Six mistakes online community managers make


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Online communities offer proven value to customers and companies alike. Nine out of ten consumers surveyed by Coleman Parkes for Amdocs said they would use an online knowledge base if it met their needs. Sadly, not all online communities do meet consumers’ needs, and too many of them don’t. 

As the Enterprise Community and Collaboration Practice leader at iTalent Digital, I’ve worked with dozens of online communities across many different industries. There are six common mistakes that prevent communities from optimally meeting the needs of their members. 

1. Setting up boards, categories and new discussions in advance  

It’s tempting to try to define everything in anticipation of member activity. However, each community has a unique culture and member requirement profile. As such, discussion and content categories need to be defined based on the observed behavior and expressed needs of the members.

Setting up everything in advance (with the exception of general information and platform training) leads to empty categories and discussion boards with no activity. 

2. Disconnect between stage and production  

All too often, the stage version (test environment) of a community feature is vastly different from its actual implementation, resulting in inaccurate testing results. The stage environment should be an exact mirror of the production (live) environment.  

3. Misunderstanding community members  

Each community is unique, and every member in a community is different. Not all members fit into either an “expert” or “novice” bucket – there is a broad spectrum of different needs and personalities within a community, and they can’t be well served if they are not understood. 

4. Losing sight of the business objectives

People can get so excited about rolling out a new feature that they lose sight of its potential impact on the community. How does this new feature support the overarching business goals? What purpose does it serve? How does it benefit the members? 

5. Trying to influence community behavior  

This is a big one. It is not good practice to attempt to artificially influence behavior. With communities, the key is first to observe, then to support what the community is already doing. Let the community’s activity and preferences influence how you serve it, not the other way around.

6. Trying to be too clever or creative

There are many gamification and recognition features, as well as other bells and whistles, available for a community. Before you implement any of these, understand your community’s DNA and make choices based on how your community members are deriving value. Let your community guide your efforts, and go with what it best responds to. 

If you’ve identified any of these mistakes with your own community, the good news is that it’s never too late to turn things around. Contact us at if you’d like to learn more about iTalent Digital’s community management services. We are experts at building successful communities.  

Note: This article was first published on LinkedIn on 6 February 2020.

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