I once worked as community manager for a company that was big into building up social networking groups. We had Yahoo Group, a community on Ning, and of course, a FaceBook group, because everyone has to have them. When it came time to build up a forum on the site itself, or participate in on site chat rooms, no one came. Everyone was too busy hanging out in their social networking group of choice. They didn’t check out our new content, they didn’t take part in our discussion topics and they didn’t support our advertisers. Instead of building our community, we encouraged everyone to go their separate ways.
Community or Cliques?
Do social networking groups drive traffic away from your community? We like to think they’re sending traffic to our sites and building up our networks, but sometimes the opposite happens. When I began visiting our various social networking groups and asking members to participate in our forum or chatrooms, they preferred their own groups. Many had no reason to visit the site at all anymore. They cited comfort within their networks and dislike of the people in other groups. Instead of building a community, we created a web of cliques.
In visiting these groups and reaching out to the different members, I realized there were many names and faces I didn’t recognize as being from our community. These smaller communities were building on their own. Two things were happening:
- Members only used these groups to spam: Instead of discussion groups, folks were only dropping links to their content. Potential new members were turned off because there was no talk, only links.
- Members were having interesting discussions but not about us or our service. They were talking about everything but. The folks who began as friends at our own on site community, took it elsewhere.
Granted, there were still folks who were active in the home community. However, it was my experience that most people chose not to venture outside of their comfort zones – their social networking groups. Some of the people I talked to said they joined our service to meet other people. By joining one of our outside social networking groups, they fulfilled their purpose. They didn’t care much about our service, just the community aspect.
Getting the Community Back on Track
So how does one get a community back on track after driving everyone away? Here’s what I would do:
- Stimulate discussion around the content – Visit the various groups and create discussion revolved around the day’s new content. Make it stimulating and intriguing. Give them a reason to go back.
- Clean up the spam – All the links shouldn’t be allowed. It’s one thing to share, another thing to spam. Make it less about links and more about people and content.
- Offer contests and incentives – If your dysfunctional community isn’t visiting your site, they have no incentive. Make it work. Have some fun stuff going on. Offer quality content, contests, quizzes, community pariticipation and other fun stuff.
- Don’t make it all about the groups – Don’t make it all about building up the social networking groups. Make it about the home site. Instead of driving your community to the groups, use the groups to build up a community to drive traffic to your site.
- Be an active participant – Don’t leave communities to grow on their own. Be active in all groups and activities. Talk about the day’s content and other features. Keep everyone on track.
Social networking groups can be a terrific way to build up community and drive traffic. If not handled correctly it can do just the opposite. Pay attention to what is happening and keep your community on track.
How are social networking groups working out for YOUR community?