The Problem With Community Platforms (and asking the right questions)
Discourse looks interesting. It looks sleek, modern, and displays most of what people need. It's also open-source. It might be a fantastic new community platform.
It's going to tempt a lot of people to switch platforms…and this is the problem.
Switching community platforms is one of the riskiest things you can do. The benefits are usually minimal and the dangers are colossal. Unless you picked a terrible platform initially, changing a platform won't help you much.
If you want a better community, it's rarely a new platform you need, it's a new and better approach to community management.
How are you driving activity and growth in that community?
What are you doing to recruit members? Whom are you approaching? What are you telling them? What is their reaction? What tactics have you tried/not tried? How are you encouraging them to invite others?
How are you initiating and sustaining discussions? What topics have you tried? Who and how are you prompting people to respond to these topics? What types of discussions work best? What does your audience analysis tell you will be most interesting?
What events are you facilitating? Have you scheduled regular, live, events? Are you reaching out to and inviting the top people in your community and sector to participate in these events?
Are you building relationships with members? How are you building these relationships? What is working/not working here?
Have you diagnosed your community? What specifically does your data tell you is going wrong? Is it growth, activity, or sense of community?
Are you embracing the full community management framework? Or are you just doing a tiny sliver of the work you should be doing.
Too often, we jump straight to the conclusion that the platform is the problem. That's rarely the case. It's almost certainly the activity you're doing on the platform that matters.
This is why new platforms have made it easier to build communities, but haven't helped us build better communities.
The answers to these questions are far more important than the platform or its features.
If you want to learn how to increase growth and activity in your community, sign up for our live training day in London on March 9th. We would love to have you and look forward to meeting many long-time readers of the blog.