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How to Reinvigorate a Stagnant Community

Let’s have a real chat about your community, and when you should start to be concerned and check your community’s pulse.

From a high level, there are three types of communities:

  • Active, vibrant communities that benefit from ongoing strategic support (from marketing, executives, developers, etc.), investment and budget, campaigns and activity, and collaboration.
  • Passable communities which experience a smaller percentage of followers who are still somewhat engaged; activations happen infrequently (mostly when needed), they tend to be low-energy, and they see minimal collaboration or support from within organizations.
  • Dying communities that suffer from a poor user funnel, a lack of campaigns or planned activity, a hemorrhaging user base, and no collaboration or support.

When DAU and MAU drop (daily and monthly active user counts, respectively), when there’s no plan or strategy to feed consistent activity or energy into the community, and when there’s no funnel for users or a lack of company support… That’s when you start to watch for tumbleweeds and listen for the sound of echoing crickets. 

Luckily, we have some insights to help avoid such community tragedies. 

Understand it’s a journey. Nothing happens overnight. Even if your community is lucky to begin with high numbers and healthy activity, time is still a variable. In a journey, the start (first two months) and end (when targets and goals are achieved or the need is complete) are important markers of the experience, but should be considered bookends. The true value is found over the course of time. There will be ups and downs, and it’s important to identify what a low activity threshold is for your community. That’s why weekly, monthly, and quarterly plans are so important.

When engagement is slowing and community response is sluggish, it’s time to pull stakeholders into the room and talk about reinvigoration plans, events, themes, goals, and KPIs. Pull out your map and chart your next steps carefully. Identify low hanging fruit opportunities, themes, and what tools you have at your disposal, and plan. Accept the challenge enthusiastically.

Go on a recon mission. Planning cannot happen without investigation. Remove those rose colored glasses and take a hard look at what’s working and what isn’t working. Who’s still on this journey with you and why? What are the motivations for activity? What’s the fuel keeping people active (even to the most minimal degree)?

In most cases, there are early signs of stagnation. Be sure to watch the following:

  • Stat check: Look at DAU, new registration, active threads, comments and replies, and user sentiment.
  • Do you see user loss in the registration process, or an increase of one-time logins?
  • Is there a genuine interest in news, updates, or activities set up by your community manager, or is it like pulling teeth to get responses?
  • Are you overmoderating or undermoderating or inconsistently moderating, causing confusion and friction?
  • Is anyone from the company engaging the community in any way (this includes community management)?
  • Are you practicing any supplemental communication routes like newsletters or email notifications? If so, check out the data. What’s your open rate?

Now look at who’s left standing in your community:

  • What are the trends of conversation? Are they centered on one or two topics or a range of conversations? Are they mostly personal to the long-term members? If you were a new person to the community, would you feel welcome?
  • Conversational sentiment: Do your remaining community members show signs of resentment or negativity?
  • Inclusive vs. exclusive behavior: When new people have joined the community, were they embraced, ignored, or ostracized?

Investigate and understand why the community is in its current state. Frankly, sometimes it’s not just one reason. Use the results of your recon to openly acknowledge opportunities and formulate a plan for change. 

Work with those who remain. If you have a few solid community members (again, these are folks who don’t show any negative signs that could be harmful to the greater good), those remaining members may want to keep the community fire burning.

Regardless of your size, start small and scale from there before bringing the whole community together. Work with the members who share your vision of a revitalized community. As you recreate this network, existing members will pass the message and the mission on to other members, working to rekindle the spark.

Build phases and evolve. Community is not just the happy times when people are communicating. Community starts from inception — the landing page, the registration process, the welcome letter, the notifications, the first two minute experience, the first week experience, undulating events and the evolution of activity and time, the need for connection, and the success of community lore, roots, and growth.

Identify the different phases of your community’s experience. Is your communication and nomenclature seamless or complicated, inviting or a chore? How do reminders, invites, and notifications appear, and are they working? Are people connecting in a healthy and meaningful way? Are they using the channel to connect and leave for other social venues? Is there a need for people to regularly return? Are you allowing for lore to build, and giving credit to the whimsy your community is creating? The best communities build a world to visit and connect to, with hooks and opportunities for new and interesting connections. They understand the fear of change, acknowledge the growing department, and can introduce healthy evolution.

Bring people together through events. Create opportunities for gatherings based on community members’ shared interests. Use that time to give a motivating speech expressing your intentions and asking for help from the other community members.

  • Harness the power of music. Everybody appreciates a fantastic jam session, karaoke night, or even a concert. Besides, studies suggest that you can use music therapy to instill a better sense of control, mood improvement, and boost self-expression. Organize a jamming session for the whole community. Thanks to current technology, geo-location won’t hinder anyone from enjoying good music. Virtual music concerts and sessions have become more common, so you can still reminisce about the good ol’ days.
  • Take part in sporting events. Another great way to bond is over a common love of sports. Many members appreciate a good game of football, baseball, or any other sporting event. Games bring communities together, so make the most of videoconferencing platforms to join together and cheer on your favorite teams virtually.
  • Organize charity events. Finding a common cause around which to rally can help renew the spirit of community among the remaining members. And with luck (and a bit of prompting), they might bring in a few new faces who also share your interests. Identify acts of charity that your community can partake in. Bring people together to help local causes or sponsor a virtual charity ball for farther-reaching communities. You can also use this platform to preach your intentions of revitalizing the community.

Redefine the community’s end goal. Ultimately, the community revolves around everyone, so the end goal should be something every member wants. It could be a space to share projects or exchange knowledge. It might be a hub to connect with other like-minded creatives in your area. Either way, it’s important to keep the community’s ultimate goals in mind when deciding how to proceed.

And if you hit a snag along the way, don’t get discouraged; know that each failure is an opportunity to learn and make things better next time around.

Ask and incentivize. While you may have plenty of ideas about how to reinvent your community, some members might not support your methods or could be hesitant to reconnect. Before going through the trouble of deploying your methods, communicate with the member base and ask them if and how they want to be involved.

You can also encourage members to come together by using incentives such as individual and brand recognition and content. After all, who doesn’t like a reward after achieving a mission?

Don’t be afraid to experiment. The good thing is that there are no rules on how to bring back your community. There are multiple strategies you can use to achieve your goal. You can choose to deploy all of them at once or proceed in phases. Experiment with which strategy works best and go for that one.

But don’t forget to be versatile in your approach. And above all, don’t quit. Your community is worth the time and effort it takes to get it off the ground.

Reinvigorating your stale community is no walk in the park. Yet again, nothing worthwhile ever is. It won’t happen overnight, but with strong will, commitment, and a good strategy map, you’ll get there.

Want to talk to experts in communities? Whether your members interact on your website, on social media, or during live events, ModSquad can help you manage and nourish your community. Give us a call.

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