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Evolving Your Community as It Grows

Written by Molly Talbert | on November 9, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Your online community shouldn't stay the same forever. Help it evolve.

The best entrepreneurs and CEOs think about time in two chunks—five years and 100 years.

To be a good leader, you need to be able to juggle short term thinking with (very) long term planning. How do you have a great Q4 but also set your company up for success in the next 100 years?

Good community managers often see themselves and are perceived by others as leaders in their trade. Because of that, they need to think similarly. Meaning they need to think beyond quarterly and yearly goals, keeping in mind the community’s longevity and how it will look and perform down the line.

Shape Your Community’s Future

Taking a long view may not be thinking about where your online community will be in 100 years. But it is still important to extend your time frame beyond a few quarters or even the year. When you hold both time frames in mind—the short term and the long term—you can begin intentionally shaping your community’s future.

Often, you don’t have to try that hard to influence your community. As a community grows and matures, it usually changes organically. But is that organic change going to serve your members and organization well in the future? When your community does begin changing, it can be a sign that it’s time for you to think strategically and intentionally about how you want the community to evolve.

When deciding what direction you want to take your community, or what aspects of it you want to grow or shift, keep one important question in mind: what do you want the community to do for your organization? Increase revenue? Membership? The answer to that question will illuminate the path you should go down.

Let’s dive into a few paths you can take to ensure longevity and continued relevance in your community.

1. Create an Ambassador Program

A great way to grow your community and create more value for members is to start an ambassador program. Ambassador programs are a win-win. They’re a win for your organization, because ambassadors recruit new members and spread information about your community. And they’re a win for ambassadors because they get to contribute to a cause they care about (your organization) and cultivate a deeper sense of community.

2. Make Your Community a Mentoring Hub

If your goal is recruitment and retention, consider a mentoring program. Mentoring programs attract both young and seasoned members to your community. By creating a structured online mentoring program, you create a whole new level of value for your members, which can increase overall member retention.

Like an ambassador program, a mentoring program is another win-win. Young professionals find value in talking to seasoned professionals, and seasoned professionals find meaning in bringing the next generation up. Once you have a program established, members organically pair up and your organization can let it grow organically.

3. Introduce Non-Members to The Community

If your goal is recruitment, this could be the time to unlock certain areas of your community and allow non-members to have access and, perhaps, post. Opening your community to the public can be a delicate matter, but doing so strategically can help your community be found (since it can now be found on search engines), and increase your organization’s trust amongst people considering joining (since they can ‘see behind the curtain’).

Some people think that it’s either/or—either you have a totally open community or a totally closed community. That isn’t the case. You can open certain parts of the community for the world and prospective members to see, but keep the majority of the community closed only to members.

Check in with Your Members

If you’re worried about how members will react to possible changes, survey them. Not only are surveys a great way to way to take the temperature of your members, but they probably also have ideas for where they’d like the community to go.

If you uncover something exceptional, please share it! We love to hear how things are working in the field.

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Topics: Online Community Management, Customer Advocacy, Online Community

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