain a system that rewards constructive feedback, such as through gamification features, before enrolling a team of moderators to keep the conversation civil and keep trolls and spammers at bay.