A bigger community isn’t a better community. Growth alone wont increase the ROI of the community.
More members reduces the sense of community. Members feel less connection with each other. They visit less frequently. The level of activity per member drops. The ROI declines (despite growth!).
If you want to make your community bigger AND better, you need to juggle three things 1) growth, 2) activity, and 3) sense of community.
If you have growth + activity, but no sense of community, you have a highly active group that can vanish at any minute. This is typically an audience, not a community. They’re attracted to something temporary. They will be gone soon.
If you have growth + sense of community, then you have a group that knows each other well, but rarely participates. They don’t try to make the group better. There is no pulse that keeps the community going.
If you have activity + sense of community, you have a turnover problem. Over time members will lose interest on the topic but newcomers won’t be coming in to replace them. The community will gradually decline. In truth, it’s common for growth to take care of itself in these situations, but that’s a risky strategy.
This juggling act is hard. Focusing on one alone is the path to failure. This means you need to be measuring all three. It means you can’t just have a plan to grow the community, without also an idea of how you will sustain activity and maintain a strong sense of community.
Just remember, you can’t focus on just one. You need to balance all three.
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