Communities are dynamic, which makes managing them equal parts fun and challenging. Community managers must have a hands-on role, as they engage their communities and monitor community health. At the same time, they must give it enough space to grow and mature on its own.
It’s almost like raising a child. You don’t want to hover so much that you give the child no room to grow or learn. But you don’t want to be too hands off either — or chaos ensues, leaving you in a terrible position.
A better description might be comparing community health to the health of the human body. Just like your personal health, your community’s health plays a role in its well-being (read: success or failure). If you don’t nurture your body or take care of it, things can go wrong.
What we eat, what we drink, how we treat our bodies: These are all elements that contribute to our overall health. It is exactly the same with an active, budding community.
Community Health and Why It Matters
Community health can be managed or affected in varying ways. It’s not just about growth, for instance. You can have the biggest community ever created, but if there’s no engagement, activity, or interest then it’s eventually going to taper out. In a body, exercise alone won’t keep you healthy, especially if you’re not maintaining a good diet.
Other times, you need to let things play out. But that doesn’t mean you should leave a community to its own devices. Regularly checking its health and performance is vital to ensuring your community remains stable for years to come. You must be able to make adjustments over time that contribute to its overall success. More importantly, these elements will directly factor into engagement and memberships — user growth.
Without actively monitoring and growing community support, you end up with something like MySpace as opposed to Facebook. MySpace was a hit for some time, but eventually community engagement and loyalty evaporated.
By 2020, about four billion people will be active online, which highlights just how enormous an online community or audience can be, if you do it right.
A Healthy Outside Starts From the Inside
What you may not realize is that you likely already have a lot of the foundation in place, it’s just a matter of updating your strategic community planning methods.
The Right Communication is Key
There are many forms of communication, some public and others more private. Members will communicate with each other, but that’s more about discussing events, thoughts and experiences. But the communication that happens between a brand and its community should be different. The key is to keep members informed in addition to participating.
Regular communication both to and from members is important. It helps preserve transparency, keeping all stakeholders on the same page while also making room for necessary conversations. Let’s face it, communication is a key ingredient in all facets of life and business; it improves the general experience for everyone. Even just a moderate increase in customer experience (CX) generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for companies with at least $1 billion in annual revenue.
Have you ever been part of a brand-oriented community only to realize the company itself and its reps weren’t even participating? They weren’t listening to suggestions, dealing with customer concerns, or even answering questions? The community almost always dies as a result, and it’s not a slow movement either.
Light Moderation is Always Necessary
In almost all cases, it will be necessary to have a moderator or team available not just to monitor conversations and dialogue, but to prevent potentially disastrous results.
There are some communities that just cannot be self-run or self-managed, and that’s okay. So it’s important to have a robust support team in place for when situations arise.
For instance, moderators should always watch out for inappropriate or non-applicable content, effectively removing them from the discussion when necessary. This helps keep the community focused and relevant and protects members from experiencing negative interactions.
A positive community warns of tainted water, where 95 percent of customers will share their bad experiences with others. If they have a bad time because of negligence or other members of the community, you better believe they’re going to talk about it and share it.
Hopefully, moderation is rarely required. To ensure this remains true, a community should always have rules and standards publicly outlined, and rule enforcement should always be carried out.
Account for Emotions, Feelings, and Sentiment
Grab a thermometer. You need to know the temperature of your community. Gauging sentiment helps you ensure things are going the way they should be, and if not, then you can pivot and adjust.
It’s important to understand how people feel and incorporate those emotions into the future of a community. You want people to feel happy, engaged and satisfied when they come and go. But they’re not going to just blurt it out. Sometimes issues or ideas fester beneath the surface. It’s always up to the community manager and their support team to ensure the overall “feel” of the community is positive and desirable.
You can pivot strategies or comms based on overall (or individual) sentiment. That also means creating content, messaging, or events based on the feedback coming in. Does your community prefer to hear from other community members vs community managers? Great! Start a monthly “Community Insiders” blog or Q&A and get going.
If your community doesn’t like a particular campaign, change it or drop it completely. If they are enjoying something immensely, then find a way to replicate the success. Tools like surveys and polls provide a more straightforward way to track this. Polls typically are group-based and high level for quick diagnosis, whereas surveys are inherently more personal and allow for deeper analysis.
Open Direct, Personalized Conversations
When it comes your personal wellbeing, I’d be willing to bet your mental capacity plays a big factor. Especially your relationships and conversations with friends and family (or your dog). The same is true of the community. Conversations and engagements that are on a smaller scale and meaningful will deepen your community health. Think about providing opportunities for networking and 1:1 conversations with other members. These micro conversations help keep members engaged and tend to be more personal as a result.
Yes, on the top-level it’s a “community” or social group, but direct conversations inject a more human touch into the entire experience. This can be carried out as a response to positive or negative topics, or it can just be an ongoing tactic to boost loyalty.
It’s considered an above-and-beyond approach when you go out of your way to understand and interact with individuals.
Host Live Events and Activities
Get active! Community meetups are also a great way to get members, moderators and even managers together to strengthen relationships. Unsurprisingly, 66 percent of brand communities claim they define their community’s role within their organization as a relationship building process or function.
And similarly, 80 percent of marketers believe that live events are critical to their company’s overall success. And it makes sense, particularly when it comes to improving community experiences.
The types of events or activities you organize are going to depend on the size and capabilities of the network. For instance, a smaller community is not going to benefit from a large-scale conference or trade show. But it may be beneficial to still have a local meetup or event.
People love being a part of a community because it provides ample time to network or interact socially. Live, in-person events help to boost morale and sentiment too. It just adds to the online experience (despite how separate it may seem) and keeps members connected all year long.
Maintaining Good Community Health is Vital to Success
Community health should be a part of your strategy. You can adjust accordingly, and at varying degrees based on how the community is doing. A good mixture of the tips listed here will provide positive results, but it’s consistency that is going to make the biggest difference.
A healthy community can attest to increasing levels of member engagement, loyalty and evolving brand recognition. So the power is in your hands to inject a strategy that becomes a part of your community lifestyle.