Don’t Kill Your Community Before It Starts

Earlier today, I participated in a webinar called “Community Killers”. It was presented by Miles Sims of Small World Labs. Miles gave some advice on what Small World Labs sees as choices that can lead to destroying, or at least hampering the success, of online communities.  Below are the four ‘community killers’ and some thoughts of mine, blended together.

1. Being too Tech-Centric
It gets easy when building a new online space to get caught up in all the cool things that can be done, especially on a white label solution. People get excited and start thinking ‘we need more features, right now!’ and ‘Our users [or CEO] will love this!’

Remember that features come and go, but the community needs a reason to stick around.

  • Begin with the end in mind – what is the purpose of building the community?
  • Start small and focused and build out your platform as the community grows
  • Add the bells and whistles as the community requests them – listen to what they want!

Without a complete strategy on how to add and manage content or who is in charge of creating content, the community site is in danger of becoming all flash, no substance. There is enough flash online. Give your community substance.

2. Lack of relevance to customers
Building an online community is not like building a baseball field. Do not go into this project  thinking ‘If we build it, they will come.‘ Simply put, the community space is not about the company. It is about the customer. Give them a reason to join the party and a chance to participate in shaping the brand.

3. Implementing Web 1.0 Strategies in a 2.0 Environment

Companies that don’t ‘get it’ will treat an online community like just another marketing campaign.  They don’t want to lose control, so they see no reason for the company, or its employees on the site, to be open, transparent or authentic. Those that don’t get it are thinking ‘push our message’ and not ‘what can the community tell us?’

Brands that get the strategies behind social media understand:

  • The difference between what people will view and what they’ll share.
  • If people are passionate about the community goals, they will be committed to making it grow
  • Ask the question ‘What does your community empower people to do?’

4. Poor Metrics
Everyone wants to base success on the the number of users signed up in a community. That isn’t the best way to measure the successfulness of a campaign. Use this rule of thumb: If it’s important to your business, measure it!

As community spaces mature, companies are seeing increasing customer loyalty, adoption of new products/services and cost savings. These are good things to measure, if they fall within your business objectives. When a business ties its goals directly to the metrics, they will have an accurate gague of success. Also, don’t forget to measure what the company invests into building, moderating and maintaining its online community.

Finally, when you do report on the number of users in a community, make sure to differentiate between actives and registered, lurkers and superusers. Not every user is counted equally!

Thanks to Miles and Small World Labs for providing some insight into what makes online communities fail and succeed. Now I pose the question to you, what other decisions lead to the road of online community failure? On the contrary, what are the best choices that can be made to help a community succeed?


One thought on “Don’t Kill Your Community Before It Starts

  1. This is good advice. Unfortunately, the drive (or better described as ‘The mandate’) to monetize everything a company does online or offline forces many businesses to not take this advice. Many companies will sacrifice the wealth build from building solid business relationship within the community they entered to go for only making one or two sales or only substantiate their popularity to the advertisers who feet their online addition. The value of the online community is not full appreciated by the majority of businesses. They only value the immediate return on their association with the community, not the long term, more cost effective, profits gained from building loyalty to a brand through building solid business relationships.

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