Huge Online Communities: What Do You Work On Next?

September 14, 2011Comments Off on Huge Online Communities: What Do You Work On Next?

Some communities are huge. They have thousands, potentially millions, of members. They generate thousands of posts every day. 

What do you do with these communities? What's the next step? 

  • Large events. You can have major annual or bi-annual event. You can book a single venue and invite members to fly in, or they can organize world-wide meet-ups in cities around the world on specific days. Blizzard (World of Warcraft) does the former, Twestival does the latter. These events build lifetime bonds between members and ensure everyone finds a group within the community where they can exist. They created a shared history amongst members. They increase the ownership members have over the community. Events are worth the time, trouble and investment. 
  • Scaling processes/self-sufficiency. You can help the community become self-sufficient. You can focus on scaling processes to ensure the community can continue to grow and develop without forever escalating costs. You can develop a process for members to manage themselves. Eve Online has a government
  • Efficiency. You can work to optimize your conversion process for the community. You can aim for 100% conversion of newcomers to regular members. You can identify where members drop-out. You can tweak the copy and plan social/technological interventions to improve the conversion ratio.
  • Sub-groups. You can work to develop sub-groups for the community. You can begin by developing them yourself, then allowing select members to create and finally allowing any member to create them (once they have 30 interested members).
  • Culture development.Huge communities can work on developing a stronger culture. They can implement elements highlighted within sense of community theory. They can measure the sense of community and work to increase it. 
  • Mainstream. You can work on moving your community to be the big player within your ecosystem. You can move towards the mainstream and influence broader society culture. You can raise the profile of your interest within the mainstream sector. 
  • The community as a business entity. Huge communities can work to become a business entity. This is the community as a business, rather than for a business. You can host regular events, create/sell products to your members, move into new areas (e.g. a TV show), sell focus group access, and otherwise follow the Mumsnet model.
  • Campaigns. You can campaign on issues you care about. You can try to change the products companies create for your sector. You can change government legislation. You can make things more favourable for your members. You can adopt a non-profit cause and work to support that. 
  • Sell. You can sell the community. If you lose interest, no longer feel you want to be heavily involved in the community, then you should sell. 

The danger of creating a big community is to get sloppy. It's to assume that the community will continue to take care of itself. Don't let this happen. Always have a plan of where you want the community to go next. 

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