Planning For A Big Community (The Mistake Made By Managers Of Huge Online Communities)

September 19, 2011 Comments Off

Imagine you have a community of 5000 active members. Not meaningless registered members, but active members. That means they actively participate once a month.

That’s a minimum of 5000 posts a month, 166 posts per day. That sounds manageable right? You can handle browsing through that much content a day. Mondays might be tricky, but not a major problem.

But lets be more realistic. Lets assume that half your members make several posts a week. Now you’re suddenly looking at over 300 posts a day. But it gets worse, you’re going to have a small number of members that are far more active – perhaps posting several times a day

It doesn’t take much to reach the stage where you’re getting over 1000 posts a day. Now imagine you also have conflicts to resolve, user technical troubles to handle, content to create, technology to maintain and all the other community management tasks to undertake. 

Soon, you’re swamped. You’re completely overwhelmed. You can’t do anything but the seemingly most urgent tasks (usually the ones which are most trivial to the community's long-term success).

There is a consistent criticism from some community managers that much of the community advice available online is meaningless once the community reaches a certain size. That’s only true if you let your community reach a size where it’s unmanageable.

If your community lacks structure, allows unrestrained growth, doesn’t develop a reliable base of volunteers, employs no strategy for scaling, then you’re bound to reach a stage where your community is too big to handle.

In fact, many communities have unrestrained and unplanned growth as the most likely outcome of their efforts.

You need to develop processes when you’re small to handle the stage where you’re big. You can’t wait until you manage a big community to think about how to manage a big community. By that time you’re too overwhelmed to introduce such processes. 

Think about how you scale now. How will you keep developing a sense of community? How will you benefit from each member? How will you manage a team? How many volunteers do you need per active member? How will your day need to change? How will you focus on developing the community as opposed to maintaining it?

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