No matter the reason for the change, anyone who has grown an online community to maturity 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 community when we transition?
- What if members don’t move?
- What if members start their own rogue communities because they hate our new platform?
But whatever your worries are, moving your community could be what it needs to become even better.
To get you to that new, better place, there are some strategic elements to think about as you transition your community from one platform (be it social media, a different company, or a listserv) to another.
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 Members as Ambassadors for the New Community
Enlist a few star members 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 old community?
Members will want to know. If your new platform can’t, that’s okay, but you have to let your members know this in advance. Frame it in a way that makes it more positive. You might be able to automatically assign leader badges to those members who were most engaged on the last platform, to ease the sting of losing everything they’d contributed.
4. Be Prepared to Articulate Why You’re Moving – Before You Announce It
Why are you moving to a new community?
- Maybe your community was on social media, and you’re tired of Facebook’s shenanigans
- Maybe you want to assure members their data is secure, and 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 members can get back to business: building community)
- Maybe you’re migrating from one company’s online community platform to another to get the essential features or support your last platform was missing
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 members.
Read more: Community Versus Social Media
5. Commmuuuuunnnnniiiiiicccaaaattteeeee (Communicate)
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 members 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 members 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 members can get excited too.)
6. Give Your Members a Point of Contact
On the same note, make sure your members know who their point of contact is. If you have a community admin or moderator in your current community who communicates with members, they’d be a great fit. Members 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 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 members get settled in 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 members, 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 members who violate the code of conduct? How many violations can a member 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
If you’re coming from a social media community, this might be the first time you’ve thought about this, as social media platforms don’t usually let you show members different content, but your new platform may allow you to segment members by groups by integrating with your database (AMS or CRM).
For example, if you have a software user group, your members might have 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 members’ community experience.
10. Decide How You’ll Add Members to the Community
You have a few options on how to add your members. If you’re coming from a social media group, the best way might be to let them join organically or opt in. But if you’re coming from another community platform, it might make sense to automatically add them. If you do decide to start small and draw members in organically, you can work with the new members 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 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 Old Community
Decide when to pull the plug on your community, and plan for it. This is when timely communication will be key. For example, you need to give your members a hard deadline of when you'll stop accepting posts on that platform and give them the link to go to the new platform.
(Although, you’ll probably want to hold off on actually shutting down your old community. This way, any out-of-touch members won’t be lost forever when they try to sign into your old community in six months and it’s gone.)
So, when you inevitably get members’ 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 members to move
Entice your members 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 Members 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 members to complete their profiles as soon as possible.
Facebook or LinkedIn has a leg up here because members 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 members to complete their profiles using automated emails. Your community platform hopefully has a way to automatically communicate with new members 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 member profiles.
15. Organize Programming
To keep members 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 (remember, it’s private now, so members can share freely)
- Weekly Work Out Loud threads
- Question of the Week
Any of these methods are great ways to encourage members 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 members.
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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.