58 Questions To Ask Before Starting A Community

58 Questions To Ask Before Starting A Community

Community Blog

Community

There’s a lot to consider before starting a community. It may seem as simple as inviting people to a Facebook group but when you plan it out more intricately, it’ll be a lot easier on you, your team, and your audience. 

To help you think ahead, the following are some of the most important questions to explore before you move forward with a new community. 

For the Community Audience

  1. Who is this community for?
  2. Why do they need it?
  3. Where are they getting this need fulfilled today?
  4. How are they consuming content today?
  5. What topics will your community cover?
  6. How will your community better help your audience?
  7. What policies, spam guidelines, or codes of conduct will you follow?

Community for Your Company

  1. What does community mean to you? (h/t to David Spinks on Twitter)
  2. Why do you want to build a community?
  3. What do you expect to get out of this community?
  4. What resources do you have to contribute towards building this community?
  5. Who and how can your team contribute to the community?
  6. Have you shared your expectations for their participation?
  7. What existing owned assets can you use in promotion of the new community?
  8. What does your community need to do differently to differentiate from competitors?
  9. Why should people choose your community over someone else’s?
  10. How will you get people to participate or join?
  11. Who do you need to work with internally to make this community a reality?
  12. Do you have any stakeholders’ support for building this community?
  13. How much of an investment can you make before seeing a return?

 Community Platform Questions

  1. Where will your community live?
  2. What tools do you need to make this work?
  3. What features do you need in a platform?
  4. Do you want a forum platform or a networking platform?
  5. How can you utilize other features your platform offer?

Content For Your Community

  1. What types of content can you provide – videos, podcasts, downloads, etc?
  2. What content topics will be shared in the community?
  3. Who will create or curate the content?
  4. What content can you provide further down the road?
  5. Do you have at least a month’s worth of content planned out?

Partnerships & Business Development

  1. What partnerships can help this community?
  2. How will you work to build these partnerships?
  3. How can these partners participate in the community?
  4. What can you give them for their participation?
  5. What partners would the community enjoy?

Retention for Your Community

  1. How will you stay in touch with your members?
  2. How often do you want members to visit?
  3. How will you craft an experience that will keeping them coming back?
  4. How do you plan on getting members to participate in the first place?

Timeline for Community

  1. When will you finish choosing your platform?
  2. When will you finalize your strategy?
  3. When will you open the community for testing?
  4. When will the community launch? 
  5. When will promotion begin?

Community Staff

  1. Who will moderate and manage your community?
  2. Do you need to hire someone?
  3. What is the budget and job description for hiring?
  4. What’s the deadline for hiring this person?
  5. What experience do you want them to have?
  6. What will the every day tasks be?

Founding Members

  1. Do you already have a founding group of members?
  2. What do your founding members expect to do to help you?
  3. What do founding members expect to get out of helping you?
  4. Where will you engage with your founding members – email, slack, private group?

Community Metrics

  1. What metrics will you track? 
  2. What will be your priority KPI?
  3. What metrics do your stakeholders want to track?
  4. How will you commercialize the community or generate revenue?

Now, you don’t have to have all the answers before starting your community, but these questions will help you foresee some things you do have to consider. 

You can print this list off or share it with your stakeholders or team to give them an idea of what’s coming in your journey for creating a community.

Turn Your Support Community into a Niche Community

Turn Your Support Community into a Niche Community

Community Blog

Community

It’s almost a no-brainer to invest in a forum for support. It’s like allowing your most helpful clients to join in to assist those struggling with your software or services. People start to find their own answers for obstacles, and your support team should see a decrease in new tickets allowing more time for accurate documentation.

But as much as a support forum helps the company, there’s still a lot of room for a community to make a difference.

Done effectively, a community under your brand can help with market research, beta testing, design issues, user feedback, support, sales, and marketing initiatives and promotions, website traffic, customer success improvements, and revenue.

To get these benefits you have to jump from a focus on support to a focus on solving niche problems with a community endeavor.

What’s this look like?

Recently, Square was hiring for a Community Lead and I liked what they were trying to do so I created a presentation to show how I would take their current support focused community and turn it into a small business focused community.

See, Square already has many support members who are active, and millions of users they could invite to their new, or extended, community.

So what’s involved with this kind of transition?

Start with a topic that matters to your audience

The first and most important thing is that it must make sense for the members. The topic for your community needs to assist them in success with using your product/service. This must be an investment into them, a customer success initiative.

It was simple for Square to choose a topic, their users are small businesses and there are countless obstacles for small businesses that a community could help them answer.

Get support from within your company

Second, there has to be buy-in from important stakeholders, which means building relationships, understanding what is important to each one, and getting the results and research to prove how successful this endeavor could be.

I initially included the number of small businesses in the United States, and around the world, along with the popularity of small business communities on sites like Quora and Reddit in the presentation above but deleted the slides for brevity.

While there are already many small business communities already on the Internet, having a company like Square build one would not only not over-saturate the market, it would promise a certain level of quality that is synonymous with their name. Members would know it would be done with the utmost excellence to help their users succeed.

Additionally, companies are jumping on the community bandwagon every day as more and more community evangelists and experts prove the ROI for investment to be much more beneficial than sales alone and worth the investment to own their own platform for their audience.

Be prepared with an educational, useful content plan

Third, and possibly the most important for the success of your new expansion in a community is Content. The community will need content that educates, encourages participation, and enables them to make progressive growth in their business.

Square is definitely capable of providing adequate content here. There are so many avenues they could follow to provide this from questions and answers with Square’s own team, or with experts the community recognizes, to weekly article contributions, shares for helpful content from Youtube and other sources, the list could go on and on.

For your own transition, you’ll want to make sure you have thoughtful content planned for the first couple of months. People need to see you taking steps to provide an environment of education that pertains to their interests.

Gather your founding members

Fourth and often overlooked, a community needs at least a base/foundational community to get started. A community manager alone is not enough, more members need to be active.

This often falls on the community manager to get others active and this post has a few of the ways you can do this, but it comes down to at the very least having people on your team who will participate like they are members. That means asking and answering questions, being active regularly, and building relationships themselves.

Connect With Marketing & Plan Promotion of Updated Community

Your next step in this journey is to, again, work with your internal relationships to share the new community initiative with your users/members.

You can start with a small cohort of people to test acceptance of the idea and to build up content with more participants. Or, you can jump into sharing the new community with everyone, it’ll be up to you and your team to make this decision. 

Finally, Listen to Your Members

Now that your new community is open, it’s time to connect with your members. You want to get their opinions on the content being provided, what makes them want to participate more, and the experts and answers in the community.

Every community should be testing to see what keeps members revisiting the community. You’ll work on your metrics, to find the ones that most accurately measure your success, and you’ll stay in touch with members and stakeholders to keep everyone up to date while your community progresses. 

Want help with your community? I’m available to hire, contact me here.

Why You Need A Community Manager

Why You Need A Community Manager

Community Blog

Community

Today’s we have the ability to connect with buyers every day in multiple ways. Via the Internet customers are on social media, in email lists, commenting on your blog posts, review sites, requesting support and chatting in forums.

These fans, your buyers, are your community. They support you, they need and want your products and services and your collaboration with them can lead to invaluable benefits for your company. An experienced community manager will help you identify and realize these advantages in previously inconceivable ways that will pay dividends for years to come.

Community Management – The Many Advantages of Leveraging A Community

A community manager is able to see the potential benefits of conversation beyond simple dialog. They have an innate empath ability that allows them to understand how both sides of an issue feel, and use that knowledge to create win-win solutions for everyone.

They can anticipate the needs of the masses, fully understand wants and desires and direct these energies into efforts that produce a sense of harmony and progress.

In short, a community manager juggles the demands of your audience while leveraging said audience for growth opportunities for your company or cause.

A community manager looks past mere chats, comments, and reviews to see:

Product/service feedback for marketing, production, and sales – The greatest feedback can be used as testimonials on your website, in social media ads or posts, and in email marketing campaigns. Further, the feedback gives your design and production teams input on features to improve on your roadmaps.

Opportunities for improvement in onboarding, product design, marketing campaigns, sales targeting, support and retention – By constantly empathizing and talking with members, the community manager will get a better idea of why members join (to help the sales process), what they like about products/services, and how to improve onboarding.

Interest from influencers and businesses for possible partnerships – Having your own community is the perfect way to find influencers and partners who have an interest in your company and the ability to work together. If they are already active, they are much more likely to be interested in a joint venture.

Complaints that can be turned into evangelist members – A part of community management involves handling complaints and issues for members. A community manager has the ability to work with the member to not only fix the problem but turn them into an active word of mouth evangelist.

Content needs for courses, blog posts, and video assets – A huge part of community management is writing and having the ability to communicate clearly with members, superiors, partners, etc. Additionally, content is a major part of what is delivered to the members, a community manager has to be able to write content, plan courses and podcasts, and bring all of the necessary resources together.

New ideas for products, services, and education that will further support other company initiatives – With all of the people your community manager talks to, along with the resources they are constantly accessing, they will come up news ideas for the members, community, and business regularly. With the proper amount of autonomy, they should be able to work with other departments to bring these ideas to life.

And with all of these possibilities, a community manager has the ability to work among other departments to support them in using the community in more successful projects.

Further, the community manager will initiate programs that support the company with:

  • Market research to see how your proven fans or audience will react to projected changes, improvements, and offerings.
  • Beta testing any new features for finding bugs, analyzing the success of a new design or navigation, or changes to customer support.
  • Campaigns to back marketing and support among the community in efforts to reach their goals.
  • Building relationships among all levels of community that will lead to collaborations for company growth.
  • Website and social media content sourced from or created for the community to use in marketing.
  • NPS and other surveys to better understand the needs of your most active members
  • Evangelist programs for super supporters who drive word of mouth marketing
  • Email newsletters to community members with new and interesting content from the company

Community Management Produces Results

Numerous companies are now utilizing the community approach because of the many benefits. There’s nothing like having immediate access to your most loyal fans. For example, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Twitch, GoDaddy, Duolingo, Toyota, eBay, and Wikipedia all have community strategies and some have multiple communities.

Marketplaces like Airbnb and eBay communities for buyers and sellers. Software companies have communities for support, networking, freelancing, and learning.

There are numerous ways to utilize the skills of a community manager, no matter what type of business you have. The point is that every company has a community and without a community manager, you are missing out on the benefits that come with having one. 

If you’d like to discuss community possibilities for your company, I’d love to help, message me here.

Drawing Community Engagement with Fun Topics

Drawing Community Engagement with Fun Topics

Community Blog

Community

Sometimes as a community manager you need to build up activity in your forum. This could be for a variety of reasons: to hit engagement goals, to make sure the forum is welcoming, or to increase engagement and exposure of your posts on Facebook groups. 
 
While this may not help you meet any meaningful business goals, it can sometimes get lurkers to participate or even get others who aren’t active to visit and chime in. While I don’t suggest spending a lot of time focusing on those who do not want to engage, it’s encouraging to see new faces and shows other members there are new people in the group. 
 
Another way these posts help is by allowing members to have some fun in the group or forum. They get to do something off topic, share in a way they wouldn’t normally, interact with different members, and possibly make new connections. 
 
As a community manager, I use these types of posts to make conversation with new people. Since their commenting or participation shows me they are interested, I can reach out and build some trust into our relationship. I like to make sure members know they are valued, and that someone from the company wants to personally connect.
 
Threads like this have helped me at both HubSpot, Forbes, and other communities to nurture relationships that brought about some of my most dedicated evangelists. 
 

Topics for Increased Engagement

Business/Work Related Communities

  • Sharing social media profiles/links 
  • Share your business, side hustle, 
  • What goal did you reach this week?
  • Apple or Android?
  • What exciting project are you working on or did you finish recently?
  • Share a photo of… (your work area, your pet, your view)
  • Dogs or Cats?
  • Job links (if it makes sense)
  • Share a resource that helps you do your job
  • What are your favorite online tools?
  • Who is your go to expert for…. ?
  • What are some of your biggest career successes?
  • What’s your favorite app for…?
 

Gaming Communities

  • Favorite game as a kid, Go!
  • On XYZ Game, who is the best character to play?
  • Tell the truth… do you ever cheat?
  • You’ve thought about it: What kind of game would you create?
  • What’s the Best game you’ve ever played?
  • Tell us about your dream gaming set up
  • Which gaming chair/seat is perfection?
  • Online or Console gaming? 
  • Playstation, Xbox or Switch – which is best overall?
  • What’s the you’ve waited in line for a game?
  • Be real – what’s your gaming username?
  • Best streamer on Twitch?
  • Who has the best game walkthroughs?
 
Blockchain/Cryptocurrency
  • What finally got you into crypto?
  • What would you change about how crypto works?
  • How much was an XYZ worth when you started?
 
Now, I realize this metric of engagement is very much a vanity number, but let’s face it, a lot of communities are measured based on interactions by superiors who want to see activity. Activity means there has been exposure and this can be encouraging to them. 
 
This doesn’t mean you should only track engagement or that it suggests success, it just means you have some educating to do on the more important numbers you can track. In the meantime, entertain your community, get them interacting with each other, because building connections is a major reason they show up. 
 
And, please share: what topics have helped you engage more members? 
 
Remember, if you have any questions, please let me know here. I’m happy to help.
Sometimes as a community manager you need to build up activity in your forum. This could be for a variety of reasons: to hit engagement goals, to make sure the forum is welcoming, or to increase engagement and exposure of your posts on Facebook groups. 
 
While this may not help you meet any meaningful business goals, it can sometimes get lurkers to participate or even get others who aren’t active to visit and chime in. While I don’t suggest spending a lot of time focusing on those who do not want to engage, it’s encouraging to see new faces and shows other members there are new people in the group. 
 
Another way these posts help is by allowing members to have some fun in the group or forum. They get to do something off topic, share in a way they wouldn’t normally, interact with different members, and possibly make new connections. 
 
As a community manager, I use these types of posts to make conversation with new people. Since their commenting or participation shows me they are interested, I can reach out and build some trust into our relationship. I like to make sure members know they are valued, and that someone from the company wants to personally connect.
 
Threads like this have helped me at both HubSpot, Forbes, and other communities to nurture relationships that brought about some of my most dedicated evangelists. 
 

Topics for Increased Engagement

Business/Work Related Communities

  • Sharing social media profiles/links 
  • Share your business, side hustle, 
  • What goal did you reach this week?
  • Apple or Android?
  • What exciting project are you working on or did you finish recently?
  • Share a photo of… (your work area, your pet, your view)
  • Dogs or Cats?
  • Job links (if it makes sense)
  • Share a resource that helps you do your job
  • What are your favorite online tools?
  • Who is your go to expert for…. ?
  • What are some of your biggest career successes?
  • What’s your favorite app for…?
 

Gaming Communities

  • Favorite game as a kid, Go!
  • On XYZ Game, who is the best character to play?
  • Tell the truth… do you ever cheat?
  • You’ve thought about it: What kind of game would you create?
  • What’s the Best game you’ve ever played?
  • Tell us about your dream gaming set up
  • Which gaming chair/seat is perfection?
  • Online or Console gaming? 
  • Playstation, Xbox or Switch – which is best overall?
  • What’s the you’ve waited in line for a game?
  • Be real – what’s your gaming username?
  • Best streamer on Twitch?
  • Who has the best game walkthroughs?
 
Blockchain/Cryptocurrency
  • What finally got you into crypto?
  • What would you change about how crypto works?
  • How much was an XYZ worth when you started?
 
Now, I realize this metric of engagement is very much a vanity number, but let’s face it, a lot of communities are measured based on interactions by superiors who want to see activity. Activity means there has been exposure and this can be encouraging to them. 
 
This doesn’t mean you should only track engagement or that it suggests success, it just means you have some educating to do on the more important numbers you can track. In the meantime, entertain your community, get them interacting with each other, because building connections is a major reason they show up. 
 
And, please share: what topics have helped you engage more members? 
 
Remember, if you have any questions, please let me know here. I’m happy to help.

Aligning business goals with community efforts

Aligning business goals with community efforts

Community Blog

Community

Having a community can be a major plus for a company. But, to make it a successful effort for your company you’ll have to reach certain business goals. These goals can be quite varied and are based on the type of community and the business itself.

For example, eBay’s community for power sellers may want to run a campaign to get their power sellers using their newer promoted listings options. Uber, on the other hand, might have goals around helping drivers increase satisfaction ratings, growing the number of drivers in certain areas, or decreasing support requests.

Several departments can benefit from the community. One of the creative aspects of your job as a community manager is to help these departments understand how community involvement can help them reach important KPI’s.

It’s inevitable you will run into goals to meet in or for your community. And, it can be a struggle to align them with the community itself. To help you better understand aligning your business goals and community efforts, I’ve come up with a win-win approach. I will also include a few examples to explain how it works.

What Makes or Can Make the Community a Success for the Company?

To start, you need to know what goals your company has for the community. What will make this a win or where are they benefiting from having the community? How does your team expect this to be successful? Since the business will fund the community and all proactive efforts the business needs to see some kind of return for the investment. It won’t always be monetary, but it can often be tied back to dollars and cents. Here is a list of possible successes for your team:

  • Revenue targets
  • Decreasing churn
  • Fewer support tickets
  • Improved NPS
  • Customer education
  • Customer success
  • Feature adoption
  • Market research
  • Marketing exposure
  • Program onboarding
  • Business partnerships
  • Recruiting
  • Beta testing
  • Success stories
  • Surveys
  • Feature/Design testing
  • Understanding customer needs
  • Opportunities with influencers
  • Potential business partnerships

You can list out the potential business goals you foresee from engaging customers or a particular cohort in a community. In fact, you’ll want to consider these objectives for any campaign you run in the future.

Why Do Members Participate in Your Community?

Now, the potential participants have to be taken into consideration. What will motivate them to join and engage in your community? In many cases it comes down to self-interest. Here is a short list of the most common reasons to engage, any combination of these can motivate your members.

Learning – how to use your software, how to improve their business, personal growth, learning can address any topic.
Recognition – members are sharing their skills/talents/knowledge and like to be noticed for their contributions. Giving back falls under recognition.
Exposure – by participating in your community they get access to your followers and potential growth in their own businesses/hobbies.
Career – A lot of professional forums are frequented because they directly tie into success with a career or position at work.
Network – People want to connect with others who are just like them, your community is a hotbed for networking.

Your members’ reasons for participating must be known in order to make it successful for both sides, you have to fulfill their needs when focusing on one of your own. If you aren’t already sure why your members participate, now is a great time to run a survey and find out.

Matching Business Goals & Members Motivations

Next, you’ll take your campaign or goal and try to match it with a member benefit. The more members are motivated by that reason to participate the more likely it is you’ll be able to push your campaign and reach your goals. Let’s look at some examples of ways you can reach align goals with their participation.

eBay & Power Sellers

I worked with an e-commerce software company that had a close relationship with eBay, especially power sellers. The sellers participate in the forums in order to see how they can best use features to make more sales. And eBay wanted to get power sellers to adopt their new sponsored listings, so one way eBay encouraged this was to talk about how it would increase their sales.

Further, they discussed the drawback of losing their search rankings to sponsored listings and how they could get around this while maintaining profit margin with educational material that helped them improve results.

This is where having a forum/community to discuss these things with your members is beneficial to the business. You get to interact with the members to fine-tune your campaign, help them be successful, and get their feedback. Not only are you presenting a new feature to them but you are also working to keep their business successful and in this case their businesses feed the company.

Forbes Business Forums

In the Forbes forums where I was a Community Manager, we wanted to get more members engaging in our monthly expert panels. These were used in our promotions for getting new members to join. In order to get more members to answer the questions in the panels we posted the questions in our forums and sent them emails appealing to their hopes for additional exposure with our partners. When they did answer, they would be included on our partners’ sites outside of Forbes, and we were always adding new partners.

HubSpot’s Inbound.org Forum

A goal we had at Inbound was to increase the listings on our job board. We needed companies to post their needs for Inbound Marketers on the board in order to get people to apply for jobs. This wasn’t easy to do because the jobs weren’t on the homepage of the site and few people knew about it, so we started by reaching out to active members and asking them if they would like a free listing for their company.

To prove the effectiveness of the board we helped them find members who would apply for the positions. This appealed to the job listers because it was free and they needed to hire, and it appealed to the members who were always open to opportunities. We ended up getting 10x more posts in two months. We also increased traffic to the job board and positions started getting filled without our interference.

Conclusion
Hopefully, these stories help you see how you can align goals with member motivations so that everyone wins on any campaign you are considering for your community. With a shortlist of why your community participates, you can strategize how you’ll handle your next goal.

In order to prove how well your campaigns are working, you’ll need to be tracking a lot of metrics. These are absolutely necessary when convincing your superiors of the success of your community. In a future post, I’ll share some of the metrics I’ve used to help validate campaigns.

And, if you have any questions about aligning goals with community participation I’m glad to help, just contact me here.

How To Move Your Community Off Facebook Groups

How To Move Your Community Off Facebook Groups

Get In Touch

Community

Facebook is perfect for testing a community approach for a business because it is easy to set up and invite just about anyone. But, as the importance of your community grows you will inevitably consider leaving Facebook groups for a proper community platform. This post will cover making the transition from Facebook groups to a platform of your choice. 

For brevity’s sake, let’s assume you’ve already chosen your replacement community platform. To begin, you want to give yourself plenty of time to make this transition. It will take weeks to months depending on how many members you have, how many you can lose, and how active they are. You’ll want to give them several opportunities to make the move to the new site and ample time to do it.

Before You Switch Community Platforms

I suggest giving yourself 3 months, but in some cases, you’ll only have a couple of weeks. Here’s how the timeline looks:

Choose your new platform – arguably this is the most difficult step because there are so many options out there. Until I create my own post on this topic here are a few options to read: Feverbee’s platform comparison tool, CMX Guide to Community Platforms, and The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Community Platforms.

Plan the transition (in detail) – You can use the following as a template for your plan.

Set up new platform – This allows you to test the new platform and the many features included, you can add content, research settings and take time to help build documentation for your members. I recommend giving yourself 2-4 weeks of the new software regularly before inviting members to join.

You’ll specifically want to understand the onboarding process the software offers, the options you have for collecting data and hooking the forum up to your CRM, as well as the various options for posting content and how these options match up with how things are being done in your live forum (AKA Facebook groups).

Add beta users to new platform – People from your team should be the first to get on the new system. When you’ve solved any problems or obstacles with the software, it’s a good idea to invite evangelists/power users to use the new forums and collect their feedback.

Stock with new content – When you eventually launch the new forum you’ll want the place to look just as full as the groups you have now. This means you’ll need to plan some events, have conversations already in progress, and regularly have a variety of members adding new content.

Initially, you’ll be able to stock the content, but as more members join, you’ll need an outreach plan that will get others posting, too. You can prepare this in advance with your team and power users by asking for volunteers. You already know who is dedicated to your forum, get their involvement and show your gratitude and they’ll be glad to help when you reach out.

Allow beta users time to test new platform – Ask these users if they came across any issues with registering, posting, commenting, fixing their profiles, finding support, getting notifications, or emails.

Deal with any issues that arise – It’s inevitable that you’ll come across a minor issue here and there. Get comfortable reading the software company’s documentation and make sure they have support available during your peak hours. The whole point of taking the time to launch a new community site is to foresee and handle any problems BEFORE you invite the masses, so take time to be active in the new forum.

Choosing A Hard or Soft Transition Off Facebook Groups

Depending on your community you’ll choose a quick or slow (hard or soft) move to your new forums. In my experience I’ve found that more dedicated communities, such as those that are required for work, can make the change quickly without losing too many active members (those members that weren’t active are likely to be lost but can always be reengaged through email/social media). 

In communities where participation is more voluntary, paid, or entertaining, a slow migration has worked better as it gives those members who do not visit regularly time to make the change. A slow migration also helps you get as many members as possible to move from the old site to the new site. 

As an example, when I worked with Forbes communities we used a soft transition to help them move off Facebook, the plan that follows in this post is based on the same steps we took to make our move to an in-house solution successful. 

Your community manager should be able to identify how a hard or soft transition will affect your community as a whole.  

Soft Transitioning Community Members

Give yourself two months to transition members – In a lot of forums only the most active members show up everyday, or even every month, so it makes sense to give a couple of months of time to members to make the switch.

Make formal announcement – In a new sticky post at the top of the Facebook group, and in email (if available), announce that you are moving to a new forum. Include a couple of reasons why this change is for their benefit, your members often won’t care if it’s just because you want more control, they care about their ease of use and what is comfortable for them.

You can mention that on the new forum they will have a much easier to skim topic section, they will be able to message each other without needing to be added as a friend (which often results in lost messages), they’ll have quicker access to moderators, and (if you are doing this) additional content just for their success.

To encourage their interest include mentions of new content, interesting discussions, a new influencer, in the new forum.

For example:

Come Join Our New Forum –

We told you a couple of weeks ago that the new forum was just about ready and now it is.

We’ve added some surprises; a discussion with (influencer name) going on right now, a new free course on (topic of importance), and conversations with our own (Name of Titles) who will answer all of your questions for the next 2 days.

You are going to love the new site, private messages will be easier, you will get faster support from us, and all of our content is much easier to navigate.

We can’t wait to see you in there – join at this link.

Give members access to new platform – There are two ways of doing this: 1) Give them access to register as soon as you announce the new forum and run 2 forums at once OR 2) Use the above announcement as just the announcement so they can get comfortable with the idea, possibly getting fewer to register in the long run.

If done correctly, with a lot of nudges to join the new forum, I suggest simply making the announcement. It’s hard enough to keep activity going in 1 forum without having to worry about losing participants in both because there is not enough engagement. I suggest making the announcement at least 1 month before the switch, 2 months if possible. If things are going well with the new forum and tests you can make the announcement much earlier than 2 months before the switch.

I would open access to the new forum 2 weeks after the initial announcement. In the new forum you’ll want to have some conversations active, it shouldn’t look dead.

Run both forums with all programs and events – With 1.5 months left before the switch you’ll have to manage the content at both sites, this will take a lot of outreach to members to participate, especially the power users you invited before. This is their moment to pitch in. You basically want to finish all events/programs promised in the initial forum and build up the engagement in the new forum.

Pushing Members To Make the Switch

Begin mentioning the transition deadline in all new posts/events/programs/communication – About a month from the time of your first announcement it’s time to get more obvious about the switch. At the end of each post, give them a link to share in the same conversation in the new forum, if you can entice them with new members, news coming just to the new forum, etc, now is the time to do that.

Continue adding more content to the new platform – In your new content, make sure you encourage your members to invite their friends to join the new forum. At this time, you’ll want to have more content in the new forum than the old one, if not, you need to do more outreach and suggest to members in the old forum to post new threads in the new forum.

Send an email and make a post on the old forum asking all members to make the transition (ask people to like it on your team to get the exposure you need on Facebook) Explain that you have been cutting back on posts over the last couple of weeks and that you’ll be referring all new posts to the new site.

Start sharing links from posts in the new forum to the old Facebook group inviting people to join. – This is a bolder move that makes it obvious the group won’t be used for much longer. At two weeks before the switch you want to be doing this.

Remind posters who make a post in the old forum to please join the new forum and share their post there. – You can accept their post on the old forum, but leave a comment that it will be closed for commenting soon and that you’d love to have them in the new forum.

Remind members that if they haven’t made new accounts they will miss out on the benefits of the forum going forward (education, events, etc) focus on the things that are most wanted/needed in the group.

Consider sending a survey to see why people have not transitioned to the new forum. – By understanding what’s keeping them from joining you can discuss how the new forum will help them.

Send email that the old forum is shutting down in 1 week – This email should include a big button or link to click through and finish registering for the forum. Again, if you have any incentives, now is the time to mention them.

Reach out personally to whoever is left – If your team can manage this, reach out and help members sign up. Some softwares will allow you to enter their email addresses and have an account set up for them with a link to set their password, this is a great option that allows you to follow up after the old forum is down.

Stop making new posts to the old forum – except the final post to say the forum is closed, where you’ll include a link to register at the new site.

Hard Pushing Members To A New Forum

In some cases, you just can’t stay on Facebook Groups any longer and have to make the switch. This could be because the new software you have was really expensive and superiors want it to be used NOW or because Facebook discontinued your group for some reason. It could be anything.

Email all of your members and include a link to the new forum. I suggest gently explaining why this is important to do now and divulging what details you can about the quick timeline.

In my experience this kind of push risks losing a lot more members, but a follow up email and social media campaign can help over time.

Post only in the new forum. 

Add members who did not transition to a newsletter and keep them in the loop by sending out timely newsletters.

In some ways this is easier because you don’t have to keep working on two forums at a time and gently coaxing people to make a change, in other ways it is demanding to the members and somewhat disrespectful of their time and experience, so if it is a paid membership you might want to give them more consideration.

Communities tend to vary in engagement, dedication, active users, and preferences, so it’s important the community manager has a finger on the pulse of the community and can direct how these decisions will affect important metrics.

Loss of Community Members

It’s inevitable that you will lose members when switching platforms. Here are some reasons why:

  • Members don’t want to use another site
  • Members stopped using the group weeks, months, or years ago (one of the reasons you want to make this transition)
  • They don’t believe they’ll need the group any longer
  • They aren’t interested in what the new site will offer

Bottom line: it’s OK to lose community members here. With Facebook Groups you tend to have a LOT more ‘members’ than active members and this will give you a better idea, perhaps a baseline, of what your community activity is.

While the plan above was created to give members several options to move and a lot of time to make the switch, some will not. The numbers you had before were largely vanity metrics that had little bearing on your actual reach and engagement. Start from here, build a plan to grow, and keep the members who have moved happy.

Conclusion

Facebook will eventually not be able to give your members the deep community experience you want to offer. You’ll also want more data from the efforts your company is investing in your community as well as more flexibility in your member site. It will make sense to move away from the Facebook Groups that were so easy to start and tap into more opportunities. This plan should help you proactively consider steps to take while making the transition. And, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me as I’m more than happy to help.