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5 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Online Community

Look around you - how well do you know the people you work with on a daily basis? Your boss, the marketing team down the hall, the new hire sitting next to you - they’re all hardworking members of your company, right? What if I were to tell you that you may be working with a murderer - an online community murderer?

Online communities present multiple opportunities for enhanced business value, they create an experience that helps businesses achieve goals such as awareness, brand loyalty, revenue growth, support cost savings, customer engagement, and customer retention. However, research from Gartner shows that 70% of customer communities fail due to easily avoidable mistakes.

Is there a community killer in your organization? Could it be you?

Let’s take a step back and examine the evidence - here are five red flags that a community killer may be on the loose in your organization:

1.  No launch plan   

Launching a new online community is exciting, but it's not the time to be spontaneous. Despite your best intentions, jumping in without a launch plan - and support from internal stakeholders, including the executive team - will leave your community dead on arrival.   

Before launch, map out the specifics of your community, including audience, tone, purpose, content, and goals. Also, don’t disregard the importance of a community manager. Community managers are the face, voice, and arbiter of a community. They work to achieve community goals by engaging with members, encouraging collaboration, and moderating activity. Because they know your community best, they can offer insight into the needs of your audience and deliver metrics on community health and success.

2. It’s a commercial, not a community

Online communities present multiple opportunities to enhance business value and create an experience that helps businesses achieve their goals. But at the same time, your community can't be all about you?

This is a surefire way to become a community killer - it's important to remember that the primary purpose is to serve the needs of your customers, not those of your company. Keep this top of mind by putting your customers’ needs first, providing valuable information, and driving engagement.

Listen to the needs and questions of your community members, understand their pain points and expectations, and make adjustments based on valuable customer feedback.  

3.  No balance

Engagement is critical to community health and sustainability - good community management comes from striking a balance between maintaining order and allowing your audience to engage with one another and drive discussion. 

As a community manager, don’t jump in to immediately answer every question. Despite your best intentions, this can stifle conversations and deteriorate organic engagement.

A healthy online community is its own an ecosystem in which everyone has a role to play. An effective community manager ensures the community is a welcoming and friendly space where people can share knowledge, learn from one another, and offer feedback.

Instead of always jumping in to always save the day, focus on making introductions, sparking conversations, and encouraging members to build genuine relationships.  

4. Silence

Community killers love silence. Not only are they unmotivated to participate in the community, but they also fail to encourage others to engage.

Listen to your community - what do you hear? If you’re greeted by the sound of silence, a lack of engagement is probably turning your online community into a ghost town.

Before launch, pre-populate your community with content the audience will find beneficial. Monitor key words and top questions asked, correct and incorrect answers, and refresh content as needed. Encourage user participation, and add in some fun with gamification. Award community members with badges, reputation points, and topic expertise status based on their contributions. Engagement will ensure a quality experience and keep users coming back.

5. Launch and forget

Nothing kills a community faster than forgetting about it. As noted above, it's important to have a launch plan and map out the goals of your community. However, many companies forget to check in on how their community is performing once they’ve launched.

Metrics are core components of a community strategy. By identifying and monitoring key metrics, you can tie performance back to business-level goals. This enables organizations to increase executive buy-in and prove a more impressive return on investment.

Metrics of importance include:

  • How many new members join the community each week? Each month?
  • How many members leave? 
  • Are new members actively participating? 
  • What content has the most engagement (i.e. likes, up votes or comments)? 
  • What content has the lowest amount of engagement? 
  • What content topic is the most popular? 
  • What content topic is the least popular? 
  • What content is lacking on the site that members are requesting? 
  • What content type is the most popular (i.e. video, Q&A, etc.)? 
  • What are the personas of heavy, medium, and light contributors?

Don’t let simple mistakes make you an online community murderer. Begin with a strong launch plan, create great content to drive user engagement and spark conversation, and frequently assess the health of your community and how performance aligns with company goals.

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