Crowd DNA online communities director, Sabrina Qureshi, advises that an adaptable community is a future-proofed one...

Online communities bring a wealth of great content and insight to clients in timely and agile ways. But, all too often, after a few months or a first year of great success the community can lose its way. There is an abundance of reasons why this might happen; key champions leaving, day to day owners changing, company strategies developing, or initial objectives being fulfilled. Client and agency teams sit around twiddling their thumbs trying to work out what to do – or, worse still, let the communities dwindle to a slow death.

This is a real shame as usually the hard work, such as creating a look and feel, building engaged members and selling it into the business, is already done. This should be the time to reap the rewards of the well-oiled machine!

Without clear objectives, a community can’t survive, but we know that needs can change. So there’s a requirement to think about communities as shape shifters. They represent a long-term relationship, but one that’s adaptable and fluid. They can morph in line with a brand’s strategy, to continue to be a relevant source of insight.

It’s incredibly simple to do this; here are some tips:

- Let go of the original objectives (if you need to): If these are no longer fit for the business, don’t be afraid to relinquish them. They will only hold you back.

- Brainstorm with everyone (regularly): Maybe the objectives were specific to one team within the business, but how else could the rest of the business use the community to help support their decisions?

- Mix and match: Review who you are talking to – is this still the group you need? Do you need to expand and include other target groups, or maybe you want to focus in on a particular group?

- Ability to flex: Make sure you have the right community solution from the start, one that allows you to be flexible later down the line, from a tech and expertise perspective.

We’ve worked with brands whose original community objectives were focused on deep profiling and behavioural understanding. Once those initial objectives were achieved we identified that there was a developing need to explore the wider cultural trends across the markets the members were in, in order to feed more broadly into the innovation and product development teams. This simple side-step focus allowed us to keep the community relevant for the client, and therefore keep engaging the members in important topics and activities.

An online community has the potential to benefit the entire business, from UX designers, to marketing and R’n’D. But fundamentally, you need to make sure that it fits with the future strategy of the brand to help distribute knowledge and understanding in key areas.

Speak to Crowd DNA to find out more!