Sharon recently mentioned she had a clique problem.
She had a group of highly active regulars who were preventing newcomers from participating and feeling engaged. How can she fix this?
First, you prove the assumption. What data supports this assumption?
The conversion funnel
Look at the conversion funnel, where are newcomers dropping out?
Is it between visiting and registering? This would suggest members aren't finding a reason to interact and engage with other members. It might be poorly targeted traffic, or a lack of interesting discussions. It may also imply the registration process is overly complicated.
Is it between registering and participating? This would again imply that members who register aren't being guided to make their first contribution. They might lost interest during the process or struggle to find the discussion they wished to participate in.
Is it between their first participation and their second? This usually suggests the response to their first contribution didn't engage them, the notification system is poor, or they simply had one question to ask and not come back.
Is it between their first week and their first month? Between the first month and six months? This suggests something affected their long-term engagement. They didn't feel a sense of community. They didn't befriend others.
You have to measure both activity on the platform to identify where people are dropping out (first contribution, second, fifth, tenth etc…) and length of time (1st week, 1st month, 6 months). Some members are highly active for a few weeks and then vanish.
Is Sharon right?
Now if Sharon's assumption was right, you would expect the drop out rate to high be between the first few contributions, or the first few weeks/months. This is the stage when newcomers can identify the regulars and begin to feel they're being crowded out.
If this is borne out by data, you need to understand why. That means individually interacting with members that dropped out at this stage to ascertain what they felt was wrong. Ask them why they dropped out? Do they mention the clique problem without prompting?
Now you know whether the clique is a big problem (and whether it is your biggest problem in converting newcomers to regulars).
(A clique, by the way, is a group of 2 – 12 members whom interact with each other at the expense of others).
Resolving the clique problem
This is where we design an intervention to solve the issue.
This intervention might be to introduce newcomers to members of the clique. It might be to give the clique there own place ot interact. It might be to talk to the clique directly about the issue and see if they can help. It might be to give newcomers discussion topics. It might simply be to try and form several cliques, instead of just one.
There aren't a shortage of possible approaches here. Each can be tested until you identify what works.
What's important isn't the intervention, but the process of diagnosing a community problem, pinpointing the biggest issue (a clique is rarely as big a problem as most people suspect), and then designing a measurable intervention to act.
When this becomes habit, your community gets much better.