No matter the reason for the change, anyone who has grown an online community to maturity on a Facebook or LinkedIn or Yahoo group can tell you that the thought of moving that community to a new platform is enough to keep a person up at night.
There are logistical and personal challenges to migrating an entire community, like:
- What if engagement totally dies?
- What if we lose all the activity from our old group when we transition?
- What if community users don’t move?
- What if users start their own rogue communities because they hate our new platform?
But whatever your worries are, moving your community to an official community platform could be what it needs to become even better. Plus, with Yahoo Groups shutting down, it's definitely a good time to think about a new home for your community.
To get you to that new, better place, there are some strategic elements to think about as you transition your community from a social media group to an official community platform.
(Not sure you want to move to a platform built for community yet? Let this post convince you.)
We’re here to help you meet your goals while avoiding these pitfalls.
1. Outline Your Migration Strategy
First of all, organize a meeting with all the stakeholders of this project at your organization. You’ve already made the hard decision to move, so now it’s time to plan out every step of the process. If possible, bring in your new vendor to help you plan realistically.
2. Appoint Users as Ambassadors for the New Community
Enlist a few star community users to join your strategic committee or at least become ambassadors. Involve them in early stages of the move, and get their buy-in. They’ll be your best allies when it comes to making the move. They can help answer questions and get other members jazzed.
3. Find Out If You Can Import Your Community’s History
Will your new community be able to pull in past discussions/photos/files from your social media group?
Your community members will want to know. It might not be likely due to the differences in software between social media and a community platform, and that's okay, but you have to let your users know this in advance. Frame it in a way that makes it more positive. For example, you might be able to assign leader badges to those users who were most engaged on the last platform, to ease the sting of losing things they’d contributed.
4. Be Prepared to Articulate Why You’re Moving – Before You Announce It
Why are you moving to a community platform and away from a social media group?
Maybe you want to assure community users that their data is secure (it's hard to trust certain social media giants with that one). Maybe you want to maximize your revenue potential by hosting your community on a space you own - or maybe, you’re ready to eliminate all ads so your users can get back to business: building community.
Whatever it is, you’re probably moving for excellent reasons – and you’ll want to make sure you know these like the back of your hand. Outline two to three main goals at your strategy meeting that you can share with community members.
Read more: Community Versus Social Media
We can’t stress this tip enough. The quality and timeliness of communication from your organization is what’s going to make or break the community transition. If your community users don’t know what’s going on, they’re going to get mad and they won’t want to cooperate.
So, communicate early, clearly, and in a timely way. If you’re having problems with the migration, let them know. It’s better that they’re informed even if you’re having some problems.
(Tip #2, appoint users as ambassadors, is super relevant here. If you know why you’re making the move, and you can explain why it’s a great idea, your community users can get excited too.)
6. Give Community Members a Point of Contact
On the same note, make sure your users know who their point of contact is. If you have a community admin or moderator in your current community who communicates with users, they’d be a great fit. Users will ask questions, so make sure they know who to ask. (Again, if they’re unsure what’s going on, you’ll be facing a lot of angry community members. Make it easier on yourself by heading off these complaints.)
7. Find a Community Manager (if You Don’t Have One Already)
As your users get settled into the new community, make sure someone is there to answer questions and encourage engagement. You may have already had an admin on your old community, and you've established a point of contact for users, and either of these could transform into a community management role. Either way, make sure you have someone to look after the community. It’s essential. (Here’s why.)
8. Create a Code of Conduct
You may have had a code of conduct on your social media group or old platform. Use that as a basis for drafting your new one, if you have it, but even if you have to start from scratch, a code of conduct is one of the most important things you can do before you move any member into your new platform.
Here are a couple things to consider when drafting the code of conduct:
- Will job postings be allowed?
- What will be your policy for disciplining users who violate the code of conduct? How many violations can a community user have before they’re removed from the community?
Check out this post from one of Higher Logic’s community management experts with more guidance for writing a code of conduct.
9. Lay Out Segmentation + Permissions
Since you’re coming from social media, it may be the first time you've considered segmentation in the community. Social media platforms don’t usually let you show users different content unless you're paying for ads, but your new platform may allow you to segment community members by groups by integrating with your CRM.
For example, if you have a software user group, your users might have purchased different products, so you might be able to segment your customers into separate sub-communities based on which one they have. Ask your vendor about this. Either way, it can improve the relevance of your users’ community experience.
10. Decide How You’ll Add Users to the Community
You have a few options on how to add your users. Since you're coming from a social media group, the best way might be to let them join organically or opt in rather than adding them automatically. If you do decide to start small and draw users in organically, you can work with the new users to get them involved and nurture them into super-users.
11. Make Sure Your Community Landing Page is AWESOME
The more barriers you can remove, the easier it will be to get your community members to join you on the new platform. Of course, it always helps if the first page they see when they click that new community link is beautiful, functionally amazing, and engaging. And if you can make signing up as easy as possible, the less you’ll lose members to frustration or “I’ll-do-it-later” syndrome.
12. Make the Announcement + Close Up Shop on Your Social Media Group
Decide when to pull the plug on your social media group, and plan for it. This is when timely communication will be key. For example, you need to give your users a hard deadline of when you'll stop accepting posts on that group and give them the link to go to the new platform.
(Although, you’ll want to hold off on shutting down your old community for a while. This way, any out-of-touch users won’t be lost forever when they try to sign into your old community in six months and it’s gone.) Instead, pin a permanent message that your community has moved.
And when you inevitably get users’ posts on your old community AFTER the move date, have your community manager politely remind them the community has moved, provide them the link to the new platform, and ask them to repost the message there.
(Note: Make sure someone is monitoring your old community!)
Tip: Share highlights to encourage users to move
Entice your users to migrate by posting tidbits or cool new features you have on your new community platform. This might be as simple as doing “New Feature Friday” every week until you officially move, or after you’ve moved, start sharing a weekly round-up of the coolest/most interesting posts from your new community in your old community until you’ve gotten most of your members to join.
13. Remind Yourself of the Benefits
Whew! You’ve made it this far into the process, and you might be feeling overwhelmed. If so, it’s time to take another look at those goals you created. You’re doing the best thing for your community members and your organization. You’re almost all set up in your new community platform.
14. Encourage Users to Complete Their Profiles
Ever have a good conversation with someone you couldn’t see, hadn’t met and didn’t know anything about? Probably not. The same goes for your community – try to get your users to complete their profiles as soon as possible.
Facebook or LinkedIn has a leg up here because users already have their profile information and photo set when they join the group, so you’ll have to do a little catch-up work if you’re moving them from social media. (Ask your community provider if you can have members import their profiles from social media.)
Tip: Automate your asks
Try getting users to complete their profiles using automated emails. Your community platform hopefully has a way to automatically communicate with new users based on certain actions. For example, when they’ve clicked “submit” to register for your new community, you could trigger an automatic email or series of emails that encourage them to get more involved…and fill out their community member profiles.
15. Organize Programming
To keep users coming back to your new community, create a content schedule. Work in tandem with your community manager to create those regular occasions to engage.
You could try some of these ideas:
- Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs) with Subject Matter Experts or interesting community members
- Community-specific webinars
- Weekly Work Out Loud threads
- Question of the Week
Any of these methods are great ways to encourage users to return and regularly interact on your new community platform.
Pat Yourself on the Back: You Did It!
Whew. Moving a community is hard work, but in the end, you’ll be glad you did it. Building a community takes time – but so did building Rome. The most important things to remember are to make a plan ahead of time and communicate. That way, you’ll keep the most important part of your community happy: your users.
If you have any doubts about migration, now is the time to reconsider. You don't want to risk the valuable benefits a successful online community can provide (to the tune of increased customer satisfaction rates, decreased support costs, and improved customer retention rates) by sticking with a social media platform or the wrong vendor. Join our 15-minute webinar to learn more: 10 Signs You Need to Break Up with Your Community Platform Provider.
Editor's note: This post was originally published by Joshua Paul in August 2015 and has since been refreshed to make sure we're bringing you the latest and greatest.