Scaling and Growth in Online Communities

banner_online_communityAs an online community grows, it has different needs. “The community manager will find him or herself dealing with new challenges that may require adjustments be made in order to scale their efforts.” (Richard Millington, FeverBee). Scaling your community is a good way to proceed and be effectual .

The role of a community manager should  evolve from  handling day to day work towards developing processes which allow the community to scale and develop.  Using data to optimize growth is a great way to get things moving.

  • Using Data – Now some of you may be saying “I’m a community manager not a data analyst!” While this is true, capital is an ever-present constraint, and the focus must always be to squeeze maximum growth from limited capital. Data is the answer. It will help you find target topics that are shared by members in the community. Maybe it is a demographic, a physical location or the fact that they all like cheese. Find the commonality and get them talking to each other. This will create a new branch of your ever growing community.
  • Track Members – It is important for you to recognize what stage all of your members are at.  While it looks great to have a large number of registered members you will need to quickly find the active ones. They will be posting at least every month (or more frequently). They will also be fundamental in helping new members to feel welcome. This is a great way to get new members to convert to regulars. By tracking active, regular and new members you will keep your community balanced and healthy. You will also recognize where you need to work as members come and go, your community grows, and you identify your potential leaders of conversation.
  • Conversions – In the words of Richard Millington, founder of FeverBee, “Golden Rule 3: The conversion process neither begins nor ends with the registration page.” We need to focus on how many active, participating, members you have. To do that, look at what happens after the registration page.  It may be better to ask for their first contribution before being asked to give a username, password and e-mail to register. After they register, get them to the “party” right away. Direct them with a link or some other vehicle to get them engaged. This is the shift from new to participating member. From here, your community can help to encourage a long term membership and active participation if the member is looking for that. This is where they become more involved, posting and commenting, actively engaging in the community. The next step –Volunteers.
  • Volunteers – This is the cream of the crop and well worth tracking. Their numbers will be low, but this group will be a part of creating growth, activity and a sense of belonging in the community. This form of scaling helps the community manager shift from managing all members to managing the volunteers, thus freeing up time for other things like strategic planning and tracking data.

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Most communities that fail do so because they spend too much time and money building in the wrong forum before realizing too late what the right forum should have been. Some great advice from one of the top Community Mangers in the business, Deb Ng, author of Online Community Management for Dummies shares this thought -“Logging all of your community’s activities and actions will help you determine how your community is growing and what areas need work.” Using all of the tools available to keep track of your community’s activities will help you achieve your goals. These words of wisdom will be a great guide to you as you pursue your passion to grow your online community.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share your comments, thoughts, tips and tricks of scaling and growing an online community.


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