For organizations getting started, here is a simplified version of the community development process:
- Objectives. Get the objectives right. Make sure your organization's objectives are aligned with what a community can offer.
- Resources & Expectations. Check the organization has the right resources and assets to develop a community.
- Audience analysis. Research the audience and develop a suitable concept based around a strong common interest that your audience shares. This should also inform your platform choices.
- Seeding the community. Build up a core group of 50 to 100 active members keen to participate in the community.
- Launch of the platform. Undertake a soft launch of the community platform and help seeding members become engaged, regular, participants.
- Reach Critical Mass. Work to reach a critical mass of activity. Promote the community, encourage referrals, invite others, initiate discussions, interact with members and ensure you reach a level where over 50% of contributions are made by members. The level of activity should be rising by about 50% – 100% each month at this stage.
- Scaling Processes. Begin moving yourself out of the daily system and focus on processes that will let the community scale.
- Measurement and Strategy. Keep tracking your key metrics and adapt your strategy (and community management activities) to match.
There is far greater depth to each stage. Notably, there is a slow, but steady, transfer of activities from the critical mass stage to scaling process.
Most organizations get caught here, they continue growing beyond critical mass without developing community processes to handle continued growth.
This leads, amongst many other things, a high number of inactive members. Make sure you always know which stage your organization is at and what it should be working towards.