Why Communities Don’t Grow As Fast As You Might Think
I often see an implicit assumption in community strategies along the lines of:
If we keep doing what we’re doing, activity and participation in the community will grow.
Why would that be the case?
It’s far more likely if you keep doing the same things you will get the same level of activity as you do now.
Activity will only grow if one of three things is happening:
1) The sector is growing. A rising tide lifts all boats and your community will benefit from that. In which case your targets should reflect the rate of growth in the sector (or new customers etc..).
2) Search traffic increases. If your community is public and properly indexed in search engines, more questions should naturally result in more search traffic as you hit more search terms. However, often communities create ‘thin content’ which reduces search traffic. This becomes a bigger problem as you grow.
3) Word begins to spread. This only happens if a) prospective members are connected to
each other through other channels and b) they mention and talk about the community in those channels. That doesn’t happen much unless you give them something to talk about.
Even when one (or more) of these is true, the rate of growth is usually around 10% per year.
Which means, if you want to grow activity in your community, you need to radically shake up what you’re doing today. That typically means you either need to expand the focus of the community (to target more people) or satisfy more of their desires to come back to the community more frequently.