Community Jumpers

Community Jumpers[I almost named this article, Why Social Communities Are Fickle.]

By E. Brown

There is a trend amongst online social community environments. As new features and functionality are added to the sites, users are “jumping ship” (or more accurately – “jumping from ship ship”) for the lure of the latest and greatest.

This trend seems to have some baffled. Recently, many on MySpace have been flocking to (or in some cases, back to) FaceBook – and they are telling there friends too. It’s a migratory time.

New Game in Town
I liken this to the software application wars reminiscent of Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXpress and InDesign, or Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, that leap-frog over one another in new features and functionality with each release. However, the difference then was that fiscally you were tied to a certain software package and were least likely to jump over to another because you knew with the next upgrade you’d have access to some of the same competitor features, if not more.

Then along came “competitive upgrades”. Now, here was the chance for many to switch to the other manufacturer without a huge outlay of cash. Software companies found themselves in a new game.

In today’s world, with rich-media, Ajax, and Web 2.0 online applications and environments, the ease to switch can be accomplished on a whim. Is it any wonder that the abandonment rate of community sites is so prevalent? Why stay with one when you have new and better features with another?

Fickle Crowd
Today’s Web-savvy generation can be a tough group to predict. Viral communication and change for the latest-and-greatest seem to be commonplace.

How are community developers going to retain their communities? Should that really be the end goal? If your business model is monetary gain, you’re probably screaming, “Yes, the goal is to keep people!”

If so, how?

Below are a list of questions to ask yourself, followed by a list of tips that you might find useful.

Questions:

  1. What are you currently doing to retain members? Is it working?
  2. What are you planning on doing to keep members? Is that your goal?
  3. Who is your competition and what are they doing?
  4. What member loyalty programs do you have in place? Are they working? Why/why not?
  5. What are you doing to reward new members?
  6. Is your target niche too narrow? Too broad?
  7. Is your backend technology flexible enough to promote change? Do you have the funds to change?

Tips:

  1. Define who you are and make no apologies for it.
  2. Define who your members are and who you want them to be.
  3. Stay on task and do not change with “every little whim”.
  4. Be willing to change #1-2 if needed.
  5. Talk to your members — treat them like royalty.
  6. Put your money where your mouth is.
  7. Build your technology in modular fashion — think plug & play.

I hope you have found this article of use. It is truly challenging garnering community members. Stay flexible, do not be afraid of reality, and above all have FUN!

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