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4 Ways to Prepare For Your Community Migration

6 minute read

July 15, 2020

Migrating from your current community forum software (for example, Higher Logic, Khoros, Salesforce, etc.) to Vanilla is an exciting time. And while a migration presents the opportunity to improve your community, build and customize features that your members want and create new programs to engage your members, it's often a stressful time for community managers and their teams.

But here's the good news.

Those who've already migrated to Vanilla say that after everything is said and done, there was really no reason to worry—in fact, some even report that it's the smoothest thing they've ever done. That's because the Vanilla SuccessTeam™ works to ensure that the process is understood from inception to completion and that every step is managed and overseen by a designated Customer Success Manager (CSM) so everything is as smooth as possible.

But we know that planning is key, and that most of you want to be proactive in order to feel properly prepared for the beginning of this new journey. And so, even though your CSM will lead you through every step of this process, this blog will unpack 4 things that you can do now to help you get your ducks in a row before the migration. 

1. Manage the Change Process

Just because you and your community team are excited about the migration doesn't mean that everyone else is. Change can be a tough thing to manage for many organizations, so you want to make sure that everyone that plays a role in the success of your community (which, if you've read any of our content at Vanilla, you know that all departments should have a stake in the community) understand the change that the community is about to undergo, and the benefits that it'll bring.

Statistics show that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, which is largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. That being said, to prepare for your Vanilla migration, you want to assess your current community goals, determine if/ how they should be adjusted and meet with all internal stakeholders to explain your strategy, and how Vanilla will help you achieve these goals.

Keep in mind that you already have these answers; you know that Vanilla will help you achieve your community goals, which is why you're migrating to Vanilla in the first place. Use these notes to explain your decision and your future community plans to ensure that your staff (and executives!) understand the process. Answer questions and get them involved—this will help them get as excited for the change as you are. 

Ultimately, the best way to get your organization to embrace this new change is to maintain open and clear communication, and involve all internal stakeholders in the process. Change can be quite easy to manage if you know what you're doing, but failing to manage change correctly can be detrimental. 

Knowledge Centered Support

Be sure to check our our eBook, Knowledge Management, Knowledge-Centered Support and Strategic Change Managementto learn more about how to manage the change process in your organization. The lessons from this eBook will give you valuable pointers that you can use to ensure everyone embraces your upcoming migration to Vanilla. 

2. Keep Your Community in the Loop

This is something that I can't stress enough, and is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make when undergoing a migration. Many organizations make this mistake, and the consequences are dire—keeping your members in the dark and surprising them at the last minute (or even worse, when they login and everything is different) is not the way to manage a migration process. 

From the very moment that you sign the dotted line and know for sure that your community will be migrating to a new platform, tell your members. Making a community announcement about your migration plans, the impact it will have on your members and what this means for the community at whole is a great start. But as you learn the step-by-step process that your migration will be taking, it's always good to provide periodic updates to your original announcement. 

Another thing that you can (and should!) do is have a meeting with your Super Users and give them all the information they need to help you address any community questions or concerns. Once you make a public announcement about your upcoming migration, you're sure to have a bunch of questions headed your way. Sharing everything you know with your top members will help you deal with the influx of questions you're likely to receive—which will help you out a lot. 

Additionally, by keeping your members in the loop, you have the amazing opportunity to collect ideas and feedback on what your members want to see in the new community. Perhaps they have some great suggestions for your gamification system, or maybe they want to see certain changes made to Categories. Keeping communication open will not only allow you to get great ideas, but it will also help hype up the excitement for the new community—which is VERY important.

3. Have a Soft Launch

A soft launch is always part of our migration strategy at Vanilla, and is something that we always recommend. And while we will make suggestions on how to proceed with your soft launch, there are a ton of different ways that you can tackle this. Different communities approach their soft launch in a variety of ways, and so, this is something that you should start to think about once you know that you're going to be migrating.

One of the biggest reasons why a soft-launch is a must is because the feedback is invaluable. We talked a bit about the value of feedback in the point above, but the soft-launch actually gives your members a chance to "demo" the community and see if all is working as it should. Getting this feedback before you officially go live is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure that your community sees success! 

When planning your soft launch, think about who it is that you want to invite to participate. Many communities invite their Super Users and Moderators to take a look around, since these people are invested in your brand and are in a good position to judge the experience. 

Generally speaking, most soft launch strategies look to gather feedback on a number of important factors, including:

  • The style/ theming of your community - is it on brand and appealing to viewers?

  • The user interface - it is easy for members to navigate your community?

  • New member onboarding - does the community make it easy for newcomers to understand the community rules, the purpose and how to actually participate?

  • Creating new discussions - is it easy for newcomers to understand how to create a new discussion?

  • The ideation system - is it working as intended and easy to use?

  • The gamification system - is your community gamification system easy to understand, on brand and fun to use?

Of course, this list is non-exhaustive, and there may be many different things you want to test out. If you need a few pointers, don't worry, our Success Team will be there to help you make a plan that's right for your unique community needs.

4. Reassess Community Behaviours

A new community presents you with the opportunity to start with a clean slate. While all your data and information will be imported exactly as you wish, you also have the opportunity to reassess member behaviours and attitudes and make any adjustments. 

Think of it as moving into a new house. It's a new shell, but within your new house is all the furnishings from your old house. But of course, a new house is a great reason to finally get that couch that you've had your eye on.

What I'm saying is, a new community is a great reason to take a look at how you previously handled things like trolls, spam, and create a new strategy so that you don't run into the same issues. This is also true when it comes to your community rules and guidelines. Take a moment to think about what your community goals are, and what types of member behaviours will help you get there.

Reassess and refresh your guidelines if you spot any flaws. This is the perfect time.

In conclusion, we wish you all the best on your move—but just know Vanilla is with you!

Community Manager Survival Guide

Community Product

Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla Forums. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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