If you’re managing a community on life support (i.e. there’s only a blip of activity when you generate the activity), it’s hard to optimise your way to activity.
Relatively small tweaks like improving the site design, how the community team engages members, or the gamification/MVP systems won’t make much of an impact. If few people are visiting the community, they won’t see any changes in the community anyhow.
You usually need to make a major change to revive a ‘life support’ community.
This usually falls into the four categories shown below:
1) Change the benefits. This isn’t just changing the text, it means changing the core purpose and nature of the community. A community for members to explore and share best practices might become one dedicated to solving immediate problems. A community to foster belonging and relationships between members might become one to share and comment on the latest news developments etc…
2) Change the target audience. This typically means going more or less exclusive. You can either become more focused on a niche group or more broad. Do your research on possible audiences and choose carefully. Also note this also affects whether the community is public vs. private.
3) Change the platform category. Sometimes you simply can’t persuade people to visit a certain type of platform to obtain the benefits you offer. In this scenario, you need to use a platform they are likely to visit. This might mean walking away from an expensive platform.
4) Invest more in promotion. Sometimes you simply need more people to reach that magical number of 100 actively participating members. This usually means building partnerships with people who have existing audiences, promoting more to your mailing list, positioning the community better, optimising for search, and using paid social ads. Be warned, if you can’t engage the members you have there’s no guarantee you will engage the members you don’t have. You should only pursue this route if you’re sure none of the above is the problem.
In my experience, when presented with options like the above most opt for 1) changing the benefits because it requires the least amount of pain. Yet, most of the time, the real solution lies in options 2 to 4.