Over the year’s we’ve compiled a good list of reasons why communities fail. These are landmines to avoid during the community development process:
- A weak community concept. This is the ultimate showstopper. If your concept is weak, the community has no chance of success. The majority of failed communities had a concept that was either a) about them or b) does not aligns with the target audience’s goals and aspirations (very often, there is no specific, narrow, target audience).
- Selecting or developing the wrong community platform. I’ve seen organizations spend millions on custom-built platforms which fall far short of their needs. Select an existing platform (or at least use Drupal/BuddyPress). Lithium, Jive, Yammer, Socious, HigherLogic, Ning, Vbulletin, Vanilla forums and many others offer great platforms at different price points and customization.
- Poorly designing the platform. If you select a good platform, but use a poor design, your community will struggle to succeed. For example, if you bury the latest activity below the fold (the scroll-down point) on the page. If you have large graphics taking up the homepage, or if you have too many features, the community is unlikely to succeed.
- Poor platform setup. Finally, for platforms, if there are other technical issues with the platform, this will lower your chances of success. This includes poor integration with existing systems, lack of core features such as notifications or a usable CMS.
- Failing to hire a full-time community manager. If you don’t hire a full-time community manager, you probably won’t succeed. You need someone that is fully committed to building relationships, creating content, initiating and responding to discussions. This is what it takes to get a community off the ground. If you can’t hire someone, don’t build a community.
- Hiring a bad community manager. If you hire someone that lacks passion, expertise, or connections within the topic, you’re going to struggle. The ideal hire loves the community’s topic already, has a lot of experience within that sector, and bring many pre-existing relationships with them. You need someone that is capable of reaching out to strangers and fostering strong relationships with them.
- Short-term goals / misplaced expectations. Many organizations undermine their own efforts by establishing poor expectations about what success looks like. They compare long-established communities to their own fledgling effort and decide they have failed. Communities look like failures before they’re successful.
- Lack of direct outreach or relationship development. If the community manager doesn’t directly interact and build relationships with the target audience, the community will struggle to reach critical mass. Many organizations try to build a community using a macro approach. They invite lots of people and see what sticks. This is linked to…
- … A big launch. If the organization has a big launch, invites thousands of members to join a community, fails to properly cultivate a small community before trying to build a big community, the community won’t attract a core group of active members.
With a little foresight and awareness, all of these can be avoided. It might help to send this list to your boss before you begin your community efforts.