I recently read a post by community manager and Feverbee Limited founder Richard Millington who suggested a notion that would make most digital marketers squirm; that growth can be bad. Before you drop-kick the social media rule book, consider Millington’s words:
“If growth hurts what you have already, or if it becomes impossible to manage, or if your community is perfectly fine as it is, then growth can be bad.”
Like many of you, I had a visceral reaction to this statement, but the more I mulled it over, I began to reflect on what successful communities look like. Growth is good but negligence in other key areas can turn a great community into one that is noisy and difficult to manage.
So what really matters? Here’s a five point criteria for successful communities:
- Activity – Participation is self-perpetual and takes many forms. Forrester outlines the seven overlapping levels of social technology participation “active” community members display. Tip: Don’t mistake one type of behavior for another (or lack thereof). Learn to identify and track different activity.
- Added Value – Whether it’s a political forum or online help desk, every community must foster discussions of value in order for members to return. Sometimes, the community itself adds value as a gathering place while others draw value from the conversations. Tip: Recognize what value means to your community and facilitate it at all costs.
- Ownership – Members must feel as if their participation and feedback matter. Ownership creates ambassadors who can promote the group (and recruit quality followers) better than any marketer. Tip: Foster ownership by providing an open, transparent feedback loop to your community; augment the community based on member needs if possible.
- Transparency – Not a new idea, but still a challenge for many community management teams. Customers are time-strapped and more savvy than ever when it comes to engaging with brands. Tip: Provide clear open communication wherever possible to earn trust and win loyalty.
- Volume – Quality over quantity is increasingly accepted as a best-practice in growing active digital communities, but quantity is still important from a practical standpoint. A community must reach a threshold to remain active. Tip: Pragmatic goal-setting and flexibility are essential. Set KPIs that are realistic and adjustable over time.
Revisit your community management programs and ask yourself if each meet the above criteria. Doing so may uncover a simple solution or growing issue that with resolution will ensure your programs continue to grow in all areas.