Online communities are an important tool for driving sales and building a strong, engaged customer base. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that community participants at an online auction site both bought and sold more, generating on average 56% more in sales than non-community users. This translated into several million dollars in profit over the course of one year.
These results highlight significant ROI potential and demonstrate the importance of a healthy and successful community. Therefore, it's crucial that companies take action to maintain a healthy community - but what is the true definition of community health?
Whether internal or external, all healthy communities have shared characteristics - growing, engaged, positive, responsive, and interactive. Do these words describe your community or is your concept of "healthy" missing the mark?
Here are four misconceptions about online community health:
1. It's all about the numbers
Every community wants an impressive number of members, but quantity isn't always better than quality. If you have hundreds of users, but they aren't visiting regularly or making contributions, are they really adding valuable to your community?
As a best practice, review community analytics to determine what percentage of users are active. If numbers aren't where they should be, it may be time to go back to your original objectives for the community and brainstorm new marketing and engagement strategies.
2. Moderation isn't that big a deal
Community cannot be a free for all. Community managers must establish and enforce guidelines, control the tone, and monitor user behavior - if not, members can quickly be scared away by others shaming them for questions asked or answers posted.
Community managers should address any guideline violations immediately and suspend users when necessary to ensure a positive, beneficial community culture. A good community manager will promote a positive dialogue between members and directly engage members who have expressed interest on a previous topic.
3. Promotion ends after community launch
Community promotion doesn't stop after launch - you need to constantly drive users to your community encouraging and rewarding continued participation. Visibility can make or break a community - when it's no longer top of mind, membership drops, content grows stale, and knowledge loss becomes a greater threat.
To ensure your community isn't forgotten, prominently display the community link on your website, blog, and social media channels. Include the link in the footer of all company email communications. Use email alerts to notify members of new discussion opportunities. Or, send email newsletters highlighting community activity.
4. Members leave because they're unhappy
Members leave for a variety of reasons. Instead of assuming users abandon the community simply because they are unhappy, ask them what went wrong and how the problem can be resolved. Is shared content irrelevant or outdated? Are users posting questions but never receiving answers? Are members coming to the community to find answers, but not sticking around to provide help to others?
Evaluate member expectations and ask for feedback on whether or not your community is meeting their needs. Share your successes and address any concerns.
It can be tempting to assume the health of your community is top notch, but it's important to dig a little deeper and ask yourself what "community health" truly means. Is it the number of users you have or the quality of their interactions? Are users engaging regularly, but not following your established set of community guidelines?
Take a closer look at engagement levels, user activity, and culture - what you find will provide insight into your community health and enable you to adjust accordingly to deliver a stronger, more beneficial experience.