We’re usually invited to work on one of three types of community projects:
1) “We have a success and want to make it better”. This is usually when someone wants to overcome a specific challenge, develop a longer-term roadmap, or improve a particular area.
2) “We’re about to launch a community and want to get it right”. This is self-explanatory. Someone needs help to launch the community.
3) “We’ve screwed it up and need help”. Engagement is plummeting, people aren’t participating, and the community is heading towards life support.
I suspect most of you (even if it’s not explicit) are working on one of these three types of communities too.
Each requires an entirely different approach.
1) Successes that can be more successful. These are the most exciting to work on. This is where systematic improvements, training staff, benchmarking (and appropriating good ideas), 1 to 5 year roadmaps, creating better operations structure, building stronger internal relationships, testing ideas and measurement is critical to success. You have some good roadmaps to follow here. The big challenge is narrowing all the options to focus on the ones that matter.
2) Getting started projects. These require a tremendous force of will to take off. You have to define a powerful community concept, get support for it, build close relationships with founding members, start and test early interactions, grow steadily and then decide the requirements for a bigger community platform. Within this, there’s a huge difference between say, launching a support community for a huge existing community and starting an interest community for a brand which can’t drive thousands of people to the community tomorrow. Managing expectations is critical in these projects.
3) Turning around failures. This is by far the hardest work. You can see how we helped Colleen at Mayo Clinic here. This requires diagnosing the problem(s) using the right metrics, undertaking a lot of research of members and deciding if it’s a series of small tweaks or a profound overhaul (usually the latter). A profound overhaul usually means a) a change in staff b) a change in platform or c) a change in concept. The hard part is gaining support for this overhaul and doing it right.
Be clear about what kind of work you’re doing.