There has been a lot of buzz lately about the number of failed online communities litter the web. In fact, Gartner Says 80 Percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits through 2015. As with any hype-cycle, people run out to get or make the latest thing – in this case a social network or community – and often don’t think through what having one will be like. It’s kind of like getting a puppy – exciting at first, but hard work thereafter! So, is not how do you launch an online community but how can you keep it alive and thriving? As we all grow weary of prosaic advice, here is are the top 10 ways to kill an online community. Do this and you are likely doomed.
1) Launch your community without a beta group. Do not involve users in the design of the community under the assumption that you know better than they do what they want. Just design the features and functions without them and assume they will like it.
2) Throw feature-spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks. Add as many new and cool features to your (business) community and clutter it with bells and whistles. Business people love to learn lots of new tools (not).
3) Don’t “feed” your community once it is open. Fill it with people by marketing the heck out of it and just see where things go. Assume the members will do all the work from the start and they don’t need content or assistance after they have joined.
4) Don’t use off-line outreach and engagement techniques. Just wait for people to post messages and then moderate them without endeavoring to engage people behind the scenes to help them post messages and participate.
5) Assume size is THE critical differentiator. Fill your community with anyone and everyone regardless of their role or function. If they have a pulse they are welcome and it doesn’t matter if there is a cohesive goal for the group to collaborate.
6) Try to monetize the community at every opportunity. People like to be badgered with micro-payments and teasers when they are in a community setting. Abandon a business strategy or never develop one and just give people lots of opportunity to pay for access and content at every turn.
7) Hire any staff who are on-the-bench to moderate the community. Any underutilized employee will do regardless of whether they have the expertise to facilitate knowledge-sharing or not. Heck, this will give them something to do.
8) Don’t have a newsletter or steady, predictable communication to members. Assume they will want to visit your community during their busy work day and will remember to do so independently.
9) Don’t evolve the community based on member feedback and suggestions. Believe when you launch the community that your work is done. Go tell your investors and executive team the community mission is accomplished as soon as the site is up and running and don’t look back.
10) Measure meaningless metrics that make you look good. Number of posts (include all those “me too” messages to bump up your numbers), number of members (regardless of their engagement or visit frequency) all can make you look good with out ever really determining whether the community serves your business and customers well.