When your community grows, it can sometimes prove to be a double-edged sword as more people would mean more perspectives that lead to more conversations. With more people and more conversations happening, it can become noisy and overwhelming, and it can be difficult to keep irrelevant conversations at bay. Before you know it, value diminishes, people lose interest, and your community loses credibility. Moderation can become a whole different ball game altogether, but there’s only a certain extent to which you can keep things well under control.
Of course, it’s not possible to be omnipresent, but it’s certainly possible to be cautious and take pre-emptive measures that can ensure healthier discussions as the community scales.
Focus on value, not growth
People are not numbers. And so you can’t treat them as if they are. When it comes to communities, you can’t always quantify connections into numbers. Building a community is more about doing things that don’t scale, at least in the short term. You have to make sure that you’re adding value to the community and not just doing things that attract more attention. It’s not about how many eyes you can get but what those eyes see and learn.
The irony is that doing things on a smaller scale can actually help scale faster because the more value you add to people’s lives, the more likely are they to give back to the community and the cycle continues till it becomes a model that works on its own.
Foster community culture
Having a community culture is essential because it creates an unsaid environment of values and rituals that members eventually get used to. In fact, culture is what binds the community together. It gives members something unique to hold on to, something that separates your community from all others.
Cultivating a culture can have a repetitive impact on the people who are a part of the community. Meaning, what they see is what they’ll replicate in the community. As a result of this, members would develop a reflex understanding of what’s acceptable in the community and what’s not. When the community eventually scales, this is passed on from member to member, leading to relevant conversations and discussions.
Define community guidelines
This is very important and it’s even more important to do this early on. Establish what’s off the table in the very beginning so members can stay on the right path all the time. Ensure appropriate member behavior. Explicitly define what type of behavior is acceptable and what’s not. This includes the type of language to be used, speech protocols, and what type of language to refrain from.
Strict policies against all kinds of discrimination. All community members have to be respectful of others’ race, caste, creed, gender, personal beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, and/or anything that differentiates them. Set rules against the use of abusive or derogatory language including the use of racial slurs, personal comments, cyber-bullying, or harassment.
People will lose interest in your community if they become unhappy with how others talk or what they talk about. You have to make sure no one gets offended and if you leave that unmoderated, this will mark the downfall of your community. And it's not just about defining these rules, you also have to set in place all the right tools to moderate and make sure these rules are being adhered to.
You don’t want new members to get confused when they first join the community. Things, for the most part, should be self-explanatory. If your community is on platforms like Slack or Discord - define channels to keep the conversations orchestrated and relevant so people can easily find and participate in discussions. If it’s a forum - Use tags and categories to organize conversations. This can help members find relevant discussions and make it easier for moderators to keep track of what's going on. It can also be helpful to have a designated area for off-topic conversations so that members have a place to chat about non-related topics without disrupting the main conversation streams.
Encourage participation, lead by example
Encourage participation from all members. When everyone has a chance to contribute, the community is more likely to be engaged and valuable. This can be especially important for larger communities, where it can be easy for some voices to be drowned out. Encourage all members to participate by asking for their input and feedback, and by promoting discussion starters and other activities that encourage engagement.
It’s also extremely important to lead by example at first. When you’re scaling a community, the heavy lifting comes at first. Sometimes it might feel like you’re doing all the talking and there’s not any reciprocation from members but that’s when you have to take charge the most. The more you engage, the more chances there are that people will resonate with what you have to say and eventually start talking themselves.
Make sure content doesn't lose value
Even if your community is having engaging and healthy discussions, your primary goal to provide value shouldn’t falter. Keep the community up to date with new content and information. As the community grows, it's important to keep things fresh and interesting by regularly introducing new content and information. This can be in the form of blog posts, webinars, events, or other resources that are relevant to the community's interests and needs.
Metrics can be a gamechanger
As your community scales, it becomes exponentially more important to track metrics and take data-driven, informed decisions. Because it’s simply not feasible to manually keep an eye out for everything so you need the right community tools to give you discernable metrics and actionable insights to plan your strategies according to how your community’s responding.
Seeing how the resources you shared were received by the members, what kind of turn-up was there for events, whether is engagement going up or down, how are the retention rates, etc. - all this is necessary to be mindful of to feel the pulse of your community and understand where the leaning is towards.
You only have to take things from 0 to 1
And the community takes it from there. As far as engagement is concerned, continue doing what you’re doing and if it’s worth looking up to, people will follow. Dig into discussions, bring in guest speakers to events, organize virtual chats, and more. The trick is to open yourself to people and in turn, they will open up to you, but most importantly, will open up to each other. Once you have that, you will have a community that nurtures itself.
Foster a sense of community and belonging. When people feel like they are part of a larger group, they are more likely to stay engaged and feel invested in the community. Encourage a sense of community by promoting activities and events that bring members together, and by providing resources and support for building connections with one another.