Enticing a community's members to return and breathing life back into a community isn't easy. The challenges are different from building engagement in a new community. Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies you can employ. In this piece, the second of a three-part series, we'll look at housecleaning your community, renewing friendships with those who can help, and planning campaigns to re-engage members.
In our first piece, we looked at how analytics can help you determine the health of your community. Tools like Igloo's Health Check enable you to determine how your community is doing today, and over time. It helps you figure out which parts of your community are growing, holding steady, or declining. And it assists in understanding what the metrics mean for actual community engagement, like intranet activity as compared to corporate website activity.
In this piece, we'll look at some concrete actions the community manager or team can take to begin revitalizing an existing community that may have gotten a bit stagnant, or which may be holding steady and could just use a boost to help it continue to grow and thrive.
Tidy your house for company
If your established community has been stagnating, you don't want the first thing people see when they come back to be old, out of date content. In most companies you don't want to delete things stored on the intranet, but if the content is hopelessly outdated, uses obsolete branding, or references discontinued products, it may be safe to remove it, or at least archive it. Consult with the teams that own the content.
The community manager or team may need to do some heavy lifting to help update and add new content. While it's being done it's also an opportunity to train or re-train teams, and to find out why they stopped using the community for content (or never started) and to address the underlying issues.
Much like staggering the registration for a new community, perhaps starting your community's revitalization with a single team is the way to go with a revamp. There is plenty to be done with one target team: finding out their needs (or what has changed), getting content written or uploaded, and encouraging interactions. Once that's done you'll have a good case study to use when repeating the process with others.
It's also a good idea to find out about new internal projects coming up that would be good candidates to be launched and managed on the intranet. Ideally your community is integrated into how the projects are run right from the beginning, and these projects can serve as a rich source of new, dynamic content. It's best to find out this information well in advance of when the projects are due to launch so negotiations with the team and management and onboarding work can begin as early as possible.
Start with small campaigns
Your community didn't decline overnight, and you're not going to be able to repair it that quickly, either. Additionally, you're going to need to be strategic about how you go about it. A "firehose" approach to attacking all the issues with members, content, and functionality will lead to burnout and failure.
Start with small, simple campaigns. Pick one team you think you can turn around and get using the community regularly again. It could be a team that needs help with better communications, knowledge management, or even just a newer team that is struggling to "gel". Sure, it would be a huge coup to get the most resistant people in the company actively participating, but wouldn't it be easier to do that once you have some established results on your side?
Once you've identified your target group, don't overwhelm them. Yes, fixing the community is a huge, daunting task, but it's your huge, daunting task, not theirs. Also, you're more likely to get buy-in for something people can accomplish relatively easily. After all, everyone's busy.
Ask them to review their existing documents for "freshness" and edit as needed. Create a blog post relevant to them and ask for comments on the content. Invite them to use the community's tools for their next team brainstorming session.
Successfully completing a community-centric activity quickly makes everyone feel good. Yay, it worked! It gives you some evidence and leverage for the value of community engagement, and it gives the team you worked with a sense of productivity and accomplishment. Hopefully it also provides some momentum to ramp up to doing more, especially if your request naturally leads into a follow-up one.
Showcase who's been doing it right
Nothing illuminates and persuades like concrete evidence. "Show me" will always trump "tell me", so be prepared to do so. Think of your vibrant community activity and the interesting and innovative uses of the platform as case studies. If you don't have any current examples, see the section on starting with small campaigns and quick wins. Once you have that, use it to woo another team that does similar work or who you think could reap similar benefits.
Curate great content or interesting engagement in public areas, or in communications that plenty of people at the company will see, like a newsletter. Explain briefly why this project ran more smoothly, that conversation revealed some really cool data, or which team has totally mastered knowledge sharing.
Try to ensure that you have a team member available for your showcased content. Again, directly involved members will have more credibility than you will. If possible, have the person available to answer questions or provide advice to other teams. Or even interview them about what worked, what didn't, and what they learned. The interview would make for great community content and a conversation starter.
Ask your champions for some more championing
If you cultivated your early community member relationships, and are somewhat fortunate, your community should still have internal champions. They may not always be as available to help out, depending on workload and other priorities, but they were energetic supporters once, and could be again.
If your champions haven't been doing much championing, find out why. Not in an accusatory way, but see if it's just because they got busy, they didn't think it was needed anymore, or perhaps because it was discouraging to see declining engagement.
Remember, these are the people who've known the platform and members nearly as well as you do. If something more concrete than resistance to change affected your community's decline, your champions will likely know. They'll also probably be aware of who had the most issues or complaints, what group was the most resistant to ramping up, or what features caused the most confusion.
Once any concrete issues are addressed (bugs, cumbersome workflows, awkward UI), ask your champions to check things out and give their feedback. Even get them to help you get broader feedback from "friendlies" they know on other teams.
Once that's done, express your eternal gratitude, and ask them to help you evangelize the bigger, better community platform to other teams again. As aforementioned, as members of the community - and co-workers of some of the people you're going to be approaching - they have more direct credibility in evangelizing the community than you do.
You didn't launch the community by yourself, so it's all right to ask for help in revitalizing it. Now, it's individual contributors who are going to be the key to that success, but bringing in some management muscle can help, too.
The best people to approach are management who were supportive of the community from the start. Perhaps they were great at encouraging their teams to use the community, but those efforts just kind of fell by the wayside as everyone got busy. These people should be easy to convince to push community usage again, especially if you figure out together how best to use it to benefit their teams and for new projects.
Managers in other departments have far deeper knowledge of their teams and work than you do, so they will be able to figure out which team members and which projects would be the best fit for the community platform. They can clearly spell out to their teams: this is what we're going to do, how, and why. Someone in authority will have more clout with their own teams both due to the leadership position and to a stronger existing work relationship. And of course, the best kind of leadership is leading by example. Get those managers contributing to the community with file sharing, communications, and engaging with their own teams.
Now, convincing managers with whom you don't already have good rapport, or who are unconvinced of the value of the community will be a lot harder. You will really have to approach it from a "what's in it for you" angle. And convince them that it won't waste their teams' time or productivity or detract from existing projects. In these cases, start very small and very specific and be prepared to handhold a lot more. Analytics can also be invaluable here. You're backing up your claims and your requests with hard data. You can show how community use has benefited other teams. And hey, a little inter-departmental competition never hurt.
If all you can get is a grudging acceptance of trying ramped-up community activities with their team, rather than full-on support, take it and run. You can work up to those managers becoming cheerleaders over time.
This phase of community revitalization may seem like the opposite of the first one. Where it focused on data, this one focuses on people. Which only makes sense. People are the heart of your community, and data can only give you suggestions, not put them into action. But it's more of a chain, where one link is connected to the next. Now, as much as we'd like to guarantee that taking these actions will fix everything, that's not alway the case. In our third installment, we'll look at what you can do when the stagnation may have more complex causes than you thought, or the community has evolved beyond its original needs.
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