10 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Building Online Communities
Online communities have become widely popular with the rise of social networking sites. With time it has also become quite easy to launch different types of online communities, both by individuals and businesses. It can be anything from customer communities and niche social networks to membership portals and insights communities.
While it can be easy to launch an online community, the critical factor lies in building a long-lasting relationship and that requires a consistent effort. To ensure that you don’t fall prey to mistakes and truly succeed, we’ve compiled a list of common pitfalls to avoid when you’re building online communities.Check out the following to learn in greater details:
Failure in seeding the community
Imagine yourself in front of two new restaurants - one that looks completely empty and the other that’s buzzing with customers and activities. Which one would you choose - the one with other customers, right?
Well, the same goes for online communities; this is a chicken-and-egg problem. No content means no members and no members means no content. So, the right approach here is to seed the community with great content -- right from articles and interesting questions to webinars and videos.
This is something the founders of Quora (posting questions and answering) and Reddit (creating fake profiles to answer) also did to gain initial traction.
Even after gaining traction, the community builder needs to continuously post content to keep up with the momentum.This type of content generation incites your members to engage with the content by answering, commenting, sharing feedback and upvoting.
Apart from that your internal team should be proactive in requesting members with certain expertise to answer and consistently put efforts to ensure that there is enough content to initiate conversation.
Rigidity in enforcing rules
Each community has its own set of content policy and code of conduct. However, the moderators should not be rigidly forcing the rules and rely more on common sense. For instance, trust your community members to take care of the community guidelines.
If it doesn’t work, moderators can message privately and then, take appropriate action.Also, it is time to put the community at the center.
So, when a member posts something and it is useful, then it certainly makes sense to allow the content (even though it might be self-promotion or not).
The yardstick here should be about value delivery to the community instead of putting a blanket ban on something.Ideally, the community space should invoke a sense of confidence in the members -- their contribution is valued and they can truly post anything valuable without worrying about getting punished.
Weak processes and systems
Online communities must be excellent in setting up operations -- there should be a clear blueprint on how to onboard users and keep them engaged, so the user retention increases. In the beginning, the team might be focused on populating the community with content and growing members, but documenting the processes should not take a backseat.It requires experimentation with different approaches and keeping the outcome recorded.
This will come in handy when the community gradually grows -- at that time, your team would have a solid repeatable process to keep users hooked to the community.
Aiming for super-fast growth
It is quite enticing to scale your community since the general notion is that the members are the biggest asset of the community. While it is true to a larger extent, the crux of the community lies in its network effect, so explore and zero in on the process that allows you to form a cohesive bond between the members.
Because that’s the glue which would keep your community together.Hence, it is essential to build a solid relationship and a strong base for the community before thinking about scaling. Otherwise, you might grow rapidly to some extent, but the community will eventually fall apart.
Lack of internal support
Your organization and all the stakeholders should completely buy-in to the idea of community and are ready to dedicate resources for a longer period. Look for ways to streamline community between departments and remove any avenue for miscommunication. Once that is sorted and you know the problems that the community intends to solve, show off early positive signs and the quick wins.
Once they see the value, they would be further motivated to help the community succeed. Apart from this ensure that you have a great reporting system that addresses the metrics for several teams. Keep your company updated with those lovely numbers on a regular basis and draw their focus to investing in the ongoing growth of the community.
Poor community software selection
Apart from getting support and commitment from the internal team, you must also carefully choose the community platform since that would be the foundation of your community.
When selecting the community platform, check if it can scale with your growth and the ability to customize the community according to the user needs and making changes to the user interface based on your brand guidelines.Moreover, you need to also consider the following factors:
A platform for true connections
Check out how the community software allows your members to connect with your brand and their peers. For example, activity feed gamification, incentivization system, notifications, and email digests to boost user engagement and retention.
Coming to building a connection between the members, some of the notable features can be following each other to get quick updates, ability to search and find other members.
Adding community experience inside the customer journey
Would you be interested in adding important components of the community (e.g., discussions) inside the main product or site? It can prompt members to share thoughts and feedback without leaving the site and enable new content or product discovery.
API and integrations
This allows you to automate processes and easily add the community to the existing company workflows.
Yes, budget is very important because you need to justify the investment. Note that there are some great community platforms that offer great value for money. In case you are inclined towards software that is above your budget, estimate how valuable it will be in the long term.
It is essential to ensure that your community remains a safe and secure place that promotes inclusiveness for all the members. And this can be achieved with a solid moderation system that helps you smartly enforce community and content guidelines.
Anyone looking to build online communities must look at Facebook’s newfound optimism for Groups. In fact, they are keeping it at the center of the focus for the next few years.This makes sense, each community comprises of several groups that enable deeper and more private discussion depending on the nature of the group. It can be public, private or invite-only.
When you are investing in a software solution that can have a relatively higher learning curve than other simpler and straightforward solution, you might need help and guidance on setting up everything correctly.
Always check the type of customer support you can get from the vendor -- from email and live chat to training and webinars.Also, check if they have a dedicated customer success team to help you grow your community with value-added services.
Download our free and detailed template for creating a compelling community software requirement document.
Mismatch in business targets and user needs
Companies create online communities as they add value tremendous business value with time -- right from engagement and user acquisition to better support and improved insight mining. However, businesses need to ensure that they should not be blindsided by the impending benefits, i.e., they must take into account the expectations and needs of the members.
The best way to do that is by involving users (or group of power users) in regular check-ins and understanding the needs thoroughly. The buck doesn't simply stop at feedback collection, it should be a to way process with visible changes and implementation. This will help establish trust in the members.
Lack of value delivery with growth
It is amazing to see your community grow organically and with the network effect of your members. However, your community should also be able to evolve along with the members and always keep them tied with one biggest common element.That way the members are always inclined to stay glued to the community and not have the motivation to flock to another platform when a sizeable subgroup gets created inside your community.
So, pay attention to the smaller groups inside the community and the trends as an ongoing activity.Use this data to adapt and ensure that your community always provides value to the members.
Members have joined your community to connect with peers, solve their problems, share knowledge and help other members. Aggressive community builders who are posting too frequently, or trying to become the first to always reply to a discussion or question, will eventually create an environment in which others will be discouraged.
So, it is very important for the moderators and managers to maintain a friendly and authentic approach when participating in the community. Communicate with the users as a two-way process; don’t simply throw your thoughts at them.
Higher dependency on incentives
It is understandable that you would like to incentivize users and run contests to prompt members for participation. It is definitely a great tactic to get the members to participate in the community and increase user activity. However, this type of incentivization should not be something with which members should get accustomed.
Otherwise, keeping the community active would not be viable in the long term.Motivating members for participation, engaging and boosting user activity should be ingrained in the community itself. If the users will only participate in the internet points, the engagement won’t be authentic.
Running a promotion and contest occasionally is acceptable, but that should never take the central stage of your strategy. Your goal should be around building honest and valuable connections between members, allowing them to add value to each other and honor participation over a time period. This will be much more effective than distributing t-shirts or company swags.
Conclusion for Common Community Building Mistakes
Creating an online community is definitely a robust medium to bring members together under your brand and reach out to them as well. But, note that the building community takes perseverance and grit to be successful in the long term.We covered some of the most common mistakes in community building, so it’s time for you to start off with a solid foundation and ensure that it delivers the desired business value in the long term.