I've been in a lot of conversations recently with community managers and leaders who are feeling incredibly frustrated with the way their communities are (or are not) engaging and growing. As I dig down into what might be causing this frustration, I often run into the same problem over and over again: reality.
So many community managers are wonderfully enthusiastic and optimistic about their communities. So much so that they begin to take an idealized view of how the community actually shows up and functions, and/or should show up and function. And it's the gap between this idealized view and what is actually happening that causes so much frustration.
As I work with companies and organizations that find themselves in this position, there is one solution I've discovered that trumps all others. We've got to face the cold, stark reality of exactly where the community is and get really comfortable with acknowledging that reality before we can uncover the very best strategies.
How do we do this? With a two-pronged approach designed to make the process as proactive (and painless) as possible.
Prong One: Set a tone and environment for the internal community team to be honest and candid, without the fear of judgement or repercussions. If you truly want to get a starkly honest view of reality, this environment is non-negotiable. Do whatever it takes to give your team permission to tell you what you need to hear. Help them take off any rose-colored glasses that might be skewing what they see.
Prong Two: Use a combination of hard data analysis and actual conversations with community members to give you a baseline for the reality of your community. Using surveys and other quantifiable data collection tools are great. However, to get at solid reality, that data has to be combined with conversations with community members. Ask them about their experiences and what they want the community to be. You may find that their views/goals and your views/goals are similar, or you may discover they are vastly different. No matter the outcome, you are already moving towards improved engagement strategies and more targeted goals.
If you find yourself beating your head against the wall in frustration over your community, use this approach and get a solid reality check. Get clear on exactly what your community is and is not. Armed with this information, you will be in a strong position to chart the very best, and most effective, course for your community's future.
What community engagement strategies are or are not working for you right now? Let's chat below!