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Is Your Online Community Sitting in Summertime Silence?

Written by Heather Arkwright | on July 5, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Is your online community sitting in summertime silence?

It’s that time of year again. Summer is in full swing and it’s too nice to sit at your desk all day -- and the proof is in your engagement numbers.

What’s happening? For unseasoned community manager, it can be hard to tell if your lower engagement rates are early signs of a long term downtrend, or just a temporary lack of energy.

Don’t worry -- you’re probably experiencing the summertime silence.

Learn the patterns

All communities have ups and downs in activity. Depending on your industry, member demographics and who knows what else, there will be times throughout the year when your activity is lower than normal.

If your community is new, these lulls might surprise you and look like the beginning of a bad trend. But if you’re more seasoned, you’ll recognize these normal patterns and even be able to predict when they’ll hit.

Many communities see an activity decline during the summer, when people vacation, and during winter holidays.

Have a plan

Just because these ebbs and flows are natural, doesn’t mean you need to sit back and let things fall silent. It’s fine that engagement is lower than normal, but it’s also a good time to experiment with tactics and see what bites.

Have a cache of seed questions at the ready to deploy if things get especially quiet. You don’t necessarily need to be the one to post them -- call on member volunteers to post a few questions in the community.

You can stick with traditional, mainstream seed questions that pertain to your industry or community subject matter, but can also throw a few fun ones in the mix as well. Since your members are busy with their offline lives, they might not have time or energy to reply to serious questions. But you can lure them in with something fun, like a GIF Party thread (one of the most popular discussions on our Higher Logic Users Group) or a “Post Your Pet” discussion.

Sure, it’s fluffy, but if you can entice a member to log in and participate in that one discussion, chances are high they’ll see something else interesting, and browse the entire community.

Rally subject matter experts

Are seed questions not enough to bring people back? If you know when your lulls usually are, preemptively line up material or events to involve subject matter experts or thought leaders. Work with leaders in your industry to write blog posts, start discussions or host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread. This type of content -- big ideas and thought leadership -- are more fun when we’re distracted during the summer.

Know that it just happens

As hard as you may work to try boosting engagement during your slow periods, sometimes you just have to accept that your members are temporarily busy doing other things. Rather than only  comparing engagement activity to the previous month, or several previous months, look at what your community was like that month the previous year (i.e. May 2015 to May 2016). This type of comparison will help you realize -- and prove -- that the lull in activity is temporary and doesn’t signify the beginning of an engagement disaster.

Rather than stressing, take this slow time as a chance to catch up on projects you kept on the sideburner, to strategize for the rest of the year, or to work on your professional development. Don’t get down about the decreased engagement -- see it as an opportunity to rest, learn and prepare for when you know, inevitably, members will return.

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Online Community

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