The number one reason that online communities fail is because they fail to provide value to their members. Providing this value starts before you even have an online community to launch. There is a lot of overlooked opportunity in the structure of your community.
Choosing between a private (closed) and a public (open) community is your first opportunity to set that value. Both types comes with their own set of pros and cons. Take time to evaluate them alongside your goals for your community strategy.
Public or Open Online Communities
Both types of online community can provide unique value for your members. Traditional public online communities include networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. A lot of the interactions in these communities have a very push-pull nature.
The conversations in open social networks are otfen very one-on-one with the brand, versus one-on-one between community members. In addition, you don't technically own any of the data in those spaces, which is a detriment to your company when you want to leverage it in your other reporting or business systems.
Private Online Communities
When discussing private online communities, you have a different set of value propositions for your members inside those spaces. Instead of a public meeting place, you have a private space where people can talk under the context of your brand, to get support around your product or service.
Community members value the ability to talk to each other. In many cases, today's customers are looking for and rely on the tips, recommendations, and support that they can get from one another.
The feedback that you get from your private online community can also help you with certain ideas around ideation for your product or services. It can also help reduce support costs for your organization.
Most importantly, you own the data. You can look at different behavior patterns to bring community members things that your customers are interested in. You can base an array of business decisions on the different things that the people in your online community looking at or that they're saying to each other - from product roadmap decisions to messaging decisions.