Preparing Communities For The Future Fragmentation

October 19, 2012Comments Off

There is a finite number of people in the world. 

Each of these people can give a finite amount of attention to a community. 

The number of communities is rapidly increasing. Most will fail, but many will succeed. 

The competition for people and attention is getting ever fiercer. We've seen from other sectors how this is likely to play out.

1) There will always be big communities in each sector. The number one community will probably remain the number one community. They will have a lot of people and a lot of activity. Their overall number of members, however, will plateau and then decline. It will be chipped away by highly focused communities. This leads to point 2.

2) More highly focused communities will emerge. These will be highly targeted at specific groups. For example, Communities for marketers {qualifier 1}, in London {qualifier 2}, who are passionate about measurement {qualifier 3}. These qualifiers will be demographics, habits, or psychographics (who people are, what they do, and what they think/feel). 

3) The non-leaders are in trouble. The communities that aren't the biggest and aren't heavily focused are in trouble. They face a rapid reduction in membership to the leaders and the niche communities. 

This has some important implications:

First, if you manage the number one community in your sector, you probably need to increase the ROI per active member by around 30% (pure guesstimation). Can you survive if the number of active members declines by 30%? How will that impact your business model?

What new products/services can you develop for community members? You need to fight for every member, each active member is going to be valuable. Build a strong sense of community. Invest in the experience. 

You also need to develop systems that retain the interest and engagement of active members in large communities. Losing an active member is a big deal. Stop worrying about growth, worry about keeping the members you have. 

Second, if you're developing a new community, don't make it generic!! Focus on tiny niches that are easy to attract and sustain. Build multiple niche communities, not single large communities. Don't compete with existing communities. Create the only community of its kind. Closely mirror what members really care about, don't worry about the rest.

Third, if you're in the middle, decide now either to take on the big community with a significant push (if it was this easy, you would already have done it), or consider reforming around more niche interests. The biggest predictor of a member's likelihood of becoming a long-term regular is their strength of interest in the community topic. You can decide a topic that closely matches the interests of smaller groups of members. 

We might not have reached this stage yet, but we we're gradually edging towards it. 

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