Large, established communities tend to die in one of three ways. They lose internal support (see Carnival), they lose their audience to a new community (gaming communities and Reddit), or they lose relevancy and slowly die.
That last one needs a lot more attention. Fading to obscurity is a relevancy problem. It happens when a large established community doesn’t react to a new trend. This opens the door for someone else to build a community around the trend. The new community saps away a growing chunk of the existing community causing it to enter into a death spiral.
Two important things for large, established, communities to track here.
- Where your search traffic arrives at. What discussions and topics are more popular now than they used to be. This is a good indicator where you should spend more time. Pull your data from landing pages in Google Analytics each month (behavior > site content > landing pages). Look for landing pages which have a high percentage of new sessions (>90%) and account for at least 1% of the total. Plot these on a monthly time series and see which are rising (faster than the overall popular of the site). This shows you which topics are becoming more popular within your community. You can also categorize these into areas (technology, problem 1, 2, 3, etc…) and track overall levels of popular.
- What questions people ask. Track which topics are rapidly rising within the community by either running SQL queries on different keywords per month or counting the number of posts made in each category per month.
Now armed with this data you can see what trends are rising in popularity in the community and spend more time on them at the expense of other topics.
For example, see StackOverflow’s insights tool (see below).
(via StackOverflow Trends)
If you’re managing this community, you might want to get more aggressive about your Python coverage. Find top experts, develop more collaborative content, build up a database of key questions and responses, and prioritize these topics over others on the home of the site.
But this time has to come from somewhere. That somewhere might be at the expense of Jquery (see below).
This is where very simple methods of data collection can help you optimize the community for what your members want and be sure you’re covering any new trends. Not all topics are created equal here. We can identify new topics early and build out dedicated areas of the site for these topics.
Be really sensitive to new trends arising in your field and respond quickly to cover them. If you don’t, someone else will.