Communities online can die a slow...... uneventful...... death. If you are wondering whether or not yours is on the brink of failure, here are a few ways to know.
But first I should mention that the majority of communities started online are short-lived, primarily due to how they are managed and maintained. Most online communities end with members gradually drifting away into an abyss of spam and broken images. Don't blame the platform you are on or the lack of whatever you feel is holding you back. The truth is this: If you're not running your community and constantly adapting it to the times, not paying attention to trends and bridging gaps, you have no one to blame but yourself. If a newsletter can get 100,000 readers, so can you.
This is not an exhaustive list but it is the primary set of signals I look for when people call asking me to revive their dying community. There are some clear danger signals to keep filed in the back of your mind that your community is going downhill, these are a few to watch out for:
- You find a different site when searching for your own. Go ahead and search for your community, i'll wait. Now if you have other websites showing up when you search for yourself, you may have SEO search engine optimization issues or someone moving much faster and more efficient than yourself has highjacked your idea. I don't mean to alarm you but it should cause concern.
- No new posts in over 24 hours. There must be a flow happening with your content. Categories and organization can help with getting people engaged. That said, if your community goes an entire day (except for maybe Christmas) without a single interaction you’re pretty much standing on the cliff of failure. The panic button in your mind should be pushed. Nevertheless, there is still hope if you are willing to work at it. Engage heavily in one to one interactions with your members to inject activity.
- Your Members are jumping ship If you have people writing you to ask you to remove them from your group that could indicate a lot of different types of issues, but most often they cannot find your unsubscribe button. If a person wanting to leave cannot locate that they either A) dislike your site too much to look for it or B)dislike the site even more for not quickly being able to subscribe.
- Key players have moved on with no Communication. Name your top 10 contributors. Have any of them been posting less frequently in recent days? Why do I ask? Find out who they are and communicate with them to see why they may have lost interest.
- Far Less members are jumping in. The number of members who join is an ever fluxuating situation with a lot of factors like time of year, search index, things in the news ect. Remember that your community members are transient, they get jobs, move location, start families- start their own communities (see 6). You need a constant supply of fresh blood to keep the community active. You can and should regularly measure the number of new members joining, when it dips (or slows) take action to recruit new members. Use social media forums for this..
- Suddenly, a new rival community is rapidly gaining momentum. There are no unique ideas and ideas are worth nothing without execution. So, someone else might have a similar idea and create a community like yours. If you see a new community in your field rapidly gaining momentum, it means you’re not providing something these members need. In my 13 years of community building I have seen upwards of 10 other sites built to compete with mine and all 10 plus 3 magazines have gone out of business. Why? I get news to them as it is made...
- Posts go unanswered. A big fat 0 under a post should mean it is brand new...if it goes unanswered for too long, it must not be that interesting. Share interesting posts with the entire community if the topic is broad. If the topic is very specific and many are discussing it, you need a group to move those discussions to. Helping members self group inspires conversation. The lack of conversation is a clear flag something is wrong. When posts start going unanswered, people begin to drift away.
- Declining sector/topic/passion. If you built your community around folks who own ipods, chances are that community either adapted to iphones and ipads or can only be found on the Way Back Machine. It’s entire audience has moved on to other devices. That niche is dead, it didn’t stick with the players.
- Lack of friendliness. Whilst arguments are important, friendliness is more important. Do members seem less friendly recently? Do they lack familiarity with each other and previous community discussions? Do they know who the top members in a community are?
- Boring discussions-blah blah blah. This may sound subjective, but trust me, it is important. Do the discussions feel like they’re less interesting recently? Is there a poor quality of things to talk about? Did you pick a niche with legs or a ditch full of eggs? Get creative! Move things around. Group content by type and introduce 'collections.' Reflect on the reasons why you began your community in the first place. Rake things back in and bring the flame back.
You can do it.
It's not what you look at, but what you see that matters.
If not, I can help you.....maybe.
Regardless of what you used to do, you must adapt. Keep an eye for these signals and react aggressively when you spot one. Don’t be passive, by the time you spot a signal, it might already be almost impossible to reverse the problem.