In a recent meeting with a client, I was asked ‘What can we do to increase engagement.” It’s a question that we get a lot and one that sometimes leads to a difficult conversation about ‘change’. Sometimes you can make improvements by adding things but often you have to change things and change can be difficult.
Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help make sure that changes to your online community have a positive outcome:
DO preserve the culture and personality of the community. Don’t compare yourself to the big bland and boring social networks like Facebook. Your community is beautifully imperfect and that’s part of what makes it special.
DON’T let a vocal minority, including moderators, get in the way of change. Try to get them on board before the changes start but don’t let them walk all over you if they don’t get on board.
DO make tough decisions. One of our clients got rid of all their volunteer moderators and replaced them with a pair of paid community managers. This company wanted to shift the emphasis from enforcing rules to encouraging participation.
DO change your software. This is a self-serving suggestion but there are still too many communities running on archaic software that doesn’t do a good job with the basics: easy registration, easy content discovery, and tons of notifications to keep people coming back, just to name a few. When it comes to your old software, is it going to be migration or extinction?
DON’T expect that new software alone will drive improvements to your community metrics. Invest in some strong community management talent to be present and drive participation. If you put your community on autopilot mode, you might be heading for the rocks.
DO spend a lot of time on communications when initiating change. Your community will appreciate the investment you are making in the community if the reasons are communicated to them before hand. The number one talking point: “we are doing this for you.”
Change is hard but often necessary to keep an online community healthy.
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