Why Most Online Communities Are Destined to Fail


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Listen, if you’re an online community manager, or are in any way responsible for the success of an online community, you might want to know this:

According to Gartner, 70 percent of online communities are destined to fail.

But wait. There’s more. Despite the billions of dollars being poured into online communities, almost 70 percent of customers never log in.

Some of the reasons why communities fail are:

  • Lack of strategic planning
  • Outdated content
  • Uninspired discussions
  • Low engagement
  • No pathways to build relationships with other members
  • No social capital boosting personal or professional brands of members

Many communities also lack the power of advocates — A.K.A. your product’s biggest fans, who are passionate about promoting and interacting with your brand anywhere they can.

You see, advocacy and community go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

The Link Between Advocacy and Community

Without advocates to attract and engage members through interesting discussions and content, communities turn into virtual ghost towns. Conversely, if advocates don’t feel a sense of community engagement, they won’t get the recognition they need to continue participating. Which means nobody is spreading your brand’s message.

This is why building advocate communities is so important. During this year’s Community Manager Appreciation Day (CMAD), I spoke on an international panel about this topic, hosted by Hootsuite. I wanted people to know how essential advocate marketing is in a regular community setting.

Take the 90-9-1 rule, for example. This rule states that 90 percent of community members are lurkers who only read content, 9 percent interact occasionally, and 1 percent actively provide content.

I firmly believe that the 1 percent driving the majority of the conversation are your advocates.

How Can Advocates Power Your Community?

There are several ways companies can use advocates to spark engagement—and help lessen the load for busy community managers. Advocates can regularly contribute to community discussions, post to blogs, reply to member questions, and share other valuable user-generated content, such as product reviews.

Advocates can also engage others to become active contributors, as well as recruit new members. These are two critical components of a healthy community that keep the fresh ideas flowing and people coming back for more.

Finally, advocates can help your community run smoothly by shouldering some of the day-to-day tasks typically handled by community managers, such as moderating forums, responding to blog comments, or making peer connections.

Does advocacy sound like a good resource for growing your community?

Here’s how to get started:

1. Identify your advocates

You may not know who they are, but your advocates already exist. Look for people who share positive things about your brand on social media, or consistently compliment your brand to customer service staff. You can also ask for recommendations from your colleagues.

And don’t forget that employees can be great advocates, too. Having a culture of advocacy is mutually beneficial to your company and customers. If all departments are churning on the same wheel, they will provide the best customer experience. And happy customers will help your company grow at a faster rate.

2. Invite advocates to participate

People join communities in order to share ideas and advice with others who are facing similar issues, or who are interested in the same topics as they are. So, it only makes sense that community members fuel these discussions by contributing their own content.

Mobilize your advocates early on so you can build up relevant, credible content. This not only keeps members engaged in your community, but also helps create the trust necessary to develop long-term relationships and customer loyalty.

3. Nurture your advocates

Make sure your advocates feel valued and motivated to continue to help you grow your community – and build your brand in the process. Be sure to find out why advocates are actively involved in your community. Do they want free swag? Recognition? The chance to be seen as a thought leader?

To understand what motivates advocates in general, take a look at our Hierarchy of Advocate Needs infographic. Once you’ve found their hot buttons, be sure to reward them appropriately for their contributions.

Advocates are the key to growing and sustaining successful online communities. By keeping them happy and engaged, you can ensure that those advocates – and your community – will be around for the long haul.



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