Your membership isn’t static. Both the members and their interests change over time.
This means your community concept (the type of community, what it’s about, what the benefit of the community is, positioning, what happens within the community) can become outdated.
It can happen faster than you might think.
One of our clients was developing a community for those that worked in the video games industry. One month members were talking about the latest graphics, new technology, and the war for top talent. Then Zynga came along and the interest changed to micro-payments, game accessibility, and social media integration.
But you wont know this unless you regularly interact with members and genuinely learn what they’re interested in.
This is a long way of saying you need to make it a process to interact with a large number of members every 4 to 6 months to gain valuable data that you can use to ensure your community continues to correctly encapsulate the interest.
Don’t rely on numerical data for this, actually interview your members.
You want to know:
- Problems/Challenges/Worries. What are the key issues they care about? What are they struggling with? What's stopping members doing/being what they want to do/be? What do members mention without being prompted?
- Experiences (successes, failures, everyday life). What is their day like? What do they spend a lot of time on? Why are they interested in the topic? What are their biggest achievements/failures?
- Aspirations. What are their hopes, fears, and aspirations? What do they want to do in the future? What are their biggest fears? What do they need to achieve what they want to achieve? What do members predict will happen?
You can use this data to tweak the foundations of the community. You can tweak what the community is about, what members do, what topics feature most heavily, and what content to create.
It's easier than you think for a community to lose the interest of members. Fortunately, it's also easy to make sure it doesn't happen.