Online communities are gaining more and more traction in today’s digital world. In this article, we will talk about the branded community life cycle. Knowing the cycle helps us to understand how to plan and set goals for each stage. It also helps in making crucial decisions about what needs to be done and how to improve engagement.
While the life cycle of each community might be different depending on the niche, typically, the life cycle of a community can fit into the following time range:
- Development: 2-12 weeks
- Inception: 0-6 months
- Expansion: 7-18 months
- Maturity: 1.5-3 years
- Autonomy: 2+ years
Now that we are clear about the basics, let’s focus more on the different components of the life cycle.
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For any Community Life Cycle, development is the first stage. You require a blueprint to launch an online community. We recommend that you focus on one main objective when you start building an online community. It could be anything – right from brand building and brand awareness to customer success. It is also a good practice to delegate responsibilities to your internal team and having moderators. Next comes technology. You can choose from a plethora of WordPress themes and pick one that suits your organization the most. Additionally, you can customize it and provide an enhanced customer experience to your users. Lastly, community management comes into the picture. Here, you decide the rules and regulations, your onboarding process, content strategies, engagement plans, gamification techniques, and so on.
Once you have cleared the development process, now it’s time to kickstart your online community! This starts when you begin interacting with your Community Life Cycle members. The primary goal of this phase is to increase community engagement. There are different ways to do this. At the inception stage, you should have a group of members that regularly interact with other members. To achieve a wider audience base, you can partner up with influencers, promote your content on different platforms, create a referral program, and so on. This is known as content marketing.
Content is yet another important aspect of your community. Build your content calendar in advance and effectively use SEO techniques to maximize your reach. Lastly, it is important to collect feedback from your users. Such organic feedback will give your community a sense of direction, and you can alter your strategies accordingly.
Once you have started engaging with your members, you can now think of expanding your customer base. This works well when you have higher visibility. Initially, you need to focus on activity, improving the onboarding process, and engagement. You can also increase your members by regularly conducting AMA sessions, adding social media accounts to your Community Life Cycle to foster trust, and using referral programs, as mentioned above. At this stage, the engagement in your community can come from the internal team and your community members. It is also important to track your KPIs based on the value generated from your community.
The maturity stage is fundamental to establishing a sense of belonging amongst the community members. This is when the expansion rate will decrease, and member activity level will be the highest. You will also work towards making your community a leader in the market through case studies, events, media, PR, and so on. Now is also the perfect time to organize your content and focusing more on providing value to your users. It is crucial to note that this step also requires an internal culture and a sense of community.
Now we are at the final stage, and now your community will be in self-sustenance mode. The activity level is likely to decrease at this stage. But during this stage, sub-communities may flourish, and you need to focus on the same. Such niche communities will be the new space to invite new members. You have to maintain relevancy by sharing content and engaging with existing members of the community. You also need to update your content and present the most knowledgeable content to your members. Creating customer metrics will help you understand your community’s overall success and help you make better decisions when it comes to resource investment in the community.
In the Conclusion of Online Community Life Cycle:
These techniques help you to better create and manage your community and the progress in each step. It helps in meticulous planning. If you want to provide value to your users, knowing these steps is a must. Once you achieve the goals you have set, amplifying your community becomes easier.
We hope this article has helped you understand the life cycle of a community. Thank you for reading, and all the best!