The Lifespan of a Social Community

Are social communities getting old all ready?  Companies who jumped into the social fray a couple of years ago and built out their social communities are beginning to re-evaluate their benefits.  Other companies are looking to these early adopters for signs of value and best practices as they consider building out their own.

So by now, we have all figured out the magic beans for developing and sustaining brand or service based social communities.  Right?  Product research communities?  Unfortunately, those magic beans have yet to sprout.  Even within the same industries, companies struggle to replicate the success of their competitors.  Yet we know some of the ingredients that are needed.

  • solid platform
  • community manager
  • brand fans to join
  • some cute marketing to drive traffic
  • then, like fishing, we sit back and wait while listening all the while.

We rely on the community manager to create new, clever ideas every day for content and conversations to keep the candle lit and if that fails, we can always bribe them to stay (chatchkies!).   Seems a bit rudamentary even after 2-3 years of experience, yet we have a hard time trying to come up with that one killer idea that will revive our community and keep it engaged for another few months.  That may be one of the problems.  There’s not one idea but rather the execution of many smaller ideas together that keep the community going.  But it’s certainly hard to create the ideas when you are so vested in the middle of the community. 

Another issue may be the old hammer and nail analogy.  Most community managers and social media directors come out of the public relations or communications fields so it makes sense that content would be at the top of the list when it comes to brainstorming.  I have a bit of a problem with that though.  Almost by definition, it’s not sustainable and certainly it’s expensive.  So knowing that, let’s come up with new ways to increase the relevance of your community (for both participant and company), make it sustainable and most importantly add value.  We have to look beyond content as the strategy and consider what else is out there.  Here are some ideas:

  • Collect names in CRM not just the community.  Track users inside and out of your community (yes they have other interests).  See where else they go and incorporate those topics into your community.
  • Research how your users live, not just demographic and geo info, but the cultures they represent.
  • Incorporate Open Graph (facebook, Google, LinkedIn) tie-ins and recruit new participants from your existing user’s social graph
  • Use analytics to identify gaps in your community experience.

To build on the idea of sustaining you social community, we wanted to tap a professional resource and there is no one better than Connie Bensen.  Connie is a community strategist with Alterian (better know by their social monitoring solution Techrigy) and known throughout the industry as a go-to resource.  Connie will lead us in discovering advanced ways to create value from your communities and make them more sustainable.  Join us this Tuesday 8/10 at noon EDT for this topic and questions:

Topic: The Lifespan of a Social Community

1.  How do you plan resources for the lifespan of a social media engagement?

2.  Do the communities you create need a community manager or can they be self-sustaining?

3.  What do you do with a community when the budget is exhausted or resources are no longer available?

4.  Can a community continue indefinitely and how?

Follow along on Twitter or your favorite Twitter client by following #sm72 or simply visit our LIVE page at

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