Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Online Community Building Can End up Chafing
”I just don’t get it. I’m following all the steps I learned about. This should be working.”
These were the words of a leader whose community growth was completely stalled.
Despite all of her seemingly successful marketing and community-building efforts, new members were coming in regularly, but just as many were leaving at the same time.
This design studio owner turned professional educator had built her community by taking courses and watching what others were doing. In her mind, she’d done everything by the book and she felt really deflated and exhausted that her results were not reflecting the time and effort she’d been putting in.
As I studied her situation. I spotted several problems:
First, the blueprint she was following. It was tailored to a much different type of business in order to succeed it required resources that went way beyond her current means.
Second, the content she was advised to include was ad hoc and had no clear direction. Members were getting lost in the shuffle, they were struggling to find the resources, and they just couldn’t find the people that truly could help them.
Third, navigating the community platform was like wandering through a maze without a map. That new course they’d read about? That new friend they had just met and wanted to connect with? That important update they wanted to go back to? All of them were lost in a sea of noise.
Most of the blueprints and frameworks being offered today, suggest the same formula for community builders:
- Pick a platform
- Decide on pricing and member perks.
- Add a few courses or resource libraries.
- Plan events
- Schedule content.
- And maybe, if you have the budget for it, hire a community manager.
This is the path that my client also followed. And despite having an impressive lineup of courses, guest speakers, and instructors. Members still failed to find the value in the experience.
Many were canceling their membership within months. It was driving marketing costs up as the team tried harder and harder to grow member numbers.
As if that wasn’t enough, this community leader found herself on a content hamster wheel of death because her community relied so heavily on her curation and her contributions every month.
Things were feeling very work intensive and completely unrewarding and this leader was ready to give up
Online community burnout cycles like this one can last for years. It consumes salaries, time, energy, and profit until the business reaches a breaking point.
As this community leader found out, building a community is so much more than just ticking boxes off a how-to list.
So if you’re stuck in a rut like she was, remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all in community building. Your community will be different and unique from everything else that is out there because your mission and your customers are also different.
If you tune into the audio in the next section, we’ll talk about the approach I took to lead this community to tripling its membership a few years later.