Managing an online community can be a difficult and lengthy task. Everyday consists of several interactions, updates, and listening. The levels and sort of interaction have much to do with the age of the community.
There are 3 main levels to a community:
Youth – A community has to start somewhere and youth is the beginning. In the youth stage the community relies on the creator to create content. Members aren’t quite sure on how to cooperate and/or start their own conversations. A few relationships have been established and trust within the community is being created.
A solid strategy on how to not only enter the youth stage of a community but how to get out of the youth stage is critical to the success of a brand or business. A lot of resources are used to keep a community at the youth stage that could be used elsewhere.
The youth stage is great for learning how to grow and manage a community but can be really detrimental if the creator is the only one providing conversation.
Established – The difference between Youth and Established is earth-shattering. Relationships have been established with certain users, trust throughout the community is common-place, and conversations are self-sustaining.
The Established stage is really important. Unlike the Youth stage there are a lot of measurables. ROI is much easier to track through a well planned sales funnel, conversations are traceable, and brand recognition is at an all time high. Like all social media your goals can be measured, but they must be established before the strategy is put into place.
Stale – Although social media is a newer concept, it is not exempt from the chaos theory. All things will lead to chaos eventually, and so is an online community. Past relationships that were strengthened in the Established stage may begin to crumble. These relationships can fall out because of newer members with different values and beliefs, a lack of interest in the product/brand, or because of the ever changing competition in the market.
Successful brands will allow the chaos to pursue. Embrace the displacement of relationships and create new ones to take their place. If a community is growing in age and the customers have lost interest in producing content then find the next best content creator. A community life cycle should be cyclical like most things. If done correctly a community will revert back to established over and over again and continue to be self-sustaining.
The hardest part of growing a community is the initial start up. Being a local business can really be a daunting task trying to convince loyal customers to take the plunge and become involved in your brand’s social media. With the correct strategy and implementation any business can create a self-sustaining community. Would you add any other sections to the community life cycle?