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
- 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.