A few months ago a potential client
confessed they were going with a terrible platform because their CEO was
friends with the guy that made the platform.
This didn’t end well.
This is the golden age of community
platforms. The majority of platforms we see today are good enough to build a
community on. However, many organizations still end up with terrible, debilitating, platforms.
The challenge shouldn’t be in avoiding the
terrible platforms. The challenge should be picking the best of a great bunch. Here are a
few rules that might help.
Rule 1) Don’t develop your own community
Few organizations that develop their own,
bespoke, platform develop a successful community. You don’t have the experience
or knowledge to develop a successful platform from scratch. The odds on making
a mistake are high. Even if you do develop a good one, members will still have
to learn how to use it. That’s a big barrier.
There are enough good platforms out there
today that you don’t have to develop one, you just have to choose one.
Rule 2) Don’t try to change fundamental
If your audience has never used a community
platform before, stick to e-mail mailing lists (which works extremely well for
the community of community managers). If your audience doesn’t use e-mail, find
what technologies they do use and include this in your decision-making. The less an audience has to learn to use the platform, the more people will use it.
Rule 3) Don’t blow your budget on the
The high-end enterprise platforms may
charge over $100k per year (plus $100k setup fee) for their platform. This is
fine if your budget is $500k+, otherwise get something more affordable.
For a rough idea, expect to spend $50k+ for
most known enterprise platforms. $20k to $30k for a developed open-source
platforms, $15k+ per year for lower level enterprise platforms and those that
target specific verticals i.e. associations, and sub $1k for hosted white-label
platforms, forums etc…
4) Be aware of your own organization’s skills and resources
Platforms need maintenance, updating,
further design, security, and plenty more. Does your organization have the
time, knowledge, and money to perform these actions? Setting up a platform is
easy compared with managing it. If you lack these resources, open-source
platforms aren’t a great option for you.
Rule 5) Be open to different types of
Almost every organization ignores mailing
lists, forums, and LinkedIn groups. Most won’t even consider using these as
their community platforms. Yet these are the cheapest, most popular, and most
successful community platforms in the world.
You don’t need the number of features you
need, the specific design you have in mind, nor a number of other things. If
you’re disregarding an incredibly successful platform because it doesn’t have single sign-on, something is wrong.
Rule 6) Ask for help
If you’ve never done this before, ask for
help. You can seek professional help from organizations like ours that do this
with multiple clients, or (cheaper) ask friends whom have done this before.